Following a period of immediate emergency response in 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd, we pivoted and repurposed the funds formerly designated for the Barra Awards to establish “Recovery and Response Efforts.” This reallocation of funds allowed us to become more responsive to nonprofits as they faced the devastating effects of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and systemic racism on communities of color. Our goal was to deploy dollars quickly by eliminating the traditional grant application process for many grantees. These Recovery and Response Efforts prioritized organizations that work to combat these interconnected issues. For a full list of all grants awarded under our 2020-2021 Recovery and Response Efforts, click here.
Here are some highlights of our responses and the organizations on the frontlines of the social sector response that we were able to support over the past few years:
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 Toward Response and Community Equity (TRACE), 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 $875,000.
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.
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.
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.