Samuel S. Fels Fund


The Samuel S. Fels Fund was founded in 1935 by Samuel S. Fels, a Philadelphia philanthropist who made his money in the manufacture of Fels Naptha, a popular household soap. We are a private independent foundation with broad interests in community programs, education and the arts.

According to our charter, we seek to support projects “which prevent, lessen or resolve contemporary social problems”, or which seek to provide permanent improvements “in human daily life”.

Our grants are restricted to organizations located in the City of Philadelphia or focused on local issues.


The Samuel S. Fels Fund was incorporated as a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation on December 17, 1935. The Charter was accepted and the foundation’s work begun at the organizational meeting on January 27, 1936.

The Fund’s founder was Samuel S. Fels, Philadelphia philanthropist and civic leader who was president of Fels & Company, manufacturer of Fels Naptha, a vastly popular household soap. Sam Fels was born in Yanceyville, North Carolina in 1860 and died in Philadelphia on June 23, 1950.

The general purpose of the Fund, as stated in the Charter, is “to initiate and to assist any activities or projects of a scientific, educational or charitable nature which tend to improve human daily life and to bring to the average person greater health, happiness, and a fuller understanding of the meaning and purposes of life.”

To this end the Fund makes grants in the categories of Arts and Humanities, Education, and Community Programs, all in the city of Philadelphia. The ideal proposal to Fels is one that addresses positive social change. We also mean to be useful to organizations at points of particular need such as expansion, experimentation, or reorganization or in times of particular need for advocacy. The Fund is unable to make grants to individuals and accepts proposals only from organizations which are designated tax-exempt (501-c-3) by the Internal Revenue Service. The Fund does not make grants for conferences, scholarships, fellowships or travel. Ordinarily, the Fund also avoids making grants for major programs of large institutions, capital and equipment, endowment, and the routine or direct services of social service agencies. Individual day care and after school care programs and computer centers cannot be accommodated, although agencies that serve these fields may apply.

The Fund also runs an annual program, the Fels Internships in Community Service. Recent grantees are invited to submit descriptions of projects that could be done by graduate students over the course of ten weeks in the summer. Organizations whose projects are selected receive $6,000 to pay the graduate students, whom they select. The program is a way to draw talent to the not-for-profit sector and to carry out serious work on the community’s behalf.

Applications are accepted at any time (with the exception of Arts and Humanities projects which are due by 5 p.m. on January 15th or May 15th).  Agencies are asked to refrain from reapplying for a year after the proposal has been declined or until a final report has been accepted if a grant was awarded. Guidelines for applicants, with proposal requirements and cover sheet, are available on our website or by calling (215) 731-9455.