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Independence Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-06-06

At A Glance

Independence Foundation

200 S. Broad St., Ste. 1101

Philadelphia, PA United States 19102-3802

Telephone: (215) 985-4009


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $74,139,501

Total giving: $3,798,878






Established in 1932 as International Cancer Research Foundation; incorporated as Donner Foundation in 1945 in DE; divided in 1961 into Independence Foundation and a newly formed William H. Donner Foundation - The foundation was founded in 1932 by steel maker William H. Donner, who wanted to spur cancer research after the death of his son in 1929. The first charter, founding the International Cancer Research Foundation with assets of $2 million, was dedicated to cancer and medical research. By the end of the Second World War, Mr. Donner recognized that government would dominate medical research and he pulled his foundation back from this area, changing its name to the Donner Foundation. William Donner died in 1954 at the age of 96 and the directorate fell to his children and grandchildren. The Independence Foundation funded secondary education through scholarships, endowments and a school loan program, as well as supporting local cultural and arts organizations. In 1988, the foundation changed its focus to nursing education through scholarships and endowments to Schools of Nursing across the country. Since 1993, the foundation's focus has continued to be in the healthcare field, supporting initiatives in community-based nurse managed health care in neighborhoods where services are not traditionally available

Purpose and Activities

The foundation's mission is to support organizations that provide services to people who do not ordinarily have access to them. The current funding agenda includes the following areas of interest: nurse managed health care, culture and the arts, public interest legal services, and health and human services, with special focus on food distribution, housing for the homeless, and services which help people with disabilities to lead independent lives. The foundation also has two special initiatives: Public Interest Law Fellowships and Fellowships for Visual and Performing Artists.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Culture and the Arts

The foundation believes that the well being of a community is broadened by supporting a wide variety of opportunities for people to experience culture and the arts. The arts can bind people through shared experience and understanding. The foundation supports programs in the arts that enhance the common artistic spirit through creation or performance. To this end, the foundation provides general operating and project grants to arts groups that are community-based in origin, are designed to serve the needs of the community, and emphasize community participation. It also supports many larger cultural institutions in the region, believing that they contribute to making the Philadelphia area both vibrant and economically healthy. Programs that connect the arts with nontraditional participants and increase both access to and awareness of the arts are of special interest to the foundation. The foundation awards multi-year general operating grants aimed at strengthening organizations by supporting creative work and administrative capacity on the basis of community involvement, artistic merit and leadership in the field. .

Fellowships in the Arts

The Fellowships in the Arts is an opportunity for exceptional artists to take a key step forward in their professional development. This is the primary goal of the program. Artists are encouraged to be creative in discovering the best possible way to expand their artistic horizons. There are no set boundaries for what is possible or what types of projects might be funded. However, a successful project should be well designed and of maximum practical value to the artist. In addition, the project must provide the artist with an opportunity for artistic growth and improvement in his/her primary area of work; such as assisting the artist in acquiring new skills relevant to his/her work; or providing the artist with a unique developmental opportunity. All applicant artists must be nominated by an official nominating organization. Official nominating organizations are comprised of local non-profit arts and cultural organizations which are grantees of the foundation, and who elect to participate in this program. Criteria for nomination include overall artistic merit; future artistic promise; the strength of the proposed project; the likelihood that the project will be completed; and financial need. All applicant artists must be Pennsylvania residents of the five county Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties). All applicant artists must have 3-5 years professional experience in the visual or performing arts. Artists who have received a Fellowship in the Arts within the last five years are ineligible. There are two grant cycles, one in the visual arts (spring) and one in the performing arts (fall). An application is available on the foundation's web site.

Grants to Individuals Program

Visual and performing arts fellowships by nomination only to residents of the Philadelphia, PA, area, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Fellowships to accomplished young lawyers for compensation and employment benefits who are employed in public interest service.

