Return to News

Listening to Community Voices

Listening to community voices has been an essential component of the Foundation’s strategy revision that launched last fall. It has deepened our understanding of the region’s needs and sharpened our ability to discern opportunities, both of which are critical for achieving William Penn’s mission to expand access to resources that will enable the Philadelphia region – and most notably, its residents who have been historically marginalized – to thrive.

As described in a January blog post, we began by surveying over 400 grantees about our past grantmaking and interviewing 116 field leaders about the important issues facing their communities. This input, along with guidance from our Board, helped us identify a preliminary set of objectives across four areas: children and families, environment and public space, democracy and civic initiatives, and workforce development. (The Creative Communities program was not part of the strategy review since its strategies were revised following the completion of a comprehensive review in 2021; now known as the Arts and Culture program, it continues to operate under its current guidelines.)

Starting early in 2024, we sought further input from stakeholders to test whether these objectives resonated and are meaningful to the Philadelphia community. We also wanted to learn if real progress toward them would be possible in the next ten years. To help stakeholders feel comfortable providing candid feedback to the Foundation, we hired consultants to engage them. Collectively, the consultants met with 254 individuals, including leadership and front-line staff from nonprofit and advocacy organizations, government agencies, research organizations, and community members expected to benefit from the work we would support. We are grateful to all the people who participated in 370 conversations over the past nine months to help shape the Foundation’s future funding.

Participants demonstrated significant support and enthusiasm for the Foundation’s draft priorities noting that they focus on issues that are truly important to them. Several stakeholders recommended ways to further align the Foundation’s objectives with the context of their communities’ needs, input we used to drop some objectives we were considering, add others, and clarify the focus and intent of all of our priorities. To learn more about what we heard, you can find the executive summaries produced by each of the consultants below. We share these with the hope that they will benefit others interested in these issues and as part of our commitment to transparency. 

  1. Children and Families Program - Stakeholder Feedback Executive Summary 
  2. Democracy and Civic Initiatives Program - Stakeholder Feedback Executive Summary 
  3. Economic Mobility (Workforce) Program - Stakeholder Feedback Executive Summary 
  4. Environment and Public Space Program - Stakeholder Feedback Executive Summary 

The input we gathered is enabling the Foundation to fine tune the objectives to be announced in late June that will guide our work in the coming years. In the meantime, we want to thank all the community members for contributing their time, expertise, and intellect to this effort. We have learned a tremendous amount and are excited to soon begin implementing these updated priorities so that more people can benefit from the resources and opportunities that promote a vital city and region for all.