What First Hospital Foundation’s New Program Officer Brings to the Table

Compared to other grantmakers in the city of Philadelphia, First Hospital Foundation employs a small staff and a fairly small-sized board as well. So when a newcomer walks in the door, it’s kind of a big deal.

The First Hospital Foundation (FHF) recently announced the hiring of a new program officer, Sonia L. Williams. Williams is now responsible for all grantmaking at the foundation, which brings her to our attention.

Unlike many professionals working in the foundation sector, Williams comes from a career in counseling, law, and public health. She most recently worked as a counselor at Women Against Abuse, an organization that helps women achieve independence in domestic violence situations. She earned a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania and also worked as an employment unit paralegal at Community Legal Services.

At FHF, Williams joins FHF veteran and Executive Director, Ann Marie Healy, who has been managing the health-centric foundation's operations and grantmaking since it was established in 1997. Williams steps into the shoes of Julia N. Boerth, FHF’s previous program officer. Williams is now responsible for all grantmaking activity, including investigation and evaluation of new grants, management of current grants, program research, and developing grant strategies. So basically, Williams is the new FHF point of contact for all nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia.

It seems that changes are afoot at FHF in other areas, too. Earlier this year, the foundation elected three new officers and five new directors at its annual meeting. The new officers are accountants and doctors, and the new board members are professionals from the financial industry, local school district, and youth advocacy organizations.

The First Hospital Foundation last reported about $40 million in assets and $1.5 million in annual giving, and it considers proposals only from organizations that benefit people in the five-county metropolitan area. Foundation priorities include access to care for the uninsured, behavioral health, child well-being, and healthcare education and training.

So what does Williams’ hiring mean for the future of FHF grantmaking?

We'll see, but Williams’ wide range of interests could very well have some influence over First Hospital Foundation grantmaking.

Williams has been teaching yoga on the side as an independent contractor for over four years. She’s a former dancer and has a certain charisma that beginnning students are drawn to. She’s passionate about community development and volunteers for Girls on the Move, an arts therapy program for young women. On top of that, she’s a board member of Mariposa Food Co-op and a grassroots advocate for Philadelphians facing housing foreclosure. 

So while her master’s and her work focus are in public health, there are plenty of other interests that could be factors in the years ahead. Domestic violence, healthy eating and exercise, and economic development are hot funding issues around Philadelphia. Will FHF start to broaden its health focus or are foundation assets simply not enough to spread around town?

Related - First Hospital Foundation: Philadelphia Grants