Planning for Philanthropies

Barra Foundation

To “move the needle” on pressing social issues, philanthropy must focus its sights on a sharp set of funding priorities and then identify grantees who can generate meaningful outcomes and lasting impact. The next step is to provide clear direction to nonprofit applicants. The Barra Foundation, synonymous with supporting innovation in the region’s nonprofit sector, turned to Fairmount in 2008 to facilitate a planning process to help achieve this focus while maintaining their renowned legacy.

Fairmount worked with Barra’s program officers to develop the logic model and theory of change to be able to articulate the foundation’s priorities. The planning process honed in on critical questions:

  • How do we define innovation? What does it look like?
  • What effects do trends in the economy, philanthropy, federal and state funding, and public policy have on nonprofits’ capacity to innovate?
  • How do we attract the best ideas that align with our interests as a funder?
  • Once grants are awarded, what is the foundation’s role in overseeing their implementation?

Through the planning process, the Barra Foundation was able to clarify the foundation’s role in guiding applicants and grantees and streamline the application and review process. More importantly, Barra refined its focus within its program priority areas, defined innovation for itself, and revised its application guidelines and process while still honoring the intentions of its founder.

Fairmount Services: Strategic Planning