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The William Penn Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-04-08

At A Glance

The William Penn Foundation

2 Logan Sq., 11th Fl., 100 N. 18th St.

Philadelphia, PA United States 19103-2757

Telephone: (215) 988-1830


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Family foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $2,332,928,903

Total giving: $110,498,440






Incorporated in 1945 in DE - In 1945 Otto and Phoebe Haas created the Phoebe Waterman Foundation to provide for their philanthropic concerns, specifically relief in post-War Europe, scholarships for fatherless children, and support for medical and educational institutions. The Foundation's development was made possible by the increasing success of the Rohm and Haas Company. Over the next decade, the foundation was supported by gifts from the family and continued to reflect the personal philanthropic interests of Otto and Phoebe Haas. In 1955, as annual grants exceeded $100,000, the foundation hired its first director. Upon Mr. Haas' death in 1960, the foundation received the bulk of his estate. Mrs. Haas continued a program of regular gifts to the foundation until her death in 1967. During this period, Otto and Phoebe's sons, John C. and F. Otto, headed the foundation's board When the foundation's name was changed to the Haas Community Fund in 1970, annual grants were $3.5 million. Within another four years, grants had doubled to $7 million per year and the Haas family renamed the Fund the William Penn Foundation, commemorating the 17-century Quaker whose pursuit of an exemplary society led to the founding of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love Throughout its history, the foundation's grantmaking has focused on a range of topics, including arts and culture, human development, conservation and restoration, community fabric, education, and the environment. In 2011, the eldest living child of the founders, John C. Haas passed away at the age of 92. In 2009, prior to his death, Mr. Haas directed nearly $750 million in new assets to the foundation. Over the years, presidents have included Richard Bennett, Harry Cerino, Kathy Engebretson, Janet Haas, Feather Houston, Jeremy Nowak, and Bernard Watson. Helen Davis Picher currently serves as the Foundation's Interim President. Thomas Haas serves as chair of the corporation and David Haas chairs the board of directors.

Purpose and Activities

The foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that close the achievement gap for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions .

Program Area(s)

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

Closing the Achievement Gap

Increasing the Availability of Early Care and Education: the foundation seeks to increase the number of low-income children enrolled in high-quality early care and education programs. It seeks efforts that improve the quality of existing providers, expand the capacity of high-quality providers to serve more low-income children, promote the alignment of incentives and subsidies with quality, and improve and expand Philadelphia's pool of early childhood educators, focusing on the challenges posed by low industry wages. Investing in K-12 Education: The foundation seeks to increase the number of low-income students receiving a high-quality education by investing primarily in four areas: expansion and replication of successful school-based models; expansion and improvement of Philadelphia's pool of teachers, principals, and other school leaders; advocacy for more equitable school funding; and actionable data and research to inform practice and increase student success.

Creative Communities

Advancing Arts and Cultural Organizations: the foundation seeks to provide local audiences with new opportunities for cultural engagement and to ensure that funded projects give Philadelphians experiences of artistic excellence, new work, new interpretations, innovative approaches, and/or entry by artists new to Philadelphia. Increasing Arts Education: To increase students' exposure to art as part of their education, the foundation funds excellent arts organizations that demonstrate the capacity to work with low-income children. It aims to significantly increase the number of Philadelphia's students with access to arts education experiences by funding the direct delivery of high-quality programs that employ teaching artists, as well as planning efforts to expand such programs. As part of this effort, the foundation focuses on identifying best practices and contributing to the learning around high-quality arts education and the scalability and sustainability of arts education programs. Investing in Great Public Spaces: the foundation makes strategic investments in parks, trails, and other public gathering places designed to serve the open space and recreation needs of local residents while enhancing the overall attractiveness of the region's urban core to residents, visitors, and investors. The foundation now extends its funding to advance the next generation of great public spaces in surrounding neighborhoods, where investments can create community portals, gateways, and linkages that strengthen transitioning neighborhoods and better connect communities to each other and to downtown. When possible, it prioritizes efforts to improve the performance and quality of existing public assets to better respond to local needs.

Matching Gifts

The foundation sponsors a matching gift program for current board members and current and retired employees of the foundation.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation has made PRIs for community development and landbanking, and for bridge loans and other finance products to land trusts and other nonprofits for land preservation.

Watershed Protection

Supporting Watershed-Wide Research, Policy, and Practice: through targeted support for monitoring, research, planning, the development of analytical tools, and science-based campaigns, the foundation aims to promote an increased understanding of the ecological conditions of the Delaware watershed and, in limited cases, adjacent watersheds, as they relate to water quality and supply. It also supports and promotes the adoption and implementation of effective policies and practices to drive high-impact watershed preservation and restoration. Protecting and Restoring Ecologically Significant Sub-Watersheds: because the geography of the region's watersheds is expansive, and because the science underlying watershed health indicates that some places within a watershed are particularly critical to protect, the foundation has selected a targeted set of significant sub-watersheds for more localized, on-the-ground grantmaking. The foundation has prioritized the following sub-watershed clusters within the larger Delaware watershed: Brandywine/Christina, Philadelphia region watersheds, NJ Highlands, Pinelands Bayshore, Poconos Kittatinny, Schuylkill Highlands, and Upper Lehigh. Empowering Constituencies to Act: the foundation supports the development and use of strategically selected places that offer high-quality access to the outdoors for many people in the Delaware watershed - primarily multi-use trails, environmental education centers, and habitat observation and preservation sites with connections to the region's waterways.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Child educational development
  • Community beautification
  • Elementary and secondary education
  • Elementary education
  • Environment
  • Natural resources
  • Performing arts
  • Secondary education
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Low-income and poor people
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $2,332,928,903 (market value)

Expenditures: $132,313,835

Total giving: $110,498,440

Qualifying distributions: $110,498,440

Giving activities include:

$110,498,440 for grants