Three Things to Know about Lenfest’s Philanthropy Finale

Over a year ago, the Lenfest Foundation announced that it was switching up its leadership, adjusting its mission, and planning for its final years of operation. This is not news. But just because the foundation plan to spend down doesn’t mean that it’s not still a relevant funder right now. Now into his 80s, Gerry Lenfest recently kicked in another $80 million to keep the foundation on the philanthropy scene for the next 15 years.

These are three things nonprofits should know about Lenfest’s final grantmaking strategy.

Education is Lenfest’s Top Priority

As the Lenfest Foundation enters into its final years, the Board of Directors has narrowed its focus to matters related to education. Current Lenfest funding is limited to career and technical education, early childhood education, after school programs, and scholarships. This focus is also concentrated on disadvantaged inner-city youth in Philadelphia.

Looking forward, Lenfest plans to provide ongoing funding for one to three high-impact career and technical education programs. The foundation also plans to provide multi-year grants to a few high-performing organizations that impact the welfare of an entire neighborhood or region of Philadelphia. A few organizations that run youth development programs will receive three-year grants and be eligible to renew for an additional two years. Neither the Citywide Program initiative nor the Place-Based Program initiative accepts unsolicited grant inquiries from nonprofits. In a nutshell, the foundation is looking to partner up with established programs, such as Drexel University's work in the Mantua neighborhood and the Community College of Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia is Lenfest’s Top Priority

By and large, Philadelphia is the focus of Lenfest Foundation grants until the money runs dry. The only real exception is the Lenfest College Scholarship Program, which has a rural Pennsylvania focus and provides high school juniors up to $12,000 a year for four years at a private college and up to $7,500 a year for four years for a public college.

"We felt it was time to put the remaining life of the foundation into disadvantaged youth within the city,” Gerry Lenfest said.

Unsolicited Inquiries Are Only Accepted for Founder’s Grants

Unlike most foundation strategies at Lenfest, the Founder’s Grant initiative does accept unsolicited grant inquires. The staff will consider potential new Founder’s Grants from Philadelphia area qualified public charities that work in the areas of career and technical education, early childhood education, and out-of-school time programs. These grants will be between $5,000 and $25,000 each.

However, most of these grants will undoubtedly go to organizations that Lenfest has supported in the past. Lenfest doesn’t hide this fact either. The foundation’s “How to Apply” section actually reads, “Most requests are declined at this point in the process.”

But with $100 million in assets still on the table, why not give it the ole’ college try? Founder’s Grant letters of inquiry can be emailed to or mailed to the physical address at Two Logan Square.

Related - Lenfest Foundation: Philadelphia Grants