As we’ve mentioned before, the Barra Foundation is not a funder that shies away from risk. In fact, approximately 75 percent of Barra’s grants ($3 million per year) have been going to local groups with experimental approaches that are pushing boundaries to create change. Funders like this are particularly interesting ones to watch, which is why Barra’s most recent grantmaking round caught our attention.
Remember that this is the fund in which Barra invests in ideas that tackle problems or seize opportunities in new, different, and better ways. It’s an opportunity for early-stage innovations that embrace risk-taking. Within these concepts, Barra’s areas of interest are arts and culture, education, health, and human services.
In the most recent round of giving, Barra supported a pilot program to reduce custody losses for mentally ill parents, start an employment staffing agency to help homeless individuals in Philadelphia, and pilot a tool to help cultural groups use real-time data. Other new grants are going towards applying a real estate developer’s plan for one neighborhood to others, engage the community through Philadelphia’s anchor institutions, improve communication between youth and police officers, and help a nonprofit rebrand itself to focus on social justice issues.
The new grants ranged in size from $125,000 to $250,000. And a full list of Barra’s 2016 grants and descriptions can be found here.
Aside from taking risks, the Barra Foundation typically sticks to funding organizations with a proven track record of strong leadership with these Catalyst Fund grants. This likely helps provide a little security and confidence in otherwise risky endeavors. But don’t bother calling or emailing the Barra Foundation staff to talk about your idea for a program. They prefer to hear about your idea initially via electronic submission through a formal LOI process. Check out the Tips for Applying page to learn more.
In other foundation news, the Barra Foundation awarded $50,000 in Barra Awards for 2016-2017 to 40 organizations in Greater Philadelphia. The subject areas for the Barra Awards are the same as for the Catalyst Fund: arts & culture, education, health, and human services. But rather than supporting risk-taking, these awards provide unrestricted support for two years and have larger networking goals to connect leaders with peers in the industry.