Barr Foundation Knowledge Center

This collection includes publications and resources from our partners and in our program areas, both current and legacy. These resources are completely free to access and download. Most of these works were funded by the Barr Foundation. We may occasionally feature items relevant to our program areas which were not funded by Barr. Please be aware that views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barr Foundation. We encourage you to search our collection and suggest potential content to include (use "content recommendations"). For questions or assistance, please contact
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Participatory Philanthropy Toolkit

May 19, 2023

Solidarity, dignity, power, and abundance. These are just some of the benefits that can accrue to the people and communities most impacted by philanthropy's decisions when they have a role in the decision making. That's according to Ciciley Moore, senior program officer at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, who represented Fund for Shared Insight in a participatory grantmaking program. Shared Insight ran this one-time program (which focused on involving people affected by climate change in funding decisions around the issue) so we could learn together with other funders committed to listening, participation, and more effective and equitable grantmaking.Based on the experiences of the participants, consultants, and funders involved, we created this toolkit to inform and inspire philanthropy's journey toward more participatory practices.Participatory Philanthropy is a term that can include a wide spectrum of participatory practices within philanthropy, and includes Participatory Grantmaking as one approach. This initiative went beyond sharing decision making about grants and centered participation in the design phase of the work. Participants worked on design and grantmaking teams, defining the program's purpose, parameters, and, through a participatory decision-making approach, where and how $2 million in grant money was disbursed. Participants were also involved with communicating grant decisions, developing knowledge products, and gathering in learning communities to deepen their connections and understand and share the impact of the initiative. 

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race to Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color

January 20, 2022

Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race to Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color focuses on the experiences and challenges of nonprofit leaders of color who have attained the top position in their organizations. It builds upon the findings of the 2019 Race to Lead Revisited report, as well as a previous report on nonprofit executives from the 2016 Race to Lead survey data.This report demonstrates that the proverbial glass cliff is an all-too-common reality for leaders of color in the nonprofit sector. Ascending to an executive position does not end a leader's struggles with racism, and sometimes increases those challenges. In particular, Trading Glass Cliffs for Glass Ceilings shines a spotlight on:The racialized barriers that leaders of color overcome to attain their executive positions.The persisting challenges experienced by people of color who hold executive leadership positions.The heightened struggles faced by leaders of identity-based organizations.The added burdens placed on leaders of color who follow a white executive director or chief executive officer.The potential next wave of executive leaders transitioning out of their positions.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Strengthening Capacity and Equity in New England Evaluation

August 10, 2021

This report presents results from the Strengthening Capacity and Equity in New England Evaluation (SCENE) study. The SCENE study was conducted between August 2020 and August 2021 by a research group at Boston College with funding from the Barr Foundation.The purpose was three-fold: (1) to characterize evaluation providers, evaluation practices, and evaluators working in the New England area; (2) to explore whether and how evaluators address inequities and advance equity; and (3) to identify ways to strengthen capacity and equity among evaluators within the region. By providing an initial assessment to inform future capacity building and learning initiatives, we aim to inform regional evaluation practitioners and commissioners interested in advancing equity in evaluation. Findings are particularly relevant to local affiliates of the American Evaluation Association, including: Greater Boston Evaluators Network, Vermont Evaluation Network, Connecticut Area Evaluators' Network, Maine Evaluation Society. We also sought to address gaps in the evaluation literature regarding what equity and equity-focused evaluation mean and look like in practice. We plan to submit study results for publication/dissemination in academic journals.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Reimagining Fiscal Sponsorship in Service of Equity: A Case Study Report of Emerging Practices and Recommendations for Fiscal Sponsors

February 22, 2021

In 2018, TSNE launched the Learning Lab, a strategic multi-year initiative focused on understanding the capacity building needs of under resourced movements, coalitions, and other nonprofits groups supporting marginalized communities. This strategic multi-year initiative aims to build TSNE's knowledge through the discovery and exploration by exploring the question: What are the needs, challenges, and best practices for building capacity with under-resourced movements, coalitions, and other nonprofit groups supporting marginalized communities that seek to promote social good?The research consisted of three phases: 1) a review of capacity building and fiscal sponsorship literature; 2) a national field scan analyzing nonprofit organizations that provide capacity building and fiscal sponsorship services; 3) and case studies that examined the practices and approaches to delivering capacity building and fiscal sponsorship services. Each phase informed the subsequent phase.In this report, we share an overview of the case study exploration process and emerging practices, recommendations from the three phases of the Learning Lab, and complete case study narratives. 

