OUR HISTORY

A Century of Impact

On December 20, 1918, the Philadelphia Foundation was established as a charitable trust to administer community-based philanthropy. Over the following 100-plus years since, we have served as a trusted partner connecting people who care with causes that matter.

 

In the process, we’ve awarded nearly $475 million in grants and scholarships to community organizations striving to make the world a better place. We’ve established a reputation as a regional leader by advancing change, addressing issues of importance and forging meaningful relationships.

 

As we turn the page on our first century of impact, it’s now time to build on this success. We view our second century of service as a unique and powerful opportunity to collaborate with our region’s leaders and changemakers to advance our shared quality of life — for today and for generations to come.

Together, we can make the next 100 years as impactful as our first.

Our History

1918

William P. Gest and the Fidelity Trust Company form the Philadelphia Foundation, one of the first community foundations in the world.

1920

Rachel Coles becomes our first donor with a bequest of $628 which is now distributed among six area hospitals. More than 75% of our funds are now endowed, supporting donor intent forever.

1924

James Develin Jr. establishes the Philadelphia Foundation’s first charitable fund, which today continues to benefit the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity with thousands of dollars in grants.

1957

The first scholarship funds are created, enabling students to pursue higher education opportunities. Today, we award over 350 scholarships annually, many of them to first generation college students.

1967

The Clyde P. & Katherine B. Alexander Memorial Fund becomes our first fund to benefit African American institutions. Later funds would support Asian American and Latino causes as well.

1974

More than $101,000 in Human Rights and Justice grants are awarded “to bring hope and dignity to the powerless.” Support for leadership development, advocacy and diversity continues to this day.

1987

After pioneering support for the LGBTQ community, we become the area’s largest private supporter of AIDS funding.

1992

Our first donor advised fund is established. This flexible giving vehicle is tax efficient and time saving for donors and becomes a popular philanthropic tool.

1993

We become the permanent home of the fund first established by Benjamin Franklin’s will in 1790. To this day, the fund supports vocational training, as the founding father stipulated in his will.

2000

The largest grant to date in our history – $845,000 – is awarded to the Please Touch Museum to restore the Enchanted Colonial Village, an attraction that delighted generations of children.

2004

We launch YOUTHadelphia, the Youth Advisory Committee of the Fund for Children, with the mission of giving Philadelphia teens opportunities to build youth leadership through philanthropy and civic engagement.

2007

Mel Heifetz establishes the GLBT Fund of America, an endowed donor advised fund supporting the LGBTQ community in areas such as civil rights, social justice and health needs. He later donated $16 million in real estate to the fund.

2008

Our new grantmaking strategy strengthens the nonprofit sector by increasing the capacity of well-run, well-led organizations to serve high-poverty and vulnerable populations.

2014

Our grant to the School District of Philadelphia introduces successful new methods of violence reduction, prompting policy changes so zero schools are on the state’s “persistently dangerous” list.

2015

Gerry Lenfest establishes what will become the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Its mission: supporting sustainable business models for great local journalism.

2017

On the Table Philly, a daylong series of conversations about issues that impact quality of life in Philadelphia, draws thousands of regional participants and support from the Knight Foundation.

2018

We launch our Second Century of Impact and exceed half a billion dollars in total assets.