The Philadelphia Foundation
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Our Mission & History

William Purves Gest

In 1918, William Purves Gest, president of what was then The Fidelity Trust Company, learned about a type of philanthropy that had been created in Cleveland four years earlier. It was called a "community foundation," and it was as simple as it was elegant. It made philanthropy available to average citizens to help build the communities where they lived and worked.

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 nonprofit organizations.

So on Friday, Dec. 20, 1918, Gest and Fidelity’s Board of Directors established The Philadelphia Foundation as a fund for the administration of charitable trusts. These pioneers had the prescience to realize that Southeastern Pennsylvania had been attracting people for three centuries, would continue to do so, and would have pressing needs for decades to come. Through their vision, and the generosity of donors over the past nine decades, The Philadelphia Foundation is here to meet the challenges of the Delaware Valley of the 21st century.

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