Independence Foundation: Philadelphia Grants

OVERVIEW: Although the Independence Foundation once focused its attention on secondary education, it now awards yearly grants in the areas of health, human services, legal aid, and the arts. Only organizations based in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties are considered for grants, and most grants are in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

IP TAKE: This is one of the few foundations that award grants for legal aid in the city. If your organization can help the city's most vulnerable populations find legal representation, then you've got a great chance at a grant.

KEY INFO: Like many area foundations, the Independence Foundation is solely devoted to the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. A steelmaker, William H. Donner started the foundation back in 1932 to spur cancer research after his son passed away in 1929. After giving millions of dollars to the cause, Donner came to believe that medical research would be dominated by the U.S. government and began to reevaluate his funding priorities.

Secondary education became his next grantmaking area of focus. After Donner's death, his children split the assets and continued their father's tradition of giving through the Donner Foundation in New York and the Independence Foundation in Philadelphia.

Secondary education used to be the primary focus of the Independence Foundation, and this grantmaking area included scholarships, endowments, and a loan program. The foundation has expanded to include grant programs for local arts and culture and nursing schools across the country. Health care, legal aid, and human services more recently were added to the grantmaking program.

Independence added a Theater Works initiative a while ago. All theater grantmaking is focused on the Philadelphia region, but only two three-year grants are awarded each year. Theater companies with budgets between $250,000 and $1 million can apply for a $75,000 grant, and organizations with budgets over $1 million can apply for a $150,000 grant.

The foundation has given between $2 million and $5 million in recent years and keeps almost all of its funding within the Philadelphia city limits. Some recent local grants include $200,000 to the National Nursing Centers Consortium, $200,000 to the Philadelphia Theater Company, $110,000 to the Community College of Philadelphia, and $100,000 to Community Legal Services. Almost all Independence grants are made for general operating support.

If you're thinking about applying for an arts and culture grant, make sure your program includes nontraditional participants and increases public access. Most of these awards are multiyear general operating grants that build administrative capacity, artistic merit, and leadership. Health and human services grants should promote self-sufficiency by addressing basic-needs issues.

Lately, the foundation has only been funding programs in this area that provide adequate food distribution, provide affordable housing for homeless people, and support services that make people with disabilities more independent. Legal aid proposals should give the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless access to adequate legal representation. The purpose of the foundation's nursing grants is to assist existing managed care facilities by providing funding for general operating expenses.

Every year, the foundation sends out a limited number of requests for proposals for these focus areas. Unsolicited requests for funding are not accepted. If your organization has never worked with Independence before, you'll need to send a two-page letter of inquiry in via mail. Only organizations operating in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will be considered. Contact the foundation staff directly at 215-985-4009 with general questions.

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