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New grant programs infuse Philadelphia’s nonprofit and arts sectors with $6 million

July 30, 2021 Category: FeaturedFundingLong


Update: added a parenthetical clarification to one of Kristin Romens' quotes, for clarity, and deleted a figure of speech ("quote-unquote") that was redundant when written. (Aug. 3, 2021, 9:18 a.m.)
In July, several organizations in Philadelphia’s philanthropic and giving sector pledged over $6 million to the city’s post-pandemic recovery efforts, using innovative grant vehicles to support equitable health and education outcomes and the region’s struggling arts-based nonprofits.

The Pew Charitable Trusts announced four grant awards totaling $3.2 million, including the second-ever Growth Grant from the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services. Community-based cultural organizations and emerging artists found respite from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the Forman Arts Initiative and Philadelphia Foundation, whose joint venture, the Art Works Grant, promises $3 million to the arts over the next five years.

Current grant recipients comprise some of Philadelphia’s most notable nonprofits and a diverse array of talented artists and art organizations.

Groups receiving funds from Pew include Growth Grant recipient Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, Venture Grant recipient Springboard Collaborative, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab, and Bartram’s Garden. The Art Works Grant’s inaugural class consisted of four emerging artists and five community art organizations, including filmmaker Tshay Williams, choreographer Jorge Rullán Fantauzzi, Scribe Video Center, BlackStar, and 12 Gates Arts.

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Despite rising case rates and a possible third-wave in what seems like a never-ending pandemic, the funds pledged by Pew, FAI, and Philadelphia Foundation will bolster the city’s nonprofit sector and help low-income communities and struggling artists in a difficult time of need.

Kristin Romens.

According to Kristin Romens, project director of the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services, the post-COVID recovery is still top-of-mind for Pew.

“What does an equitable recovery for Philadelphia look like?” Romens asked. “I think, particularly for a program that focuses on the provision of social services, that’s about making sure that those who, because of socioeconomic status, race, other factors or who are sort of ‘on the margins’, are really brought into and included in the region’s recovery. So, an inclusive recovery.”

“And I think that’s what these grantees do exceptionally [well],” Romens continued.

Pew’s announcement comes on the heels of a springtime investment of $5.41 million into the city’s nonprofit sector; $4 million of that money was a Growth Grant awarded to Benefits Data Trust. Both Growth and Venture Grants are part of a new giving strategy introduced by Pew last year. The former offers significant, long-term, flexible investment to proven organizations, while the latter is for addressing new and promising approaches to emerging challenges.

Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, or MANNA, received the second-ever Growth Grant from Pew this quarter, a $2 million award over the next five years to help expand its services. Despite being confused for a food pantry or Meals on Wheels program — all incredible programs according to Chief Executive Officer Sue Daugherty — MANNA is something more. Under the motto “neighbors nourishing neighbors,” MANNA works to bring food as medicine to its clientele, 95% of whom are well below the poverty line and experiencing severe illness.

“[MANNA clientele] are battling usually not just one illness, but several illnesses,” Daugherty said. “They may have kidney disease, HIV, AIDS, and diabetes. And so MANNA dietitians work very, very, very hard with the chef’s here, to design a scientific menu, that is making sure that folks are getting the right nutrition.”

Daugherty, who joined MANNA as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in 1999, told Generocity that the organization lost almost 70% of its volunteer force when COVID hit in March 2020. Still, with clients in need, they didn’t miss a beat. And now, thanks to the new grant from Pew, MANNA will be able to increase its services to the people who need them most.

“Now more than ever for us to have the support of this Growth Grant that will help us build to increase our capacity by 50% over the next five years and to do that in a very thoughtful strategic way is just incredible,” Daugherty said. “We’re so honored that Pew has recognized that and awarded us that grant.”

Pew’s current round of grants focused on equity in health and education outcomes for low-income children and adults in the region, both of which are core missions of several of their recent recipients. Springboard Collaborative received a Venture Grant for $180,000 over the next two years, money that will help with student literacy and learning loss during the pandemic and support the Springboard Learning Accelerator program.

In addition, Pew awarded $1 million over the next four years to CHOP’s PolicyLab, the research arm of Children’s Hospital, whose work focuses on programs and policies to improve child and family health. According to Dr. Meredith Matone, scientific director of PolicyLab, what separates their efforts from others is a focus on evidence to action.

“There’s not a lot of academic medical centers that have robust policy and communication team working alongside researchers, and Pew’s support directly facilitates that model of work,” Dr. Matone said.

The new grant will help PolicyLab fund research into universal health insurance for children and families and look at the racial disparities caused in health care brought about by COVID-19, among other things.

