Overview of Strategic Priorities      I     Application Process     I       Online Submission Instructions     I     Eligibility Requirements     I      FAQs

Overview of Strategic Priorities   [Top of Page]

The Philadelphia region has many assets: diverse civic institutions; vibrant historical, cultural, and creative venues; abundant natural resources; and world class academic and health care facilities. Yet we face significant challenges in these times of dramatic shifts in the global environment and economy, accompanied by marked changes in technology, demography, and public policy. Philadelphia, too, is experiencing change. An aging and declining infrastructure, poor educational achievement, an altered labor market, and the toll of development and pollution on our watershed are pressing problems.

But these problems can be solved. We know that quality educational opportunities – from early childhood forward – promote economic and social mobility. Even as the earth’s supply of clean drinking water diminishes, watersheds, the lands surrounding our rivers and streams, possess resilience; much can be done to protect and restore them. Vibrant civic life grows as people work together to assure great public spaces, and to promote creative development and diverse cultural offerings.

The William Penn Foundation has been committed to the Philadelphia region since 1945. We understand the importance of philanthropic resources to regional successes, and we also recognize that local sources of philanthropic support have changed over time. It is more important than ever for us to allocate scarce resources for maximum impact. We plan to continue to focus on education, the environment, and cultural vitality. Specifically, we want to: close the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged children, protect our region’s water supply, and enhance Philadelphia’s cultural and creative assets.

We envision a city with quality education regardless of income level. We see a community which nurtures creativity and attracts employers and investment. Families choose to raise children in a place where people thrive. Integrating our priorities will contribute to realizing our vision. For example, support of public spaces that expand and extend parks, trails, and riverfronts helps residents enjoy the outdoors while inspiring environmental stewardship. Arts education in schools enriches today’s children. Robust early childhood and K-12 education promotes human and scientific understanding and literacy while equipping residents for meaningful civic engagement.

As the William Penn Foundation works to advance opportunity, foster creativity, and ensure sustainability, we will continue to honor our enduring values of stewardship, respect, integrity, collaboration, and accountability. Acting with transparency and renewed urgency, we want to use data effectively in our service to others as a smart resource and dedicated partner. We will report regularly on the results of our choices and the outcomes and impact of the work.

Application Process   [Top of Page]

The Foundation has a two-stage application process, including an inquiry stage and a full proposal stage. For organizations interested in submitting their ideas, the first step is to complete an inquiry form. We request a brief inquiry form in the early stages of the application process because we recognize that grantwriting takes a great deal of time and effort, and do not want to burden organizations with preparing proposals that may not be competitive for funding. As a result, we generally only request full proposals from organizations after detailed discussions and review of a proposed concept. We do this so that we can gain a firm understanding of the proposed work and be confident in the alignment between a proposed project and the Foundation’s strategic priorities: Closing the Achievement Gap, Watershed Protection, and Creative Communities. Please note that submission of an inquiry form does not guarantee a request for a full proposal or grant funding.

Before accessing the inquiry form, please review our program guidelines to confirm that your proposed work aligns with the Foundation's strategic priorities.

Online Submission Instructions   [Top of Page]

Start a New Inquiry

Return to Inquiry in Process

Upon accessing our online submission system, log in or create an account if you are a new user. All forms that are in progress can be managed through this online portal using the "Return to Inquiry in Process" link above. Forms can be revised at any point prior to submission, but once the inquiry has been formally submitted to the Foundation, edits can no longer be made.

The form consists of four basic questions to describe the proposed idea/concept for which funds are being requested and one question regarding the project budget. Applicants may attach a concept paper in lieu of answering the project description questions, but are required to complete the project budget question. Audited financial statements are also required to be submitted with the inquiry form. Additional documentation may be submitted to help the Foundation understand the concept in more detail. If you wish to submit video as part of this documentation in the inquiry or application form, please provide a link to the video, rather than uploading the file, as the Foundation's online application system cannot accept large file sizes.

Once an inquiry has been received by the Foundation, program staff will review the submission and notify the organization of next steps, typically within 30 days. Inquiries can be submitted at any time during the year. It is not necessary to contact the Foundation to check on the status of an inquiry.

Organizations interested in applying for funding through the Foundation's Increasing Arts Education or Advancing Arts and Cultural Organizations strategies should follow the separate application instructions for those programs by accessing these links.

