William Penn Foundation: Philadelphia Grants

OVERVIEW: The William Penn Foundation awards grants to education, art, and environmental causes in the city of Philadelphia.

IP TAKE: The Penn Foundation is drawn to results-driven organizations with demonstrated ability and a clear plan of action. Its main education focus is on improving student outcomes - particularly for children from low-income families.There's also a lot of opportunity for local environmental conservation here, especially if you're working on watershed issues in the Delaware Valley. The foundation accepts LOIs. Since each of its programs has very specific objectives, applicants need to review program details before submitting a general inquiry through an online form.

PROFILE: The Penn Foundation was established in 1945 by Otto Haas, founder of the chemical company Rohm and Haas, and his wife, Phoebe, a noted astronomer and one of the first women in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in the field. Following a good deal of financial and family changes, the William Penn Foundation emerged. Today, the foundation's name is credited to the 17th-century Quaker who used his understanding of the depths of human possibility and societal relationships to establish the City of Brotherly Love. The William Penn Foundation seeks to “help improve educationfor low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creative communities that enhance civic life and advance philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region.” Penn invests in education, watershed protection, cross-program funding, and arts and culture.

Penn's watershed protection grantmaking works to “work to protect the Delaware River watershed aims to ensure an adequate supply of clean water for generations to come, and our support helps accelerate conservation of this precious resource.” As a result, environmental proposals must center on the Delaware watershed to be considered. Feel free to pitch a proposal for relevant scientific research, policy advocacy, land acquisition, outdoor education, and trail development. 

Penn conducts K-12 funding through it’s Great Learning program focuses on “dramatically increasing the number of children from Philadelphia’s low-income communities who experience academic success.” Key goals include state-level policy work, collaboration between local Philadelphia area organizations, teacher and leadership recruitment, training, and retention, "instructional intervention" when needed, and the establishment and replication of model schools. 

Penn's arts and culture funding works to “foster a vibrant and creative Philadelphia, we support a variety of its arts and cultural organizations, educational experiences that increase student access to the arts, and development of high-quality public spaces as platforms for community and cultural expression.” The program largely focuses on supporting arts education, public spaces, diversity in the arts, and promoting excellence in the Philadelphia arts. Arts proposals should be submitted by one of the foundation's four deadlines for consideration, focus exclusively on the city of Philadelphia, and demonstrate programmatic quality, "successful partnership with at least two Philadelphia schools during two consecutive years," scalability, and a clear plan for self-assessment.

Grants range from the thousands to tens of thousands. Review annual reports (available on the About Us page) for a broader sense of the organizations it supports. Then complete an online inquiry form (note that arts organizations have a separate form to fill out). Wait to be assigned a program officer. Expect to hear back in a month or so. Note that William Penn doesn't fund scholarship programs, discriminatory organizations, or religious or political causes. 

The foundation's newsroom is updated on a semi-frequent basis, so you can keep up with recent giving trends there. You can reach the foundation directly with general inquiries at grants@williampennfoundation.org. Also note that the foundation will occasionally award "a number of grants designed to explore new, but related areas of work" or "to support transformation in critical partners, make possible exceptional civic opportunities or advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region."


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