Connelly Foundation: Philadelphia Grants

OVERVIEW: The Connelly Foundation services the Greater Philadelphia area in a variety of program areas. Although the foundation's primary initiatives revolve around Catholic education, scholarships, and technology, it also considers arts and health nonprofits for annual grants.

IP TAKE: Although a good portion of Connelly's grantmaking budget goes toward its religious and education initiatives, make sure you do not overlook the general award program areas. Since grantseekers only compete against their closest neighbors, local health, human services, and arts organizations have a good chance at getting funded. Pitch a proposal for capital projects (construction, renovation, equipment, etc.) here.

KEY INFO: The Connelly Foundation gives about half of its grants annually to Philadelphia education initiatives. The other two quarters go to recipients in arts and culture and civic enterprise and in health and human services. Like many of Philadelphia's most powerful foundations, this one has a strictly local focus.

Connelly gives an average of about $9 million annually. In a recent year, 54 percent of grants ($5.2 million) went to education, 29 percent ($2.8 million) to health and human services, and 17 percent ($1.7 million) to civic and culture programs. 

This is compared to the prior year, when Connelly awarded 51% of its grantmaking budget ($4,432,742) to education programs, 35% ($3,018,049) to health and human services programs, and 14% ($1,181,296) to civic and culture programs. About 59% of its budget went toward education programs the year before htat, while 26% went to health and human services organizations, and only 15% to civic and culture groups.

John Francis Connelly, president of Connelly Containers, started his foundation in 1955 with $10,000 that he wanted to go toward charitable, religious, scientific, educational, and literary purposes. John and his wife, Josephine, continued to contribute to the foundation in the years that followed and devoted most of their attention to Catholic churches, Jewish charities, established arts and cultural organizations, hospitals, and universities. Today, about $10 million of the foundation's annual grantmaking budget is devoted to its initiatives and the remainder to responsive urgent needs.

Aside from a $330,000 gift to the Children's Literacy Initiative in 2011, Connelly rarely gives in increments of more than $50,000. According to the foundation's FAQ, 98% of its money stays within the target area of "Philadelphia, its surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery, and the City of Camden, New Jersey."  

In recent years, Connelly grantmaking has been focused on Catholic education. The grants tend to be modest in size, but all the Catholic schools are local ones. The foundation gave $36,000 to St. Katharine of Siena School and $30,000 to Our Mother Consolation School in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, for example.

These are the foundation's current initiatives: 

  • Connelly Access Program

  • Idea Incubator

  • Josephine C. Connelly Achievement Awards Program

  • Neumann Scholars Program

  • PACT (Promoting Achievement through Classroom Technology)

Education grant proposals can be for all ages, from preschool level up to graduate school. The foundation likes to see programs for both gifted and challenged students. Connelly also likes to see proposals for after-school programs, parenting skill trainings, arts appreciation causes, and practical health trainings. Grant proposals that address basic needs such as food, shelter, and primary health care are golden as well. And not unexpectedly, programs that aid the physically disabled and ethnic minority groups are also favored.

Connelly believes strongly in the proposal process and suggests that grantseekers start their correspondence with the foundation with a letter of inquiry about a grant. The foundation provides its own series of forms on its website. Organizations operating in and serving the Greater Philadelphia area, including the city of Camden and the counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery, are eligible. General inquires can be directed to the staff at 610-834-3222 or


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