When it comes to the pandemic, no space became more of a respite for Philadelphians than Bartram’s Garden, the 50-acre National Historic Landmark in Southwest Philadelphia. But the garden, which the John Bartram Association operates, is also a community neighbor focused on nature, history, sustainability, and social justice. Bartram’s Garden received $300,000 to support, restore, and maintain the garden over the next two years.

“What was great about that grant is [Pew was] asking us — I think a lot of people — how does the city of Philadelphia, how do we recover as communities from the pandemic?” Caroline Winschel, Bartram’s director of development, asked. “And because we are a place-based space, what was obvious to us was that the garden itself, the physical space, needed some attention.”

But as Philadelphia’s nonprofits and the people they serve attempt to move past the pandemic, so does the city’s creative economy, a rich culture filled not only with individual artists but diverse and innovative galleries and showrooms forced to close their doors because of COVID-19.

In partnership with Philadelphia Foundation, to support arts and culture in the greater Philadelphia region, Forman Arts Initiative launched the inaugural Art Works Grant this year. The $3 million, five-year grant program for community-based art organizations and emerging artists offers individual artists unrestricted grants of $10,000 for two years, with community groups receiving $50,000 over that same period.

“The breadth and quality of the applications really excites us,” Jennifer Rice, co-founder of the Forman Arts Initiative, said in a statement. “These artists and organizations are creating work that puts Philadelphia in a class by itself, and they represent … our city’s deep and diverse creativity.”

Phil Fitzgerald. (Courtesy)

According to Phil Fitzgerald, executive director of grantmaking at Philadelphia Foundation, the impetus behind the grant was the societal change that flowed through 2020. A report released by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance found that many creative institutions feared not making it through COVID-19 — an idea that became the backdrop for the partnership with FAI. But national conversations about race also played a role.

“We also, coming out of 2020 have been figuring out how to be more vocal in our support of Black, Indigenous, and people of color led and serving organizations,” Fitzgerald said. “So it was just a perfect opportunity for us to enter a space that we don’t fund through our discretionary programs very often, but align up with the values and the mission we have in supporting marginalized and BIPOC organizations.”

The Art Works Grant is a bold opportunity for Philadelphia’s creative community. Area filmmaker and screenwriter Tshay Williams, recipient of one of the emerging artist grants, is using the award to pursue her debut narrative short, “With My Own Hands.” But “With My Own Hands” is also a four-day creative retreat that brings together 10 collaborators from various mediums — dance, photography, filmmaking, and more — giving Williams a chance to come together with others in a unique, creative way.

Williams, who celebrates portraits of Black lives in her work, finds herself sometimes second-guessing her own instincts. For her, “With My Own Hands” is a chance for genuine creative autonomy. “I feel like one of the profound losses of racial capitalism is that I feel my own relationship to my instinct has been extremely separate,” Williams said. “And so this is kind of an opportunity to heal from those wounds and also think about how to restore the sense of creative energy to my practice.”

Most importantly, due in part to the Art Works Grant, Williams will be able to pay all collaborators for their work.

Aisha Khan, executive director and president of 12 Gates Art, never stopped working during the pandemic. Her gallery focuses on showcasing international multidisciplinary diaspora artists centered around contemporary art from the South Asia region. And it’s very much an active, physical space, predicated on art showings, fundraising galas, and the like. So when the pandemic hit, Khan felt the pressure mount.

Despite the uncertainties, including a tough decision not to ask donors for money during a time of economic difficulty for so many, Khan helped 12 Gates to thrive. With virtual showings and other digital technologies, the gallery survived throughout the pandemic. The gallery also pushed through as the country witnessed an increase in hate crimes toward the Asian American community. According to Khan, it’s something she’s dealt with for years, before the pandemic and before it made national headlines.

The Art Works Grant is a new chapter in the story of 12 Gates Art. Now, the gallery can hire more help, in effect creating more long-term sustainability. “It’s my passion for me to run this organization,” said Khan. “But I really want to make sure when I’m not there, this organization has sustainability. This organization, it just doesn’t go away with me.”

Khan’s excitement echoes that of all the recent grant recipients, with each one not only appreciative of the money and support put out by Pew, FAI, and Philadelphia Foundation but also relieved to be past the worst of the pandemic. Even with a potential third-wave on the rise, these individuals and organizations know they can move forward and do good with a little less weight holding them back.

“This pandemic, this whole attitude, this whole positivity around it, it’s only given me strength and only given my board strength,” Khan said. “It only gave us faith in the organization [that now] we’re starting a residency program. It’s not official yet … but we’re very aggressively writing a proposal for starting a residency program.”


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