Samuel S. Fels Fund


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2023 Transition Year and Updates

This blog post is an archive of website language used to describe the 2023 Transition Year and related updates. We have organized the events of this blog so that the most recent copy is at the top.


In December 2023, we hosted three sessions to share our transition year learnings and announced the grant strategy for 2024 and beyond. Here is the Grant Strategy Summary.

2023 TRANSITION YEAR OVERVIEW (Originally posted December 2022)

Over the past three years, we, the staff, and Board of the Samuel S. Fels Fund, have repeatedly asked ourselves and many of our nonprofit and grassroots partners how to “show-up” as a funder of social, racial, and economic justice in Philadelphia. How do we invest in people, organizations, Philly neighborhoods and ecosystems in ways that move us towards a more equitable and just city? Here are some examples of our actions over the past few years. We have: 

  • moved more grant money more quickly and with fewer restrictions, doubling our annual grantmaking levels since 2020
  • added leadership development and wellness grants for smaller organizations that are already receiving general support from us
  • partnered with our peers in philanthropy to raise an additional $6M in matching grants directly for Fels’ grantee partners — with no strings attached
  • made very low interest bridge loans available to our grantee partners
  • tracked and improved our record of funding organizations led by people most deeply connected to and representative of the communities they serve.  In 2021, 78% of our grantee partners were BIPOC-led and serving. 

This is where we are as we head into 2023, firmly rooted in our organizational mission and values. Our Values Statement emphasizes the importance of inviting feedback, engaging in dialogue, and holding ourselves accountable to our community members and to one another. To that end, we have hired a third party, CommunityBuild Ventures (CBV), to gather input from grantee partners in a way that preserves their anonymity, so we can use it to inform our grant-making strategy moving forward without partners feeling that their candor would jeopardize funding or relationships. 

To clear some space for this process, and to show trust and care for the relationships with our 72 grantee partners, we are approaching 2023 as a transitional year. We will not accept new applications or reopen grant cycles in 2023, however we will automatically fund most of our current grantees at the same levels (or close to it). 

This allows a runway for all of us as we work with CBV to hone our grant-making strategy moving forward. We will need to start rebuilding our endowment in 2024 and that means we will not be able to keep spending at this increased level indefinitely, but whatever we do, we will do it with transparency and a deep and abiding respect for our community partners and the community more broadly.

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