Samuel S. Fels Fund

Funding Priorities

Fels Fund directs all grantmaking to improve the lives of people in marginalized communities throughout Philadelphia.  Areas of priority include:

Focused Populations 
Arts and Culture 
Social, Racial and Economic Justice

Focused Populations

Purpose: to improve the circumstances of and opportunities for refugees, immigrants, and youth in-and-exiting the child welfare system.

Rationale:  Fels Fund has a long history of making Philadelphia a more welcoming place for those who are fleeing oppression and/or seeking a better life for themselves and/or their families, be they refugees or immigrants.  In fact, Samuel Fels was the son of refugees.

Amid growing hostility towards refugees and immigrants, Mayor Kenny has identified Philadelphia as a Sanctuary City for those with unauthorized status, and the State and Federal government are threatening to withhold funds because of it.  In addition, the availability of equitable education, meaningful employment, legal and other services for newcomers is sorely lacking.  There are only three refugee resettlement agencies in Philadelphia. They and our post-resettlement agencies are severely understaffed and underfunded.  The time is ripe for Fels Fund to focus more resources and leadership in this area on behalf of low-income immigrant and refugee communities.

Similarly, many of the 6,000 Philadelphia youth in-and-exiting the child welfare system live in circumstances that have stripped them of the supportive ties of family, community and culture. These young people face complex hurdles in education, employment and other basic needs.  Thirty to 40% of youth exiting the foster care system are homeless within a few months and a disproportionate number of these youth are LGBTQ.  Many are vulnerable to sex trafficking and/or the prison pipeline.

Strategy: provide grants (primarily general operating funds), for organizations and coalitions that provide direct services and advocacy to strengthen the resources, policies, laws and systems for inclusion, integration and advancement of refugees and immigrants, and build safety, stability and opportunity for youth in-and-exiting the child welfare system.

 

Arts and Culture

Purpose:  to inspire cross-cultural understanding and social change through the arts.

Rationale: Philadelphia has a strong collection of community arts centers and organizations whose primary mission is to work with marginalized communities to strengthen, sustain and preserve social or cultural identities and traditions, and to promote cross-cultural understanding.  Many of these organizations are critically underfunded.  In fact, from 2003-2013, only 1% of foundation funding went to cultural groups in disadvantaged areas of Philadelphia.  And yet, arts can be one of the most nourishing and powerful engines of social change when driven by those marginalized by race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, physical ability, mental health, age or other social or legal status.

Strategy:  provide grants (primarily generally operating funds) for exemplary Philadelphia arts and culture organizations whose primary mission is to strengthen, preserve and share social or cultural identities and traditions and/or to harness arts to amplify the voices of those who are marginalized in pursuit of social change.

 

Social, Racial and Economic Justice

Purpose:  to improve conditions for marginalized communities (that fall outside of the Focused Populations and Arts and Culture funding streams) with a focus on social, racial and economic justice.

Rationale:  Fels Fund has a proud history of taking a stand on issues of social, racial and economic justice and has often worked in coalition to advance equity issues in public education, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the criminal justice system through research, advocacy, organizing, legal and other services.

Issues of equity and social justice abound in Philadelphia, where residents of color experience greater unemployment and underemployment, poorer educational and health outcomes, and disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system.  Moreover, Philadelphia suffers the highest deep poverty rate of the ten most populous U.S. cities, leading to an economic underclass of approximately 200,000 people.

Addressing these issues is not easy.  Ways to improve opportunity include equitable public education, jobs, a higher minimum wage, access to transportation, prison diversion and re-entry supports, and investment in strengthening the diversity, equity and inclusion of the not-for-profit sector.   We will also consider proposals focused on protecting human rights.

Strategy:  provide grants (primarily project-based) for new ideas and proven approaches specific to improving social, racial and economic justice for marginalized communities. Requests may include advocacy, organizing, legal and other services with an emphasis on systems change.

 

Focused Populations   
Arts and Culture
Social, Racial and Economic Justice