Core Support for Arts and Cultural Organizations


To ensure that arts organizations have flexibility to support operations, we provide general operating funds to organizations that create inclusive cultural and civic opportunities that develop a sense of belonging to communities and places as well contribute to creating a rich, creative cultural landscape for the region.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Foundation has seen the impact on our region's arts and culture sector, halted from operating due to required physical distancing and restrictions on assembly. To address a period where ceasing in-person programming has made many organizations vulnerable due to the absence of earned revenue, the Foundation expedited its 2020 Core Support cycle of funding, understanding the value of unrestricted general operating grants for the arts and culture sector.

In our next round of funding, in 2021, the Core Support proposal review will be moved forward to a February 2021 review. Please note: because of a limited grant budget, ONLY organizations that have received past Core Support grants are eligible to re-apply for the 2021 Core Support cycle.

Due to the severe and unprecedented impacts of the pandemic and the continued uncertainty associated with the crisis, the Foundation Board and Staff are working to determine the best ways we can support the recovery and sustainability of the arts and culture sector. These considerations are taking place against a preexisting backdrop of an internal strategic review that Creative Communities began in 2019. As the Core Support program and Foundation move ahead, grantmaking will be carried out in response to these two distinct contexts, and the Foundation will continue to communicate any and all adjustments to our grantmaking.


What We Fund

The Foundation awards up to 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 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.

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 accountant's review submitted with the proposal. The recommended grant amount and grant term are determined during the proposal review, and in no case will William Penn's support be greater than 20% of an organization's annual operating budget, as determined by its 2019 fiscal year.

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 following chart outlines the budget range breakdown and corresponding annual grant sizes (in this round of funding, organizations must have a fiscal 2019 audit or accountant's review, and their SMU DataArts Funder Report profile must be up-to-date through fiscal 2019):

$1 $15,000
$100,001 $20,000
$150,001 $25,000
$250,001 $50,000
$500,001 $75,000
$750,001 $100,000
$1,250,001 $150,000
$2,500,001 $200,000
$10,000,001 $225,000
$17,500,001 $275,000

In all cases, however, the ultimate grant award and grant term are at the discretion of William Penn's internal review committee and determined during the proposal review. There may be cases which call for a different grant amount or grant structure–including the current context in which the Foundation is responding to high demand across its grantmaking portfolios, and in response to additional areas requiring relief support.


Baseline Financial Eligibility Requirement

According to the 2019 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.

Months of
Liquid Unrestricted
Net Assets
   =    Unrestricted Net Assets -
      (PPE* - PPE Debt)      
(Total Expenses/12)
*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, an accountant's 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 (fiscal 2019).
  • Less than three consecutive years of data profiles in SMU DataArts Funder Report, including the most recently completed fiscal year (fiscal 2019).
  • Organizations that have not received past Core Support grants are ineligible to apply due to the increased demand of COVID-19-related grantmaking.

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)
  • Battlefields/forts/military/ships
  • Churches, synagogues, or other religious institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Presses or publications
  • Schools/colleges/universities/conservatories
  • 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
  • Hospitals
  • Public television and radio
  • Video/recording/online organizations
  • Gardens/cemeteries
  • Youth-centered or youth-composed organizations
  •  Arts education organizations

Click here for frequently asked questions about the grant process.

Funding will not be considered to any organization that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual orientation in policy or practice.


Evaluating Proposals

How do we select grantees?

An internal review committee composed of Board members and staff evaluates each proposal submitted. Each organization is assessed on its own merits, but in the context of the applicant pool. 

The internal review committee is looking for organizations that demonstrate:

  • High-quality programming, 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).


Application Process

Organizations that are in a cycle where the current grant is concluding will be invited to apply for Core Support through the William Penn Foundation online portal.

Upon invitation, an applicant will respond to the Foundation’s question posed in the application, upload 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. Applicants are also asked to submit an applicable strategic, business, and/or financial plan if available and the SMU DataArts Funder Report for fiscal 2019. Please do not submit work samples unless requested by the Foundation.

As part of the application, organizations must submit their fiscal 2019 audit or accountant's review. Organizations must have their SMU DataArts Funder Report up-to-date for their proposals to be considered, including data for fiscal 2019.

An internal review committee composed of Foundation Board members and staff will review the proposals to determine eligibility and competitiveness given the applicant pool.

