Barr Foundation: Grants for Massachusetts

OVERVIEW: The Barr Foundation is the largest private foundation in the state of Massachusetts, and it has both a local and a global focus. Its main domestic program areas are climate change, public education and the arts.

FOCUS AREAS: Arts and creativity, climate, education

IP TAKE: Climate change issues are a priority at this foundation, presenting good opportunities for Boston environmental groups.

PROFILE: Established in 1997, the Barr Foundation is a large private foundation in Boston, Massachusetts. Founders Amos and Barbara Hostetter have been named among the city's most powerful philanthropists by Boston magazine. Major grantmaking areas of interest are arts and creativity, climate, and education. The foundation also supports efforts to strengthen the nonprofit sector in New England and special initiatives.

A signature focus has been climate change, which has accounted for roughly 30 percent grant-funding in the past. The funder primarily focuses on how energy is used and transportation.  More specifically, grants have been focused on reducing emissions from buildings and transportation, the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Education is also a major focus of the foundation, and past grantmaking has included early education, K-12, and out-of-school time. The primary goal has been to increase the number of youth who connect to secondary and post-secondary success. Arts and creativity is another Barr program that aims to elevate the arts and enable creative expression. The goal here is to engage and inspire a dynamic and thriving Massachusetts. The Barr strategies in this regard are to advance the field’s capacity to adapt, take risks, engage audiences in new ways, connect the arts to other disciplines, and to encourage public support for the arts. The foundation's fellowship program has earned accolades from many in the industry, and it is another signature program.

The Barr Foundation typically awards around $60 million in grants annually. Although the grants range in amount from $1,000 to $3 million, about 45 percent fall in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. Learn more about past giving in the funder’s grant news section of its website. For fundraisers, it is important to know that the majority of Barr grantees are identified by foundation staff.

However, the foundation also issues requests for proposals and is open to new ideas. Barr accepts letters of inquiry from nonprofits in all three of its main program areas. It reviews and replies to all inquiries. Direct general questions to the foundation staff at 617-854-3500 or


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