Health and Human Services

The foundation's current funding agenda focuses on programs that address the following areas: 1) adequate food and food distribution; 2) affordable housing and access to shelter by homeless persons; and 3) services which support independence for people living with disabilities. The foundation supports programs that empower less advantaged residents of the Philadelphia area to achieve self-sufficiency by providing these most basic of needs. In 1999, the awarding of multi-year general operating grants was initiated in the Health and Human Services category. The purpose of providing core operating support is to strengthen the administrative capacity and the direct service programs of those agencies that deliver critical assistance. These grants are made to organizations where our Board believes the mission matches the foundation's interest, the leadership is both stable and capable, and the outcomes of the work are vital to the people being served .

Nurse Managed Health Care Initiative

The primary purpose of these grants is to assist existing nurse managed health care programs with general operating expenses not covered by other funding streams. Of particular interest to the foundation are nursing centers or other nurse managed service delivery programs associated with non profit organizations or collegiate schools of nursing that serve clients in the greater Philadelphia area and meet the following criteria: 1) Offer health promotion, disease prevention and primary care services; 2) Deliver accessible, quality health care to the underserved, including uninsured populations; 3) Facilitate access to secondary and tertiary health care providers, and to relevant human services agencies; 4) Partner with community organizations in planning, delivering, and evaluating services and programs; 5) Implement continuous quality improvement strategies; 6) Have an effective organizational infrastructure to manage services and fiscal operations; 7) Have developed a plan for long-term sustainability of services and programs; and 8) Track the delivery of programs and services to clients and communities.

Public Interest Law Fellowships

Through the program, the foundation funds the compensation and cost of employment benefits for accomplished young lawyers who have decided to employ their considerable talents in public interest service. In an additional component of each Fellowship grant, the foundation assists the Public Interest Law Fellows in the repayment of their often substantial educational loans. Thus the foundation enables some of the best and brightest law school graduates to come to the Philadelphia area and obtain employment with an organization based in this region that provides free legal services to poor and disadvantaged people. People served include the elderly, the disabled, the homeless, and others deprived of their human or civil rights. Importantly, the foundation requires that the focus of all fellowship work be on the direct representation of disadvantaged clients. Although the foundation recognizes the value of broad based policy development, the foundation is more interested in supporting direct legal services for those who cannot otherwise obtain the professional assistance they need to navigate the complicated judicial and administrative systems that affect their lives on a daily basis. .

Public Interest Legal Aid

The foundation is committed to the support of free legal services for poor and disadvantaged residents of the Philadelphia region. Agencies funded under the Public Interest Legal Aid Initiative address civil legal issues confronting individuals from diverse populations who do not traditionally have adequate access to legal representation, including the indigent, the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless.

Senior Attorney Sabbaticals

The foundation has created a two month sabbatical fellowship for senior attorneys with over ten years in the sector. An applicant must be a senior lawyer from a public interest law organization in the five-county Philadelphia region that is a current or former foundation grantee. Applicants should have spent a minimum of ten years of full-time consecutive service in the public interest law sector and have taken no other sabbatical within the previous five years. Applicants must commit to a minimum of two years working in the sector following the sabbatical. The duration of each sabbatical will be two months and may be used for travel, study, connection to peer organizations, or other purposes as described by the applicant. The fellowship will provide a maximum of $20,000 inclusive of salary reimbursement and associated travel (capped at $10,000). See foundation web site for guidelines and requirements.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Graduate and professional education
  • Health
  • Human services
  • Legal aid
  • Nursing care
  • Performing arts
  • Public interest law
  • Theater
  • Visual arts
Population Groups
  • Children
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Females
  • Homeless people
  • Immigrants and migrants
  • Low-income and poor people
  • Migrant workers
  • People with disabilities
  • People with physical disabilities
  • Seniors

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $74,139,501 (market value)

Expenditures: $5,669,531

Total giving: $3,798,878

Qualifying distributions: $5,034,209