Where Will the Barr Foundation Go With Its Global Health Funding?

The Barr Foundation started off as a locally-exclusive grantmaker dedicated to the education, environment, and arts needs of Boston. But after serving its neighbors for more than a decade, Barr developed a global grantmaking program in 2010, expanding its reach to East Africa, India, and Haiti. Barr’s first ever president, Jim Canales, has recently taken over and made some bold statements about where Barr grantmaking will be headed under his leadership.

“Change will occur,” Canales told the Boston Globe. “It will be gradual and evolutionary. It will be carried out in a respectful and transparent way.”

Canales has expressed a strong desire to expand Barr’s global footprint, but not at the expense of abandoning Boston-based nonprofits. At the same time, he has denied that there will be increases in the number of overall foundation grants. To us, this can only mean one thing: Barr global grants will be getting bigger in size. To make matters even more optimistic, Barr's donors, now in their 70s, have another $3 billion in their pockets, which could easily double the size of the foundation. 

Between January 2011 and September 2013, 24 percent of Barr’s global grantmaking portfolio went to community health programs, and 22 percent of all global funds went to Haiti. Ethiopia received 19 percent of the total funds, India received 16 percent, and Malawi received 15 percent. The most remote areas of Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been the focus of Barr’s global health program.

Barr global health grants are already pretty huge in size, but we expect to see them get even bigger in the next couple years. For example, Barr awarded a $1.5 million grant to Malawi-based VillageReach in June, 2012 to improve access to life-saving medicine. The foundation also awarded a $1.2 million grant to the Ethiopia-based African Medical and Research Foundation in March 2012 to expand access to primary health care services among rural residents.

Although recent global health grants have been focused on African nations, Barr is interested in buddying up with Indian health nonprofits as well. Barr Global’s staff is looking for African and Indian programs that train community health workers, increase the availability of crucial medicines, and utilize mobile technology for workforce development. A program that focuses on children under five years of age is your best bet. Barr is well aware that over six million children around the world die before their fifth birthday, nearly half of them from preventable causes.

Between 2011 and 2013, Barr awarded 23 global grants totaling $20.5 million. Although we aren't exactly sure what Barr’s 2014 global budget will be, we expect the community health program to be rivaled only by Barr’s clean energy plan, which is more widely spread across the globe. Keep in mind that Barr Global does not fund any individual hospitals, orphanages, or schools.

Barr Global is run by Heiner Baumann, Director of Global Programs and a three-person staff. The best way to introduce your organization to the Barr Global staff is to send an inquiry via e-mail to barrglobal@barrfoundation.org.