As a long-time funder of arts and cultural organizations, the William Penn Foundation’s Board of Directors regularly assesses its funding approach to assure funding alignment with the overall goals of the Foundation as well as to assure that its funding is responsive to the needs of arts and cultural organizations of varying sizes, types, and disciplines throughout the region. At the same time, the Board seeks to assure that, when funding is awarded, it is being awarded to arts and cultural organizations that are not only of the highest artistic caliber but financially healthy, effectively managed, and well-positioned to withstand the ever-changing environment in which they operate.
After more than ten years of awarding core support funding through an iterative, negotiated manner between the applicant organization and Foundation staff, beginning in 2014, the Foundation Board spent nearly one year evaluating the arts and culture portfolio, researching best practices for funding, and discussing the Foundation’s desired role as an arts funder. The Board wanted a funding process that was equitable for all applicants, recognized strong financial management as well as high-quality programs, and lessened the potential for organizations to become dependent on William Penn Foundation funding. As a result, in 2015, the current approach to awarding core support to arts and cultural organizations was determined.
The Foundation believes that its current core support funding approach, launched June 2015, makes transparent for applicants the review process, the funding possibilities, and the timeline for application review. In addition, in response to some grantee concerns expressed in the survey conducted in 2016 by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, more detailed information about the application review process has been added to the guidelines.
Nonetheless, as always, if after carefully reviewing the guidelines you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact someone on the Creative Communities staff.
What We Fund
Only organizations whose principal mission is arts and culture are eligible to receive core support.
The Foundation awards three-year core support grants to arts and cultural organizations that meet our criteria of artistic and organizational strength. Grants are awarded in unrestricted funds so as to give grantees the flexibility to meet their unique needs. Funding may be used toward any purpose that advances the mission of the organization, as determined by the grantee organization.
Annual benchmarks that project months of liquid unrestricted net assets available, program plans, and audiences and audience engagement strategies will be established by the applicant organization and approved by the Foundation. Grantees will be expected to report on their success in meeting these annual benchmarks in interim and final reports submitted to the Foundation.
Organizations recommended for core support funding will have their grant amount determined by their budget size and financial health, based on their most recent audit or financial review submitted with the pre-proposal. The recommended grant amount and grant term are determined during the pre-proposal review. In no case will William Penn's support be greater than 20% of an organization's annual operating budget, as determined by its most recent audit.
Budget categories have been broken down into ten ranges, with the smallest range being budgets of $100,000 or less and the largest being budgets of $17,500,001 and above. Each budget range has a corresponding annual grant size.
The Foundation also wants to recognize those organizations demonstrating good financial health. Additional funding of 25% may be added to the annual grant amount when an organization has three or more months of liquid unrestricted net assets at the end of its last fiscal year AND surpluses that total no less than 5% of expenses for the last two fiscal years.
The following chart outlines the budget range breakdown and corresponding annual grant sizes and potential added funding for financial health (in this round of funding, organizations must have a fiscal 2016 audit or financial review, and their Cultural Data Project (DataArts) profile must be up-to-date through fiscal 2016):
|LOWER LIMIT BUDGET||ANNUAL BASE GRANT SIZE||ANNUAL FINANCIAL HEALTH BONUS ADDED TO BASE GRANT, WHEN APPLICABLE|
In all cases, however, the ultimate grant award, grant term, and allocation of a financial health bonus are at the discretion of William Penn's internal review committee and determined during the pre-proposal review. There may be cases in which an organization's particular circumstances call for a different grant amount or grant structure.
Business Model Transformation
A limited number of organizations may be considered for funding of costs associated with a comprehensive restructuring of their business model designed to increase financial sustainability and build audiences. This could include re-engineering the operating model, facilitating a merger or strategic alliance, repurposing fixed assets, etc.
Requests for business model transformation support will be considered on a case-by-case basis and follow a separate application process. Organizations interested in applying for business model transformation support should contact the Creative Communities staff.
Baseline Financial Eligibility Requirement
According to the audited financial statements, an organization having two or more months of negative liquid unrestricted net assets in their most recently completed fiscal year, or having between one to two months of negative liquid unrestricted net assets and an operating deficit greater than 5% of operating expenses will not be considered for funding.
Positive liquid unrestricted net assets represent funds available to support operations and are calculated by subtracting the net equity position of the fixed assets from unrestricted net assets. Net equity is the net fixed assets (capitalized assets less accumulated depreciation) less associated debt; this represents the amount of organizational capital locked up in non-liquid investments and therefore not readily available to support operations.
Unrestricted Net Assets -
(PPE* - PPE Debt)
|*PPE: Property, Plant & Equipment|
(An optional Self-Test Tool is available that allows an organization to test its financial eligibility.)
What We Do Not Fund
Organizations having the following characteristics are ineligible for core support:
- Not having an audit or, at minimum, a financial review for the five most recently completed fiscal years.
- Using a fiscal agent to apply.
- Located outside of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, or Camden City, New Jersey.
- Do not have at least one full-time paid administrative or artistic staff person in place.
- Less than five consecutive years of ongoing operations and programming (in the related discipline, when applicable), including the most recently completed fiscal year.
- Less than five consecutive years of data profiles in the Cultural Data Project (DataArts), including the most recently completed fiscal year.
