PHOTO: SONGQUAN DENG/SHUTTERSTOCK
In the city of Philadelphia, the Independence Foundation was once known as a secondary education funder with scholarships, endowments, and a loan program. And before that, in its earliest days of formation dating back to 1932, the foundation supported medical research. But today, this locally focused funder has broadened its scope of giving to support a wide variety of nonprofits in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.
Here’s what local grantseekers should know about the Independence Foundation’s current focus and grantmaking habits in and around Philadelphia.
Health is the Top Focus Area
The founder of the Independence Foundation, steelmaker William H. Donner, also founded the International Cancer Research Foundation in 1932 after the death of his son from cancer. Health issues are still the top priority for Independence Foundation today, especially in the realms of nurse-managed health care in neighborhoods where traditional health services are unavailable. Other health interests include safety net health providers, clinical and education programs for older adults, and health care-related planning projects.
But Numerous Other Interests Exist Too
Aside from health, the current Independence Foundation staff and board are also interested in arts and culture, human services, and legal aid. In fact, the funder offers fellowships in the visual and performing arts, as well as in the field of public interest legal aid. This is one of the few local funders that has a designated grantmaking focus area for legal aid, making it a key grantmaker to know if you work in this arena.
Overall, the foundation is committed to equal access to services, valuing justice, appreciating the arts, and promoting physical wellbeing. Past grant cycles have supported food distribution, independence-focused services for people with disabilities, and housing for the homeless.
Letters of Inquiry Are Welcome
Although the Independence Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant applications, it does welcome letters of inquiry throughout the year. These letters should be kept to a maximum of two pages and only be submitted for efforts in Philadelphia and surrounding Pennsylvania counties. Each year, the foundation extends requests for proposals and invites selected groups to submit full proposals and engage in the necessary interviews to move through the approval process.
Grantseekers should submit letters by mail, not email or online form, and then wait for a response in line with the foundation’s yearly grant cycle. The foundation has given between $2 million and $5 million annually in recent years and keeps almost all of its funding within the Philadelphia city limits.