The following table is provided to help eligible applicants for core support understand the schedule (which is tentative at this time):

Guidelines/Proposal Available
Proposal Due
Scheduled Board Review
Monday, June 22, 2020
Friday, September 11, 2020
February 2021 (tentative)



Frequently Asked Questions

Please see our Grants Overview page for general FAQs.

  • Q: In the past this process was a two-step process, is there still a pre-proposal and proposal phase for this round of Core Support?
    A: This round of Core Support is being conducted on an accelerated schedule, and for this reason it is being streamlined to only have a single submission. However, there will still be the same level of review, and opportunity for communication between staff and applicants.
  • Q: Previously, there was an additional financial health bonus awarded based on reaching certain financial thresholds. Is there still a financial bonus being award for this round of Core Support?
    A: No, due to limited financial resources and the need to address COVID-19-related relief funding, the Foundation is not able to award bonuses in this round.
  • 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: Support for capital expenses can be included but should not be the sole focus of it.
  • 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.


Increasing Arts Education

What We Fund

The Foundation works to provide opportunities for Philadelphia students to experience arts learning.

We seek to fund arts education programs working as partners in Philadelphia schools, and that focus on the three areas of interest of the Foundation:

  • Expanding Students’ World Views: Greater Understanding of Cultures and Experiences
  • Building Students’ Skill and Interest in the Arts: A Next Generation for Philadelphia’s Art and Cultural Community
  • Strengthening Students’ Socioemotional Learning: Increased Interpersonal and Intra-Personal Skills

Preference is given to programs working with students in the 4th grade or younger, offered in Philadelphia schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families and a dearth of resources to provide arts education.

The Foundation’s funding is not intended to replace existing arts teachers in Philadelphia schools, but rather to support their important work.


What We Do Not Fund

  •  Nonprofits that are not direct providers of professional arts education programming.
  •  Support directly to early child care providers, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
  •  Scholarships for individuals.
  •  Individual teaching artists.
  •  For-profit arts education providers.
  •  Arts organizations without professional teaching artists on staff.
  •  Organizations without a recent history of at least two consecutive years of programming in partnership with a Philadelphia school.
  •  Arts education programming in which the majority of participants are not from low-income families and are not residents of the city of Philadelphia.

Funding will not be considered to any organization that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual orientation in policy or practice.


Types of Funding Available


The Foundation will consider funding for the direct provision of arts education to Philadelphia students in any type of school (e.g., Public District, Public Charter, Parochial, or Independent), as long as the program is primarily serving children from low-income households. Funding may include staffing costs, materials, and other required resources. Programs can be offered during the academic day or during out-of-school time, as long as equal access is provided to all students and transportation is not a barrier for student participation. Programs may provide either art instruction or opportunities to be exposed to an artistic discipline or art form, provided there is sustained engagement in the work rather than a single moment of exposure.


Planning efforts to scale or deepen high-quality arts education programs, or implementation of a comprehensive plan to deepen the impact, increase the scale, and/or improve the sustainability of a high-quality arts education program that is seeking to impact one of the above areas of interest for the Foundation (i.e., expanding a student’s worldview, building interest in the arts, or strengthening socioemotional learning). Funding may include staff time, expert consultants, and other required resources.


Evaluating Proposals and Grants

How do we select grantees?

Programs are selected and evaluated utilizing the following criteria:

  • Quality of the arts education program (i.e., proficient teaching artists, appropriate materials/art-making supplies, well-designed program model, etc.).
  • Demonstration of successful partnership with at least two Philadelphia schools comprised of students from our target population of young people from low-income families, during two consecutive years.
  • Preference is given to programs that provide arts education programming in more than two Philadelphia schools.
  • Arts education providers from outside the region will be considered if they can provide a clear and demonstrated understanding of working with schools in Philadelphia and a track record of success in urban schools.
  • A willingness to participate in the learning communities and evaluation of the Foundation’s Arts Education funding strategy.

Application Process

Organizations that meet the eligibility requirements may apply through a two-step process.


Step 1: Submit an Inquiry Form (please e-mail Hillary Murray to request a link for the Arts Education Inquiry Form)

Submit an Inquiry Form that outlines the proposed funding request, in narrative and budget form, as well as background information on the organization and the arts education program. As part of the Inquiry Form review process, the Foundation may conduct a site visit to gain firsthand understanding of the arts education program. An observation tool is used during site visits to ensure programs are being assessed against the same set of criteria for a high-quality program; that tool is available upon request. The projects and organizations with the greatest potential will be invited to submit a full proposal.


