William Penn Foundation: Grants for Marine and Freshwater Conservation

OVERVIEW: The William Penn Foundation, based in Pennsylvania, largely seeks to protect and restore the Delaware watershed.

IP TAKE: The Penn Foundation's approach to conservation addresses scientific research, policy development, restoration projects, and advocacy efforts to mobilize the public. However, it prioritizes local organizations in its work. 

PROFILE: The William Penn Foundation is a family foundation, which seeks to "improve education for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creative communities that enhance civic life and advance philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region." Originally named the Phoebe Waterman Foundation, the foundation was established by Otto Haas, a German entrepreneur in the tanning industry, and his wife, Phoebe Haas, a Berkeley-educated astronomer who was one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. Their sons F. Otto and John C. Haas renamed it the William Penn Foundation as an ode to the city in which it flourished. While its priorities have evolved over time, the William Penn Foundation invests in education, arts and culture, and watershed protection. 

The foundation's watershed protection program works to protect the "Delaware River watershed" in order to "ensure an adequate supply of clean water for generations to come." The foundation seeks to help accelerate conserving the Delaware River, which provides water for five percent of the U.S. population. The program prioritizes organizations in the Greater Philadelphia area, and invests in on-the-ground watershed conservation, loss of forested headwaters, stormwater, agricultural run-off, depletion of underground water supplies, research, data gathering and analysis, and advocacy. 

The Penn Foundation also desires to expand public awareness about trail networks in the Great Philadelphia area. Its project, completion of “The Circuit,” represents a network of trails around Greater Philadelphia. Through this project and others like it, the foundation seeks to increase environmental education and engagement. It also looks to mobilize the region’s sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts, to support watershed preservation and restoration.

The foundation invests in both local and national groups; however, it prioritizes Great Philadelphia. Past grantees include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Nature Conservancy; however, it also supports small and grassroots organizations engaged in innovative projects designed to save the watershed. To view its past grantees, click here.

William Penn is one of the more accessible conservation grantmakers, and welcomes grantseekers to submit a letter of inquiry through the foundation's website. Letters of inquiry are accepted throughout the year.


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