Our History, Mission, Vision and Values
In The Beginning
In 1918, William Purves Gest, president of The Fidelity Trust Company, learned about a type of philanthropy called a “community foundation” that had been created in Cleveland four years earlier.
Charitably inclined citizens, whether wealthy or of modest means, could create funds at a foundation which, in turn, would invest the money. Civic-minded volunteers knowledgeable about local needs would grant the income from those funds to nonprofits.
On Friday, Dec. 20, 1918, Gest and Fidelity’s Board of Directors established The Philadelphia Foundation to administer charitable trusts. These pioneers had the prescience to realize that Southeastern Pennsylvania would thus be able to address its pressing needs far into the future.
Through their vision, and the generosity of donors since then, The Philadelphia Foundation is here for the long term.
A Proud History
Since our founding, we’ve awarded over a quarter of a billion dollars in grants and scholarships. We’ve established a solid reputation as a community leader by advancing change and addressing issues of importance.
Among our many points of pride:
- We manage the legacies of many individuals, from Ben Franklin to Luther Vandross.
- We started funding the fight against cancer in 1941.
- We advanced the career of young pianist Andre Watts in 1959.
- We assisted refugees fleeing from Cuba in 1963.
- We served as the region’s primary funder of AIDS programs in 1986.
- Alex’s Lemonade Stand got its start with us in 2002.
- We responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
Read more about our history [PDF].
Our Mission, Vision and Values
We make Southeastern Pennsylvania better by:
- Building philanthropic resources
- Managing those resources well
- Distributing those resources effectively
Our grants and scholarships improve the quality of life for all.
And we achieve that mission by:
- Convening, leading and supporting
- Focusing on vulnerable populations, our donors and the nonprofit sector
The Philadelphia Foundation envisions a flourishing Delaware Valley made up of safe, thriving and diverse communities, strengthened by a dynamic and robust nonprofit sector that is critical to our quality of life, and that inspires civic participation through philanthropy.
We achieve our mission based on certain values that are paramount to all that we do. They are (in order of importance):