Explore. Learn. Connect.

Recovery and Response

7/21/2020 |

At the beginning of July, Barra’s Board of Directors swiftly approved $260,000 to support its Recovery and Response Efforts.  In considering how to address the needs of the sector, Barra Board and staff decided that this next phase of funding should aim to address the interconnected issues we are facing: COVID-19 and racial injustice.  After months of uncertainty and stress, communities are feeling the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis beyond the virus itself, especially individuals and families in communities of color. Black residents, specifically, are the most affected.  The ongoing stress and impact of systemic racism continues.

We know that these next few months of summer will be critical for young people, living in under-resourced communities.  Small, independently owned businesses in historically disadvantaged communities as well as workers and families left out of federal and state relief are facing significant hardship.   Barra is providing one-time unrestricted support to both individual nonprofits and citywide efforts that aim to bolster the resilience of young people and the small businesses that are critical to our communities.

Grants totaling $210,000 to support summer enrichment efforts have been awarded to:

    • City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department: Playstreets
    • Read by 4th
    • Philadelphia Youth Network
    • Philadelphia Housing Authority’s partnership with Boys & Girls Club and Mighty Writers
    • Philadelphia Zoo
    • Smith Playground
    • Tree House Books
    • Center for Black Male Educator Development
    • Horizons at Greene Street Friends
    • Girls Rock Philly
    • Youth Empowerment for Advancement Hangout (Y.E.A.H.)
    • Art Sphere
    • Centro de Cultura, Arte, Trabajo y Educación CCATE
    • Portside Art Center
    • Rock to the Future
    • University City Arts League

    In addition to summer enrichment, one-time grants were awarded to two programs through the City of Philadelphia that are giving immediate support to residents and businesses that have been disproportionately affected by the intersecting issues of COVID-19 and racial injustice.

    • Restore and Reopen Program ($50,000) will provide grants to small, independently  owned businesses in historically disadvantaged communities that have suffered loss during the recent civil unrest.
    • Philadelphia Worker Relief Fund ($25,000) provides direct cash assistance to workers and families impacted by COVID-19 who were left out of all federal and state relief with intent to address the economic impact and the health and safety of more Philadelphia families.

    We continue to try to listen to our nonprofit colleagues and partners as we all try to navigate how to move forward in these difficult times.

The COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund Announces $4 Million in Grants to 467 Arts & Culture Organizations and 1,025 Artists

6/30/2020 |

June 30, 2020 (PHILADELPHIA, PA) – The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (GPCA) today reported that $4 million from the COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund has been awarded to 467 arts and culture organizations as well as 1,025 individual artists since it opened on April 13. This unprecedented collaborative effort, which was created by GPCA, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) focused on supporting individual artists as well as small arts and culture organizations (Annual budgets no greater than $250,000) and mid-sized organizations (Annual budgets of $250,000 – $15M) whose operations, revenues, work and livelihood have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full press release here

OUR Crisis

6/4/2020 |

In March, we reached out to you when the COVID-19 crisis descended upon us.  Even though we are still in the midst of addressing the negative effects of the pandemic,  today we’re reaching out again as we face another crisis that is affecting our cities and shaking  our nation to its core—and it should.   The crisis we are facing is not new, it is embedded in hundreds of years of systemic racism which we must stand up against in our personal lives and our professional roles.  (read the full message)

Barra Partners Launch Regional Fund to Support Arts & Culture Sector

4/8/2020 |

A collaborative of foundations, The City of Philadelphia and The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Fund worked together to launch the COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund. The new fund will serve individual artists, as well as small and mid-sized cultural organizations that have been devastated by the pandemic.

Barra was one of the lead funders with a $250,000 contribution. The total amount raised at the launch on April 8 was $3.45 million. Donors are encouraged to give to increase the funding to address the overwhelming need in the region. Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story announcing the fund and visit the website to learn more about how to donate or apply.

The Barra Board of Directors and staff are also considering ways to address the recovery issues and longer-term needs that will arise as organizations continue to deal with the public health and economic crises.   Please read this message, which provides details about our response.

Immediate Response to the Effects of COVID-19

4/2/2020 |

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted all of us to adapt and consider new ways to face the unprecedented challenges that face all of us. To help address nonprofits’ immediate challenges, Barra is immediately dedicating $520,000 in grants to respond to the short-term needs of the region’s nonprofit organizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Click here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer story.

Getting the Best Possible Failures in Philanthropy

1/27/2020 |

Experimentation and learning are in Barra’s DNA.  The late Robert L. McNeil, Jr., the former Chairman of McNeil Laboratories, created the foundation and encouraged innovative thinking and testing. With these roots in the scientific method, we know that failure is part of the process of learning. Some of the best learning comes from efforts that fail, but go on to advance the field in significant ways.

In the coming year, look for more from us – and you – about learning.

Read the article: Getting the Best Possible Failures in Philanthropy

Welcome New Staff!

6/25/2019 |

We are delighted to announce our two new staff members:

Linda Rich, Senior Program Officer, Learning and Network
Stephanie Lerner, Program Officer, Catalyst Fund

Linda and Stephanie bring deep knowledge and experience working with nonprofit organizations and in philanthropy.  Linda Rich will manage the Barra Awards process and portfolio as well as learning across the Barra network.  Linda will join the team in mid-July.  Stephanie Lerner will begin in early August and will work closely with Kristi Poling, Program Director, Catalyst Fund.  Please click here to learn more about the Barra team.

We want to thank everyone who expressed interest in these positions.  We were grateful to receive such a positive response to our work and to meet so many individuals committed to improving our region.  Thank you to Criterion Search Group for their help in managing the search process.

Convening: Innovation High Schools

9/14/2018 |

The Barra Foundation’s Catalyst Fund supported four innovative high schools in Philadelphia – Big Picture Vaux, Building 21, Science Leadership Academy and the Workshop School. During the 2017-2018 year, ImpactED, in partnership with the Foundation, engaged in an intensive year of learning about these school models. There’s no single definition of what is meant by an “innovative” approach to education. Successful innovation requires iteration and work to cultivate an environment where both students and educators are encouraged to take necessary risks and learn from their failures. On Monday, June 18, 2018, education leaders gathered for a conversation about what it takes to implement and sustain innovative school models. The following are video presentations by the leaders of each school, describing their school’s values and learning model:

Sharing the Story of Impact: Innovation High Schools

6/14/2018 |

Given Barra’s desire to share learning as part of the innovation process, the Foundation decided to embark on its first “thematic review” to look back across four Catalyst Fund-supported education models: Building 21, Science Leadership Academy, The Workshop School and Vaux Big Picture. During the 2017-2018 school year, ImpactED, in partnership with the Foundation, engaged in an intensive year of learning about these school models. At a June 18, 2018 convening, speakers from each school and The School District of Philadelphia shared key lessons learned from this work and explored the necessary conditions – at the school and system level – for fostering school innovation.  Case studies, photos, videos and stories from each school are now available online.

First Step Staffing’s “Unusual Deal”

1/15/2018 |

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Harold Brubaker covered First Step Staffing’s acquisition of the Philadelphia operations of the for-profit company On Time Staffing, with the goal of using the staffing firm to employ homeless individuals and people recently released from prison.

“There are a lot of people who are homeless or have just gotten out of jail, or prison, and really want to work,” First Step chief executive Dave Shaffer said Thursday. “We’re the link to allow that to happen.”

Click here to read the article.

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