The Harbus Foundation is run entirely by current Harvard Business School students and typically gives out about $50,000 annually to groups in the Greater Boston area that work in pre-K education, literacy and journalism—all crucial and overlapping facets of community learning systems.
The Harbus Foundation’s backing of journalism is particularly apt because, while it’s an independent organization, it was created in 1997 when the Harbus News Corporation, which provides news to the business school, sought to put its operating surplus to good use.
Pre-K education and literacy have long been popular and contentious funding causes in America, encompassing many rich sub-categories like early education, libraries, charter schools, and equity. The Harbus Foundation is one of the many smaller funders adding their own local ripple of support to these larger causes, and it has contributed more than $1 million to local organizations since it was established. In 2018, it committed $60,000 in grant awards to Empower Schools, Generations Incorporated, and GroundTruth.
The Harbus Foundation Gives Local Schools a Boost
Empower Schools, the 2018 education grant recipient, focuses on empowering schools to solve their own problems. It launched in 2013, and pursues school district reform by linking state education agencies, principals and teachers into networks called “empowerment zones.” Within these zones, participating schools are described as having high autonomy and accountability.
“With autonomy over budget, staffing, schedule, curriculum, and culture, leaders, and educators at the school level can create an environment tailor-made for the needs of their unique set of students,” Empower Schools states.
In a previous year, the foundation backed Schools on Wheels, which provides mentoring and other academic supports to children impacted by homelessness.
Using Literacy as a Multigenerational Vehicle for Learning
Generations Incorporated is the latest Harbus Foundation literacy awardee, and it addresses the literacy dilemma in Boston Public Schools by creating intergenerational tutoring relationships. Two-thirds of public school students in Boston cannot currently read at or above their grade level when they complete the third grade. Generations Incorporated trains older adult volunteers as reading tutors for young children in under-resourced communities. In this way, it employs a one-on-one approach to improving Boston youth’s literacy while giving seniors a way to stay engaged with and give back to the local educational ecosystem and the community as a whole. It has built up a team of more than 260 older adult volunteers, some of who devote as many as 15 hours each week throughout the school year.
In the past, Harbus Foundation supported Roca, which serves young people deemed to be at high risk due to challenges like drugs, crime and incarceration. It provides supportive interventions and literacy and life-skills education to these populations.
Backing New Local Journalists
The Harbus Foundation recently supported GroundTruth, which provides opportunities for new and typically young journalists to report on “issues of global importance.” Focuses for the organization include social justice, climate change, global health, basic human rights, and first-hand, team-driven multimedia reporting.
GroundTruth partners with leading news media outlets and aims to empower emerging journalists to create and disseminate quality content while “building cross-cultural understanding necessary for objective, influential reporting.”
The Harbus Foundation previously supported the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, which focuses on training the next generation of investigative reporters in New England.
The Harbus Foundation turned 21 in 2018, while the Harbus News Corporation celebrated its 81st anniversary. The corporation draws on funds from its operations to support the foundation, including advertising revenue from publications and sales of MBA guides. The foundation has a current endowment of about $1.4 million. The Harbus Foundation only accepts grant applications by invitation, which are generally sent out to Boston-area nonprofits in November of each year.