The following types of organizations are ineligible:
- University-affiliated cultural organizations
- Museums not accredited by the American Alliance of Museums
- Choruses that do not have either a paid professional core of at least 12 singers or 25% of the singers in the chorus, whichever is less; or are not fully professional, paying all of its singers all of the time. Minimum payment to singers must be twice the federal hourly wage for each hour singers are contracted to rehearse and/or perform (based upon an average of combined rehearsal and performance hours per production). (Professional chorus standard per Chorus America)
- Theatres scheduling less than 30 hours of rehearsal time for primary production activities and whose annual budgets comprise less than 20% for artist compensation (including but not limited to actors). (Professional theatre standard per Theatre Communications Group)
- Churches, synagogues, or other religious institutions
- Government agencies
- Presses or publications
- Organizations that are not professional nonprofit arts or cultural organizations
- For arts organizations, organizations that do not regularly engage and pay artists
- Community arts organizations whose programming is less than 80% arts production/presentation
- Rehabilitation or arts therapy
- Public television and radio
- Video/recording/online organizations
- Youth-centered or youth-composed organizations
- Arts education organizations (arts education organizations may be eligible for funding under the Foundation's Arts Education program.)
Click here for frequently asked questions about the grant process.
Evaluating Pre-Proposals and Proposals
How do we select grantees?
An internal review committee composed of board members and staff evaluates each pre-proposal submitted. Each organization is assessed on its own merits, but in the context of the applicant pool. It is at the pre-proposal stage where most key decisions are made, including which organizations will be invited to submit an updated final proposal for consideration by the Foundation’s Board of Directors as well as the recommended grant amount and grant term.
The internal review committee is looking for organizations that demonstrate:
- High-quality programming and management and financial viability.
- An ongoing and demonstrated commitment to excellence, innovation, and audiences, as informed by mission and vision.
- Strength of staff and board leadership, and evidence of capacity to carry out the proposed work.
- A history of planning and disciplined implementation.
- Demonstrated understanding and trends of the audience/constituency served.
- Articulation of the role played in creating a sense of place and civic engagement in their community (as the organization defines community).
Organizations that otherwise meet the eligibility requirements but currently have a core support grant should check with the Creative Communities staff before applying.
How do we measure success?
Annual agreed-upon benchmarks projecting months of liquid unrestricted net assets available, program plans, and audience and audience engagement strategies will be determined by the applicant organization and approved by the Foundation during the pre-proposal review. Annual benchmarks will be specific to the organization based on mission and other key factors. The Foundation will assess the benchmark outcomes annually through the required interim and final reports. In addition, meetings and site visits may be conducted.
Organizations that meet the eligibility requirements must apply for core support first through a pre-proposal. (Requests for business model transformation support will be considered on a case-by-case basis and follow a different application process. If you are interested in applying for business model transformation support, please contact the Creative Communities staff.)
Step 1: Submit a pre-prosal
Submit a pre-proposal, audits for the three most recently completed fiscal years, and three years of annual operating budgets spanning the fiscal years to be covered by the requested grant. Additionally, operating budgets for the most recently completed fiscal year and the current fiscal year should be submitted. Also submit an applicable strategic, business, and/or financial plan if available and the CDP (DataArts) Funder Report. Please do not submit work samples unless requested by the Foundation.
For this round of core support funding, organizations must submit their fiscal 2016 audit or financial review with the pre-proposal. Organizations must have their Cultural Data Project profile (DataArts) up-to-date for their pre-proposals to be considered, including data for fiscal 2016.
An internal review committee composed of Foundation Board members and staff will review the pre-proposals to determine eligibility and competitiveness given the applicant pool.
Bear in mind that it is at the pre-proposal stage where most key decisions are made, including which organizations will be invited to submit an updated final proposal for consideration by the Foundation’s Board of Directors as well as the recommended grant amount and grant term. The pre-proposal is the stage at which applicants must make their most compelling case to the internal review committee.
Based upon this assessment, final proposals will be invited for the most promising applications.
Step 2: Submit a final proposal
Upon invitation, submit a final proposal and standard Foundation submission documents. The final proposal stage allows the applicant organization to make any changes or updates to the pre-proposal that are necessary due to changes in the organization’s planning or circumstances since the pre-proposal was submitted, or to make revisions requested by the Foundation’s internal review committee, and sometimes both.
There may be additional materials requested based on the pre-proposal assessment. Please do not submit work samples unless requested by the Foundation.
The funding recommendations of the internal review committee will be presented to the Foundation’s Board of Directors, who will make ultimate decisions about grant amounts, structures, and approvals.
The following table is provided to help eligible applicants for core support understand the schedule (which is tentative at this time):
The application period is currently closed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please see our Grants Overview page for general FAQs.
Q: How has funding of arts and culture changed from the previous guidelines?
A: The Foundation continues to fund core support for arts and cultural organizations, but now grants will be awarded as unrestricted funds with an even greater emphasis on supporting organizations that are artistically, financially and organizationally strong and that are thus best equipped to enrich the region’s cultural offerings.
Q: Are organizations required to use the financial eligibility self-test tool?
A: The Foundation strongly advises organizations to utilize the tool to determine their eligibility, but doing so is optional.
Q: In the past the Foundation has funded capital projects for arts and cultural organizations. Will the Foundation continue to do so under this new funding approach?
A: If an organization is undertaking business model transformation and a capital project plays a central role in business model change, capital projects will be considered and can be included in the request for funding.
Q: Can/should I schedule a meeting with a program staff person before submitting an Inquiry Form?
A: Prior contact with a Program Staff member is not required. Organizations considering requests for business model transformation should contact their program staff person before submitting an Inquiry Form.
Q: Should we submit work samples?
A: The staff will ask for work samples if they are needed.
Q: Who is on the internal review team?
A: The review team is composed of board and staff.