Working in partnership with nonprofit and civic leaders across the region.
The Barr Foundation focuses on three areas: Arts & Creativity, Climate, and Education. This is complemented by grantmaking to strengthen New England’s social sector, and by targeted, time-limited Special Initiatives. Founded in 1997, Barr has contributed more than $1 billion to charitable causes. The Foundation’s grantmaking budget for 2020 is $95 million.
Learn about Barr's grantmaking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
What We Fund
Barr focuses its grantmaking on strategies described in each of our funding areas below. We primarily make grants to 501(c)(3) public charities and public schools. We also make grants to support organizations or projects that work with qualifying fiscal sponsors, and to governmental agencies for public purposes.
To learn more about our funding priorities and program areas, read the strategy overview below.
What We Don't Fund
Barr does not make grants to individuals or for scholarships, nor do we make program-related investments. It is also rare for Barr to fund capital projects or event sponsorships (except on occasion for longstanding partners).
Our Grantmaking Process
There are many pathways to receiving a grant from the Barr Foundation. The majority of our grants are either renewal grants or grants to organizations with which we have had a prior relationship. However, in a typical year, between 15% and 30% of the grants we make are to organizations that have not previously received a grant from the Foundation. Below we describe the different paths to a grant from Barr.
Building on Existing Partnerships
As an expression of one of our core values—to adopt a long-term perspective—we realize that deep and lasting partnerships are essential. Accordingly, Barr places great value in long-term collaboration with those who share our aspirations and have demonstrated impact. Many of our grants provide support over multiple years, and we do not set term limits for our grantees. When one grant comes to an end, we sometimes follow it with additional support—either to steward continuing work or to help catalyze new efforts. And when we may have concluded a grant with an organization, we often remain in contact should there be opportunities for partnership once again, which often occurs.
Proposals Invited by Staff
Another pathway to a grant is an invitation from our staff to submit a proposal to Barr. To stay informed of what’s happening in their fields, Foundation staff devote much of their time to engaging with people involved with Barr’s issue areas, including community leaders, residents, and field experts. These conversations may lead to invitations to submit a grant proposal.
Request for proposals
From time to time, Barr issues open requests for proposals (RFPs), to provide broad access to funding opportunities, and to ensure we remain open to new ideas and new partnerships. To stay informed about any future RFP opportunities, we encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter.
On occasion, consistent with the Foundation’s mission of service and commitment to the long-term strength, vitality, and resilience of our region, Barr awards grants outside of its core focus areas. These grants typically support specific, time-limited opportunities, and the invitation process varies based on the initiative. Learn more about Barr’s Special Initiatives.
Inquiries from potential new partners
Through the various pathways outlined above, we aim to remain open to new ideas and new partners. Yet, we recognize that our networks have their limits. So, we also welcome inquiries from those who believe their work aligns with Barr’s priorities and wish to introduce themselves to us. The best approach is to email a brief description (we suggest 300–400 words) of your organization and the funding opportunity you would like us to consider to:
- For Climate inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org;
- For Education inquiries, please email email@example.com;
- For Arts & Creativity inquiries, please fill out this inquiry form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org;
- For Sector Effectiveness inquiries, please email email@example.com; and
- For Special Initiatives inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We review and reply to all inquiries.
We welcome your ideas
How we do our work is just as important as what we do. Candid feedback from grantees and potential grantees helps us become more open to new ideas and new partners, build more effective partnerships, and ultimately, have greater impact.
There are many ways to share feedback with us. To learn more about these options, read our Director of Learning and Evaluation's blog.
1. Use our Grantmaking Process Feedback form.
Submit a feedback form
2. Submit an anonymous public review on GrantAdvisor.
Review Barr on GrantAdvisor
3. Talk with us directly. Reach out to our program staff by email, in person, or by phone.