Rashanda Perryman, William Penn Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer, Great Learning

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: This funder has been an early childhood teacher, a case worker, and a policy advocate, so she knows the challenges involved in early childhood education. She and the William Penn Foundation seem approachable and willing to work with grantseekers wanting to improve quality of life for children in the City of Brotherly Love. 

PROFILE: Rashanda Perryman brings a lifetime of experience in early childhood education and policy to her position at the William Penn Foundation. The Philadelphia-based funder works to improve the quality of life in Pennsylvania’s largest city, funding programs and projects in early childhood education and child care, K-12 education, arts and culture, and watershed protection. The foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gap program covers its early childhood and K-12 grantmaking activities.

Perryman joined the William Penn Foundation from the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., where she was a senior policy associate. Prior to that, she was a policy associate at the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicatgo, where her responsibilities, included advocacy, outreach to public officials, and correspondence with constituents.

Perryman’s long history of involvement in childhood development and education is not limited to policy work. This funder has experience as a frontline service provider. She began her career as an early childhood teacher at a community-based center. From there, she went on to become a case worker in a program that helped families transition from public assistance to the work force. Perryman has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Clark Atlanta University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington. This combination of service delivery and policy experience make Perryman a funder who knows firsthand the challenges faced by agencies and nonprofits striving to offer effective early childhood services. 

Nonprofits seeking support from Perryman must remember first and foremost that their proposed programs or projects must serve low-income children in Philadelphia. Your organization does not necessarily have to be based in the City of Brotherly Love, but national organizations should demonstrate that the funded projects will impact the educational and child care needs of Philadelphians.

Therefore, majority of organizations receiving William Penn Foundation support are based in Philadelphia or in another Pennsylvania city. However, some national organizations have received funding for projects intended to impact the city’s children. Examples include:


  • The National Council on Teacher Quality in Washington, D.C., which received $82,500 for a review of quality teacher preparation programs across the country, including programs in Pennsylvania
  • The New Venture Fund in Washington, D.C., which received $75,000 for staffing and development of its Building 21 school model in Philadelphia
  • The Schott Foundation for Public Education in Cambridge, MA, which received $75,000 to support Toward Education Voters, Pennsylvania’s statewide grassroots advocacy group supporting equitable school funding in Philadelphia and across the state


In the area of early childhood, Perryman is interested in projects that increase enrollment by low-income children in quality early care and education programs. She also is interested in ideas for improving the quality of existing child care and education providers. If you have an idea for increasing the number of quality child care and early childhood educators in Philadelphia, amid such challenges as low wages for these jobs, you will find a receptive audience in Perryman and the William Penn Foundation. Be prepared, however, to invest a great deal of thought and effort in developing a full proposal in response to the funder’s feedback.

This funder’s goals for K-12 education include ensuring that low-income Philadelphia students have greater access to a quality education and that there are more skilled teachers and principals available to teach them. Perryman is interested in projects that replicate documented successful school practices, and ensure a strong pipeline of talented educators and school leaders. She also is interested in actionable research that guides best practices, with an emphasis on action. Research for its own sake is not what this funder is looking for; funded evaluation and research projects should aim for translating research findings into practical applications that improve student achievement.

The William Penn Foundation’s grantmaking process is one that emphasizes transparency and strives not to burden organizations’ time with preparing proposals. This foundation prefers to work with organizations, helping them develop and refine their ideas before preparing full proposals. At any time during the year, organizations can submit a general inquiry that outlines their proposed project. This enables grantseekers to get the funder’s initial read on the idea before completing a full proposal. The foundation reviews an inquiry within 30 days of receipt, and can either request additional information, set up a meeting for further discussion, or decline the proposal.