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William Penn Foundation Annual Letter 2024

What does it take to create and sustain truly thriving cities that benefit everyone? The answers are as varied as the people who give life to a city. We believe the answers must be centered on people and expanding access to resources and opportunities that promote a more vital and robust city and region for everyone, no matter one’s zip code, background, or circumstance.

It means opportunity must exist for people of every age, race, culture, identity, and socio-economic situation. It means equitable access to fundamentals like education and employment opportunities; safe, clean, and green places to live, play, and work; and exposure to diverse experiences and resources that can inform and expand our perspectives. Each of us must see ourselves reflected and valued in our city, to be inspired and to engage with it and with one another.

Creating opportunities for all members of our community through strategic investments in the people of our city and region has been the work of four generations of our family and of the William Penn Foundation for three quarters of a century. During that time our grantmaking has continued to evolve and develop to meet changing community needs. Now, as our family transitions Foundational leadership from the third to fourth generation, we are undergoing a strategy revision process that is being informed by the voices of many to ensure our grantmaking contributes positively to creating lasting, sustainable change in the city we love so deeply.

Our strategy revision will evolve the priorities for our grantmaking to meet the needs of the next decade while honoring the legacy and learnings that have led us here. We are guided by a set of values, which are to:

  1. Prioritize opportunities for communities that have been most affected by economic inequity, racial discrimination, and other forms of injustice.
  2. Conduct our work in ways that minimize and respond to climate change and promote environmental justice.
  3. Prioritize community voice.
  4. Leverage our leadership to advance important citywide and regional initiatives and to respond to changing needs of the city and region.
  5. Value partnership, collaboration, and transparency.
  6. Share our learning locally and nationally.

Philadelphia is a city of influence and even greater potential. Fresh leadership in city government and the opportunities presented in 2026 offer significant promise for renewal for all Philadelphians. We are committed to a deeper understanding of community interests and needs as we refine our grantmaking. Foundation staff are engaging with stakeholders to learn about the issues they feel need the most attention; their perspective is critical for creating effective grantmaking as we address the multitude of issues that the city faces. Those perspectives and insights have been important to our process of strategic review.

Opportunities to think anew about the issues and possibilities for the people of Philadelphia and the region are coming from many directions from within and across the city. Philadelphians have just elected the first woman to be mayor. The city is mobilizing to make the most of once-in-a-generation experiences for residents and visitors as Philadelphia becomes a major focus of the nation’s semiquincentennial celebration in 2026 and hosts major sporting events, such as World Cup Soccer and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, that same year.

At the Foundation, we have experienced our own changes, both in the evolution of generational Haas family leadership and in the crafting of a new, updated strategic plan to guide our work over the next decade.

We are deeply proud of the work that has gone into this process to date and are eager to work alongside our dedicated and talented staff to shape our next decade of grantmaking together. Our intention is to present a refined set of grantmaking strategies in summer 2024, and we look forward to sharing our progress along the way. We are energized by the impact that can be had in partnership both with the grantees that we fund and the community at large in the coming years.

As a new generation of the Haas family ushers in the next era of the William Penn Foundation’s grantmaking we are honored to continue the familial legacy that has held true for more than 75 years – to expand access to resources and opportunities that promote a more vital and robust city and region for all.

In community and partnership,

-Katherine Christiano, Chair, William Penn Foundation Board of Directors
-Peter Haas, Vice Chair, William Penn Foundation Board of Directors