Eligibility Requirements   [Top of Page]

  • All work must be aligned with at least one of our funding priorities (Closing the Achievement Gap, Watershed Protection, and Creative Communities) as further articulated in the guidelines for each program.
  • Organizations must be classified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and as public charities, under Section 509(a) of that code. Individuals and for-profit organizations are not eligible for funding.
  • Churches and religious organizations may be eligible to receive funding for activities that are non-sectarian and benefit the larger community.
  • Government agencies are not generally funded, except in certain cases where there is no suitable tax-exempt organization to carry out a program or project.
  • If your organization is not classified as tax-exempt, you may not use a conduit organization.
  • In addition to the specific eligibility criteria, as outlined in our program guidelines, we do not fund:
    • Institutions that discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual orientation in policy or practice
    • Scholarships and fellowships
    • Sectarian religious activities, political lobbying, or legislative activities
    • Direct replacement of government support

Frequently Asked Questions   [Top of Page]

Please see the guidelines within our Closing the Achievement Gap, Watershed Protection, and Creative Communities pages for program-specific FAQs.

Q: How were the Foundation's priorities selected?

A: The Foundation has had a longstanding commitment to youth, the environment, and arts and culture. Recognizing that it is more important than ever for us to allocate scarce resources for maximum impact, we undertook an extensive planning process that incorporated input from our staff and board, the Haas family, and numerous thought leaders and practitioners. As a result, we have focused our programmatic investment in areas where we think we have the best opportunities to generate meaningful impact and positive change for the region.

Q: What happened to the Innovation and Transformation Funds?

A: The Foundation remains committed to the principles of programmatic innovation and organizational and business model transformation in non-profits. It has always been our intent to fully integrate these funding opportunities within our three areas of programmatic focus, and you will see that integration reflected more fully in our new guidelines.

Q: When should I fill out an inquiry form?

A: Organizations can submit an inquiry at any point during the year after reviewing our program guidelines. This allows organizations to submit ideas to the Foundation and get an initial read from us without having to go through the full proposal process. We will review the submission and notify the organization of next steps, typically within 30 days. You can access the inquiry form here.

Organizations interested in applying for funding through the Foundation's Increasing Arts Education or Advancing Arts and Cultural Organizations strategies should follow the separate application instructions for those programs by accessing these links.

Q: How will I know who my program officer is?

A: As part of the proposal review process, the Foundation will ensure that you have a primary point of contact. Once we receive your inquiry or application, we will assign an appropriate person on the program staff to follow up with you directly.

Q: Are all grants approved by the William Penn Foundation Board?

A: Yes. All grants are subject to review and approval by Foundation Board members.

Q: What is the typical size of a grant from the Foundation?

A: The size of grants from the Foundation depends on the nature of the proposed work and the need of a particular project. Figures for the Foundation’s past grant-making can be found here.

Q: Does the Foundation require a match for grant requests?

A: Matches are not required unless specifically communicated otherwise. However, the Foundation’s focus on collaboration and fostering partnerships includes an interest in bringing multiple funders together around shared priorities. The opportunity to leverage dollars from other organizations with mutual interests is always welcome.

Q: How does the Foundation measure financial suitability of an organization?

A: The Foundation has a detailed financial review process that assesses the financial health of an organization and the ability of the organization to carry out the proposed work and to continue as a financially viable organization. All organizations should be prepared to submit a current financial audit and IRS form 990 along with a grant proposal.

Q: Does the Foundation provide general operating support to organizations that do work aligned with Foundation priorities?

A: The Foundation supports specific projects with measurable outcomes. However, a portion of project funding can be allocated to support necessary organizational functions (overhead).

Q: Will the Foundation consider a proposal from a current grantee?

A: Yes, the Foundation will consider multiple proposals from an organization as long as the total funds received from the Foundation do not exceed the amount specified in the Foundation's policy for funding general operating costs.

Q: What is the Foundation's policy for funding general operating costs?

A: In general, the Foundation will not fund more than 25% of an organization's general operating costs for more than three individual years in any given five year period. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis in limited circumstances and subject to Board approval.

Q: Do we have to submit our final report before we reapply for funding?

A: Existing grantees must be current with their reporting to submit a new application. We do not require organizations to submit a final report before reapplying for funding, unless the report is already past due. If the final report is not due before your new application is submitted, you will be asked to provide a current update of the previously funded project on the new application. If you are planning to reapply for funding, please talk with your program officer before the final year of your grant to discuss the timing of your next request.

Q: I still have unanswered questions that have not been covered in these FAQs. Who should I contact?

A: As a first step, please review the program guidelines and program-specific FAQs. If your questions are not be answered there, then contact us at The staff will make every effort to respond in a timely fashion.