Barr Foundation Awards $2.4 Million in 'Special Initiative' Grants

The Boston-based Barr Foundation has announced two sets of grants as part of a Special Initiative launched earlier this year to respond "to dramatic shifts in the national context."

Announced last week, the inaugural set of grants include six awards totaling $1 million to five organizations in Massachusetts working to protect vulnerable communities, promote human rights, and preserve civil liberties. Recipients of the three-year grants include GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, which was awarded $225,000 in core support; the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which will receive $150,000 to provide legal protections and education for vulnerable communities; and the Lenny Zakim Fund, which was awarded $225,000 to provide financial support and technical assistance to grassroots organizations working to address social and economic injustice.

Made in partnership with the Heising-Simons Foundation in Los Altos, California, a second set of grants totaling $1.43 million is focused on "strengthen[ing] and sustain[ing] journalism in the United States as an essential part of democracy, with a focus on investigative journalism and protections for freedom of the press." The seven grants include $200,000 over two years to the Committee to Protect Journalists in support of its work in the United States; $35,000 over six months to Northeastern University to conduct a study, in partnership with the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, on philanthropy and nonprofit news journalism; and $300,000 over three years to Boston University in support of a new investigative reporting unit at public radio station WBUR.

"[T]his Special Initiative represents part of our own effort at Barr to demonstrate that aspiration in action," said James E. Canales, the foundation's president. "We are grateful for the opportunity to support many new, and some longstanding, partners through this initiative, and we appreciate their flexibility and active engagement with us as we moved swiftly to advance their important work. Most of these grants offer unrestricted operating support, and all are multiyear grants to provide some ongoing stability when some of these organizations are experiencing a one-time influx of resources with uncertainty about the continuation of that support."

"New Initiative Seeks to Protect Civil Liberties, Informed Democracy." Barr Foundation Press Release 03/28/2017. "New Grants to Promote and Sustain a Healthy Democracy." Barr Foundation Press Release 04/04/2017.