Barra Foundation: Catalyst Fund Grant

Barra Foundation

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Deadline: Rolling

Grant amount: Up to US $300,000

Fields of work: Art & Culture Education Health & Medicine Human & Social Services

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Project / Program

Location of project: Counties in Pennsylvania: Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County

Location of residency: Counties in Pennsylvania: Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County

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About this funder:

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Overview:

Catalyst Fund

Don’t re-invent the wheel. There are many services and programs for individuals and communities that work—and work well. These approaches are critically important, but they are not for the Catalyst Fund.

Instead, the Catalyst Fund is intended to support ideas and initiatives in their early stages of development. We recognize the need to provide financial support for risk-taking; challenges to old assumptions; and new models for accomplishing important work in the social sector.

The ideas we are looking for can be big or small. They may fall into one of our four areas of interest (Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services), they also may cross one or more. And they don’t have to be safe—we are interested in risk-taking.

Guidelines for the Catalyst Fund can be found below. We also encourage organizations to explore the types of novel ideas we fund by reading the stories in the Get Inspired section of our website and by reviewing Current Grants and Past Grants.

The Catalyst Fund is intended to support ideas and initiatives in their early stages of development. We recognize the need to provide financial support for risk-taking; challenges to old assumptions; and new models for accomplishing important work in the social sector.

Areas of Interest

The ideas we are looking for can be big or small. They may fall into one of our four areas of interest:

  • Arts & Culture;
  • Education;
  • Health; and
  • Human Services.

They also may cross one or more. And they don’t have to be safe—we are interested in risk-taking.

Guidelines

It’s in the nature of innovation that each idea is different. But we are looking for creative approaches to problems or opportunities that share certain characteristics. The Catalyst Fund provides early-stage funding to new or existing organizations aiming to test or launch something new or seeking to creatively adapt an existing program, process or organizational model. Whatever the idea, it should be new, different, better and significant. Ideas and initiatives should have the potential to spur change beyond an individual project or organization.

We do not have a set range for Catalyst Fund Grants. Budgets, like ideas, can be large or small. We are looking for the best ideas, regardless of budget size. Sometimes the smallest experiments have the most radical intent and can inspire great change. Grant sizes are determined based on the proposed scope of activity, the size of the organization, the project budget and other factors.

Identifying Problems and Opportunities

First, projects or organizations in the Catalyst Fund should address a clearly defined—and timely—problem or opportunity. We want to know the problem an applicant is trying to solve, or the opportunity it is trying to seize. And whether it can be addressed through the proposed approach. Next, applicants should be able to explain what is happening now or what has changed to create the opportunity for the solution to be better and more effective. Why this approach? Why now? The opportunity or new solution may stem from a shift in underlying assumptions, or build upon new or emerging evidence. Most important, we are looking for approaches that are unexpected, bold and unorthodox, that can change the conversation and inspire and inform others.

What We Mean by Innovation

For an idea to be supported in the Catalyst Fund, it should exhibit the following qualities:

New and Different. Applying organizations should be the first to take the proposed approach, coming at a problem or opportunity with a fresh perspective or from a different angle. It should be different from existing or past solutions—a break from past practice.

Better. We are looking for approaches that are not just novel, but that have the potential to be better than existing models. This means new ideas that create organizational efficiencies, improve services, reach new demographics or engage a community in a more effective way. Through your proposed project, you should be able to demonstrate meaningful results.

Significant. No matter how large or small the idea is, it should have the potential to catalyze change and have impact beyond the applying organization—whether it is a new idea or a significant adaptation of an existing program or model. We are particularly interested in efforts that can serve as a beacon to others facing the same or similar challenges or have the potential to create a ripple effect that influences how others think and act. Organizations and their leaders should be open to sharing the findings or lessons learned from their work with others.

Risk: Bring it On

 We are interested in ideas that challenge the norm and take a new approach. That’s what innovation is all about. Ideally, the solution will aim to be a durable one. But not all ideas succeed at first; and, some never succeed. Risk, failure, learning and sharing are part of the innovation process. We want to help foster an environment where organizations take risks and share their lessons learned—successes, failures and things that changed along the way. What’s learned from these experiments is often quite valuable.

Leadership Matters

Leadership is an important factor in identifying, nurturing and sharing innovation. Projects should build upon a strong organizational and/or individual leadership track record.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.

Eligibility:

  • Requests can be for either a new approach or a creative and significant change to an existing model.
  • Funds can be used to explore, test or launch innovative ideas or initiatives.
  • Ideas or initiatives typically will be less than three years old, although the applying organization can be more mature.
  • Organizations should be located in and serve one or more of the five counties in the Greater Philadelphia region.
    • We provide funding to organizations located in the five-county Greater Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties).
  • Ideas should fall within (or be related to) one or more of our four areas of interest specified under Overview.
  • Organizations or initiatives should primarily serve low-income individuals and communities (with the exception of Arts & Culture).
  • Currently we support 501(c)(3) organizations.
    • We do consider projects from organizations using a fiscal sponsor.
  • See FAQ for further guidelines.

Preferences:

  • We will be prioritizing innovative solutions that are responsive to or grow out of the COVID-19 crisis

Ineligibility:

  • Some of the areas that the Catalyst Fund does not support:
    • individuals;
    • budget deficits;
    • endowments;
    • capital campaigns and projects (unless a component of an innovative project), including feasibility studies for capital campaigns;
    • international programs;
    • environmental, religious or political organizations;
    • scholarships and fellowships;
    • stand-alone audio/video projects, publications, catalogues, performances and exhibitions;
    • stand-alone symposia and conferences;
    • stand-alone marketing or communications plans;
    • stand-alone evaluations;
    • expansion of existing programs.

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