Our mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts.
There is so much potential all around us. Our aim is to serve as both stewards and catalysts of that potential—nurturing and enhancing vital community assets while also cultivating and advancing the breakthrough ideas that will shape our collective future.
Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts for vibrant, vital, and engaged communities; advance solutions for climate change; and expand educational opportunity. With assets of $1.6 billion, Barr is among the largest private foundations in New England and has contributed more than $710 million to charitable causes since 1999.
Our Core Values
We are guided by core values defined by our founders. These values express our beliefs about what constitutes effective philanthropy and describe how we carry out our philanthropic mission.
Strive for excellence
We aim for the highest standards of performance, integrity, and service in all dimensions of our work.
Invest in leaders
We support effective, visionary, and collaborative leaders, as they motivate others, drive change, and produce results.
Act with humility and modesty
We approach our activities with respect for our partners, an understanding that solutions reside with those we serve, and recognition of the privilege inherent in philanthropic work.
Adopt a long-term perspective
We take the long view, considering the implications of today’s decisions for future generations.
We pursue ambitious goals, which requires a comfort with the risk of failure.
We actively solicit new perspectives to inform our work and are committed to collaboration and partnership.
Each of our programs is guided by distinct priorities and goals. Yet, in all aspects of our work at Barr, we embrace a common set of approaches, namely:
Flexibility and nimbleness
We foster a flexible and nimble culture that permits us to respond to the evolving circumstances in our environment, that encourages attentiveness to the needs of our partners, and that avoids rigidity and bureaucracy.
A broad range of tools
We deploy a broad range of tools and assets to advance our programmatic priorities, including convening, communications, and capacity-building.
Knowledge and learning
We share knowledge and learning in ways that contribute to deeper understanding of our work, that document both successes and failures, and that promote continuous improvement.
Openness and transparency
We aim to be open and transparent about our work and to contribute to broader efforts that promote and advance the field of philanthropy.
We are active collaborators with partners from all sectors, recognizing that the challenges we confront require the active engagement of multiple actors.
The Pilot House
Situated on the Boston Harbor, the Barr Foundation’s office is housed within the historic Pilot House, built in 1845 as part of the flourishing shipping trade along Boston’s waterfront. In April 2016, Barr’s offices expanded into the adjacent building at Two Atlantic Avenue.
The Pilot House initially served as lodging for ship captains (“pilots”) and passengers, and has been used over time for a range of industrial and commercial purposes.
Notable for its brick-and-beam construction and arched windows, The Pilot House gave inspiration to Barr’s logo, which suggests light reflecting from those windows onto the waters of the Boston Harbor.
Please note that as of April 2016, visitors should enter via the lobby of Two Atlantic Avenue.Get Directions