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap

June 16, 2020

Inequality in the United States is a familiar issue to those who work in the nation's nonprofit sector. Many nonprofit organizations are dedicated to supporting and empowering communities that have limited resources and influence due to systemic and structural inequalities. As part of this commitment, a growing number of nonprofit organizations are reflecting on how societal inequities are replicated in their own organizations. This report, Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, presents ongoing research and analysis by the Building Movement Project (BMP) into why the nonprofit sector has so few leaders of color. As this report is finalized in the spring of 2020, a worldwide pandemic, renewed grief and outrage over the continued killings of Black people by police and vigilantes, and a deepening recession have even more sharply exposed fault lines of who holds power and privilege and who is treated as expendable.1 The nonprofit sector itself is scrambling as organizations, especially smaller community-based groups, fear for their financial futures at the very moment when their work is more vital than ever. These challenges offer the opportunity for organizations and their funders to respond by addressing not only the immediate crisis but also systemic inequities both within nonprofit organizations and society at large.2 The data and analysis presented here offer insight on how to support organizations that embrace racial equity internally as they work toward a society in which all people have equal voice, opportunity, and power.The Building Movement Project released initial survey findings on race and leadership in the nonprofit sector in the 2017 report Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap. That report challenged long-held assumptions about why so few people of color lead nonprofit organizations, including persistent assertions that people of color need more leadership training and are less likely than white peers to aspire to top leadership roles. The data collected from a 2016 national survey of nonprofit employees showed that people of color in the sector were similarly qualified as white respondents and had more interest than white peers in becoming a nonprofit leader.3 The lack of diversity in nonprofit sector leadership was not a reflection of the qualifications or ambition of people of color, but the result of racialized barriers that inhibited their leadership ambitions, from lack of support by white boards of directors to the biases of executive recruiters. To increase the diversity of nonprofit leaders, the report recommended that the sector shift its focus away from the individual qualifications or goals of emerging leaders of color and toward addressing the systemic bias in the sector that prevents their advancement.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Talent Justice Report: Investing in Equity in the Nonprofit Workforce

May 29, 2019

Produced by Fund the People and the Center for Urban and Racial Equity, this comprehensive report offers important findings on the challenges and opportunities of investing in intersectional racial equity in the U.S. nonprofit workforce.With over 12 million paid workers, nonprofits employ the third largest U.S. workforce. This means 1 in 10 people work in the nonprofit sector. Despite its size and impact, nonprofits face a chronic deficit of investment in their staff.To further complicate matters, the nonprofit workforce struggles to attract, retain, and support people from racially, ethnically, and otherwise diverse backgrounds to build a robust and durable talent pipeline. Our research gathered and analyzed data from over 1,400 survey responses, 3 focus groups, 20 interviews, and a literature review.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Race to Lead: Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector

February 5, 2019

This report reveals that women of color encounter systemic obstacles to their advancement over and above the barriers faced by white women and men of color. Education and training are not the solution—women of color with high levels of education are more likely to be in administrative roles and are more likely to report frustrations about inadequate and inequitable salaries. BMP's call to action focuses on systems change, organizational change, and individual support for women of color in the sector. 

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Engaging Boards and Trustees in Strategic Learning: A Toolkit

January 17, 2019

Effecting social change in a rapidly changing political environment and an increasingly interconnected world requires foundations to adopt a learning orientation. Without continuous learning, grantmakers—and thus boards and trustees—are unaware about what is working where, with whom, and why, as well as what changes or refinements are needed in order to achieve the grantmakers' desired results.This toolkit provides a fresh set of resources for grantmaker CEOs, evaluation staff, and senior leaders to use to engage their boards and trustees in conversations about the importance of strategic learning in their decision-making and deliberation processes.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Only Connect: How an Investment in Relationships Among Social Change Leaders Is Changing Them, Their Organizations, and Their City

June 18, 2013

Key Points· After years of leading social-sector organizations in an environment where competition is more the norm than collaboration, many gifted leaders are near burnout, unable to maximize their gifts. Since 2005, the Barr Fellowship has been changing that in Boston.· This network of leaders, created by the Barr Foundation, is based on the hypothesis that recognizing talented leaders and investing in their personal growth and connections with one another will result in individual, collective, and city transformation.· A longtime funder of networks, Barr designed the fellowship as a "connectivity" network, where collective actions and shared agendas might emerge but would not be imposed. In this way, the fellowship exemplifies what has been described as "ambidextrous philanthropy" – rooted in strategy yet also in values; focused on outcomes, yet also responsive.· This article describes the theory of change; strategy; evaluation methodology (including network mapping); results – for Barr Fellows, their organizations, and Boston; and how the program fits within an approach to philanthropy that embraces the long view. It discusses implications for funders interested in supporting connectivity networks.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

Catalytic Change: Lessons Learned from the Racial Justice Grantmaking Assessment

May 1, 2009

ARC and PRE designed the Racial Justice Grantmaking Assessment to help foundation staff and leaders understand the benefits of being explicit about racial equity, and to determine the degree to which their work is advancing racial justice. This report is based on the pilot process, and is intended to share insights into some of the barriers within the philanthropic sector that stand in the way of achieving racial justice outcomes. It is organized into five segments:This introduction, which provides brief profiles of ARC and PRE, and of the assessment team;A description of the assessment process, including definitions, assumptions, and methodology;An overview of the assessments of the Consumer Health Foundation and the Barr Foundation, including brief profiles of each, summary findings, recommendations, and impacts to date;Lessons learned from the pilot process by the ARC-PRE assessment team; andAppendices with more detailed findings, recommendations, and initial impacts for each foundation.

Nonprofit Sector Effectiveness

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