At Barra, we strive to adapt and consider new ways to tackle challenges – and this was no different in 2020, as we responded to the pandemic and the movement to end systemic racism. Though we look forward to what the future may hold, we know it’s equally important to look back on a year that fundamentally challenged how we do our work. We’d like to share the highlights of our responses, and more importantly, show you the organizations on the frontlines of the social sector response that we were able to support.

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Emergency Response

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in March, we knew we had to act quickly and nimbly to get dollars out the door to our nonprofit partners. Cash flow issues, canceled events and a disruption of services would only add to the brewing crisis. We immediately dedicated $520,000 in grants to respond to the short-term needs of Greater Philadelphia nonprofits. Barra provided operating support to all 108 Barra Awardees from 2013-2019, increased funding to Catalyst Fund grantee Food Connect and contributed to the PHL COVID-19 Fund for frontline nonprofits and other joint county response efforts throughout the region. Alongside Independence Public Media Foundation, Barra gave to TRACE (Toward Response and Community Equity), a Generocity year-long series tracking the region’s government, philanthropic, civic and private sectors throughout COVID-19.

As an opportunity to try something new, we issued a $100,000 Program-Related Investment (PRI) loan to the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center to support micro and small businesses applying for the Paycheck Protection Program. In the early days of the pandemic, Barra collaborated with other area foundations to launch the COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund to uplift individual artists and small arts and culture organizations struggling with our new reality.

Our emergency response efforts totaled to $875,000.

“There has been a level of listening, coordination and urgency in this period that I hope will be sustained as we look to recover from the long-term effects of this crisis.”

– Kristina Wahl, Barra President
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Responding to Dual Pandemics

As our country continued to navigate the pandemic in late spring, our communities faced a startling realization of the impact of systemic racism after the murder of George Floyd. We decided to pause our Barra Awards process and instead repurpose those 2020 grant dollars to quickly and thoughtfully respond.

Through our Recovery and Response Efforts, we prioritized organizations using the lens of the disproportionate impact of dual pandemics: COVID-19 and systemic racism on communities of color. Barra turned to nonprofit peers and others in the field for guidance. In three rounds of grantmaking that did not require a formal application, Barra gave to organizations and citywide initiatives centering on summer enrichment programs, health and human services needs, arts and social justice and access to learning.

Nearly 100 Recovery and Response grants totaling to more than $1.4 million were made to provide immediate general operating support, as organizations move toward recovery.

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Listening and Learning

In addition to financial resources, we heard the need for leaders to have the opportunity and peer support to grapple with how to move beyond emergency mode and into planning a longer-term response to a changed world. We engaged ImpactED to bring nonprofit leaders together – through a survey and virtual convening – to tap into their wisdom, share lessons learned throughout the past year and uncover new ideas collaboratively. To allow for reflection on the work our grantees and partners are doing to confront structural and systemic racism, our staff hosted a four-part series of workshops led by internationally recognized clinician, author, trainer and consultant Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D.

“We had four full workshops around promoting racial sensitivity and enhancing relationships with everyone. We wanted to establish racial equity as a prism for nonprofits and foundations to carry out their work.”

– Dr. Ken Hardy
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Planting the Seeds for Recovery

Foundations have the flexibility to act quickly, with less bureaucracy. We also have an opportunity to balance a more rapid response with some longer-term thinking about what recovery might look like. To that end, Barra is maintaining the Catalyst Fund program that supports testing new models for accomplishing important work in the social sector. More information about our Catalyst Fund and the guidelines can be found here.

The past year has devastated the economy – especially small businesses and cultural organizations that rely on being open to generate revenue. Because of this, Barra planted some longer-term seeds for economic recovery with a few multi-year Recovery and Response grants to support communities disproportionality affected by COVID-19 and systemic racism. This included funding three projects supporting economic recovery in small businesses owned by and/or serving people of color. We also joined forces with the William Penn Foundation and Ford Foundation to provide resources to BIPOC-focused cultural arts nonprofits through a five-year initiative called America’s Cultural Treasures.

$900,000 in grants were made to plant longer-term seeds for economic recovery.

For a full list of our Response and Recovery grants, please click here.

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