Why William Penn is Giving Big to Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, and the Fairmount Park Conservancy is in charge of maintaining the 10,200 acres of greenspace that comprise Philadelphia’s park system. The Conservancy spearheads capital projects in the city’s parks, encourages park stewardship throughout the city’s neighborhoods, and develops programs to encourage engagement.  It’s a lot of work to manage, fundraise, and maintain the system. So on top of thinking about parks, the Conservancy also has to think about its project management and business skills. At least, that may be what the William Penn Foundation (see IP’s profile) was thinking when it made a $520,000 grant to the Fairmount Park Conservancy in 2013.

The William Penn Foundation awarded over half of a million dollars (to be used over two years), so that the Conservancy could expand its “project management, fundraising, and earned income creation capacity”. This is a large sum of money going towards strategic planning, especially when compared to the other grants the William Penn Foundation awarded the Conservancy in 2013. The Conservancy also received a grant for a water loss engineering study ($71,000) and for the design of a recreation space in West Fairmount Park ($82,500).

The Conservancy hasn’t been too public about the changes it will be making in the upcoming months. Currently, the Conservancy relies heavily on donations for its income. It does offer a membership plan with annual fees ranging from $35-$100. However, the bulk of its funding comes from gifts and grants (77% of revenues) and from fundraising events (17% of revenues).  The Conservancy does have a long list of donors including support from The Philadelphia Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation (see IP’s profile). Their strategic plan is not posted on their website.

If anything can be deduced from the William Penn Grant, it would seem that the Fairmount Park Conservancy is trying to expand its revenue options. It’s unlikely their revenue stream will shift very much from a current reliance on foundation gifts. However, it does seem certain foundations appreciate their effort to look for new revenue streams and new methods of generating income.