Step 2: Submit a full proposal

Upon invitation, submit a full proposal. Applicants invited to submit a full proposal will receive instructions that outline the submission details and requirements of the proposal.

Please note that submission of an Inquiry Form does not guarantee a request for a full proposal or grant funding.

Before requesting an Inquiry Form from the Foundation, please make sure to review all of our program guidelines to confirm that your proposed work aligns with the Foundation's strategic priorities.


Investing in Great Public Spaces


The Foundation works to support equitable access to great public spaces.

We believe that great public spaces strengthen communities. They are places in which we spend time with family, friends, and neighbors. They can also promote health through physical activity, help children learn through play, enhance appreciation of the natural environment, and offer platforms for cultural expression.

Great public spaces come in many forms, including parks, libraries, recreation centers, trails, waterways, community gardens, community centers, plazas and play areas.

We seek to fund public space efforts that value:

  1. Enriching Experiences: members of the public, especially children and elders, experience the space in ways that promote wellbeing and joy.
  2. Meaningful Community and Stakeholder Involvement: local knowledge, expertise, and interests are respected through engagement, partnership, and co-creation.
  3. Inclusion: public spaces strive for social and racial inclusivity, e.g., through age-friendly design, multi-lingual communication, culturally-relevant programming, transportation access, and marketing.
  4. Civic & Natural Context: public spaces reflect their local community and/or natural context, e.g., through public art, ecological restoration, or other connections to area histories.
  5. Quality Design & Materials: quality design and materials contribute to positive community identity, ensure durability and longevity, and contribute to environmental sustainability.
  6. Resilience: stewardship and maintenance are priorities, not afterthoughts.


What We Fund

  • Public space initiatives which directly serve low or moderate income communities OR which serve citywide populations and are of significant civic importance to Philadelphia or Camden.
  • Initiatives that seek to strengthen the local public space sector, e.g., network building, peer-learning, communications, and other efforts focused on system and sector-wide impact.
  • Meaningful community engagement and community partnership development.
  • Capital projects, including:
    • Design
    • Materials
    • Construction
  • Pilots or proof-of-concept efforts, including those related to programming or the development of a new revenue source.
  • Efforts that seek to remove barriers to equitable access, such as transportation network and connectivity enhancements, language access, communications, or marketing.
  • Research, planning and evaluation.
  • One-time organizational capacity-building for public space stewards in the form of:
    • Strategic/business planning
    • Organizational restructuring
    • Alliance/merger facilitation
    • Training, professional development
    • Key staff recruitment
  • Public space efforts that also advance the Foundation’s Arts & Culture, Watershed Protection and Great Learning strategies are desirable, though not required.


What We Do Not Fund

  • Projects that do not demonstrate clear alignment with the Great Public Spaces strategy, especially related to community involvement and partnerships;
  • Projects that do not demonstrate credible, realistic, reasonable work plans and budgets;
  • Spaces located outside of Philadelphia and Camden;
  • Spaces that are not publicly accessible;
  • Spaces that are privately owned or primarily profit-seeking;
  • Athletic leagues;
  • Streetscape or corridor beautification projects;
  • Public or private memorials;
  • Projects that represent a new, unfunded burden on City resources;
  • Routine maintenance or ongoing operational support.
Funding will not be considered to any organization that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual orientation in policy or practice.



New Audiences/New Places

The Foundation is currently reconsidering its funding in the context of COVID-19 and the profound impact the pandemic is having on the country, and more locally on our region. With that in mind we are no longer funding the New Audiences/New Places strategy in order to prioritize unrestricted support to help grantees get through this challenging time.

In addition, we are also engaged in an ongoing internal review process, which began in 2019, of the existing strategies within the Creative Communities program area, including the New Audiences/New Places strategy.

As a result, in 2021, the Creative Communities program area is considering requests for funding through its Core Support (application cycle underway), Arts Education, and Great Public Spaces strategies, only. Please visit those pages for more information.

The Foundation will continue to communicate any and all adjustments to our grantmaking. Updates on changes to the Creative Communities programs for 2022 will be shared publicly when those are finalized. Please keep an eye on our website for more details.