A view of Boston's historic Pilot House from the harbor

Matt Conti

Jim Canales

President & Trustee

Jim was named president and a trustee of the Barr Foundation in May 2014. Since his arrival, Barr has experienced significant growth, as annual grantmaking has tripled during this time, and Barr’s staff has more than doubled in size. Early in his tenure, Jim led the Foundation through a strategic review of each of Barr’s core focus areas of arts and creativity, climate, and education. Subsequently, he oversaw the strategy development and launch of special initiatives to advance access to Boston’s waterfront and to promote racial wealth equity.

A hallmark of Jim’s leadership has been a commitment to transparency and openness regarding the Foundation’s work and a willingness to use Barr’s reputation and voice to further its mission. He has also partnered closely with Barr’s co-founders, Barbara and Amos Hostetter, to expand and evolve the role of the Foundation’s board. Now comprised of a majority of non-family members, Barr’s board provides strategic direction for all aspects of the foundation’s work and operations and, in 2020, made explicit a new core value – to center racial equity – complementing a set of enduring values defined by Barr’s founders. 

Prior to the Barr Foundation, Jim spent over two decades in a variety of roles at The James Irvine Foundation in California, including service as president and chief executive officer from 2003 through 2014. Before working in philanthropy, Jim was a high school English teacher in San Francisco, after earning a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in education from Stanford University. 

Jim maintains a broad range of volunteer engagements, currently serving as vice chair of the Kaiser Family Foundation and as trustee of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Eastern Bank Foundation. In 2023, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu appointed Jim to serve as a trustee of the Boston Public Library for a five-year term. He participates actively on various philanthropic leadership groups as well. Jim’s prior board involvement includes a ten-year term as a Stanford University trustee. He has also served as chair of the boards of the College Futures Foundation, KQED Public Broadcasting, the Stanford Alumni Association, and Larkin Street Youth Services, and as vice chair of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He is also a co-founder and former board chair of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

Jim’s writings on a range of topics have appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Stanford Social Innovation Review, among other outlets. And he has been a featured speaker, panelist, moderator, or guest for a wide range of events and outlets covering and contributing to a stronger social sector, including the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Communications Network, PEAK Grantmaking, and Inside Philanthropy, among others.

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