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.


Dear Friend of the Fels Fund,

On behalf of the board of directors of the Samuel S. Fels Fund, I wanted to let you know that Helen Cunningham has made a decision to step down as president. As many of you know, Helen has been an outstanding leader for the past 23 years and will be greatly missed. We appreciate all of Helen’s work on behalf of the Fund and consider her a dear colleague, as I know many of you do. Helen is not only greatly admired for her dedication to the foundation, but she is also respected for the role she has played (and continues to play) on the many boards and committees where she has been a leader or a member for decades. Her knowledge of the issues that affect the quality of life in our city is unparalleled.

We support Helen’s decision and accept her resignation with regret and gratitude. She will remain in her position as president until June 2015 or until we have named her successor. It is our hope to have our new president in position by our June, 2015 board meeting. We have formed a Search Committee, and are in the process of selecting a consulting firm to work with us on the search process. Information about the search process will be available early in the New Year and will be posted on the Fels Fund website at

While we focus our time and attention on this leadership transition, we have decided to put our annual Internships in Community Service on a one-year hold. The internship program requires a significant amount of administrative time and great attention to detail. With a small staff and board, we will not be able to conduct a search for our new president as well as manage the internship process. For these reasons, we will not be accepting applications this year for the internship program, and we apologize for any inconveniences related to this decision. We believe this is a valuable program and we are committed to continuing the work after the one-year suspension. All other grantmaking guidelines and timelines will remain the same.

As a board, we are proud of the impact the Fels Fund has made in Philadelphia over the last 80 years as a private independent foundation. Samuel Fels, the president of Fels & Company, manufacturer of Fels Naptha soap, was a philanthropist and civic leader. He established his foundation 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.” We continue to honor the wishes of the founder by providing grants to Philadelphia nonprofits that are focused on education, community programs, and the arts.


Valerie Clayton
Chair, Board of Directors
The Samuel S. Fels Fund


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.