May 2, 2023 7:19 am

The Intersection of Philanthropy and Government

Where government ends, philanthropy often begins - an explainer

Photo by SeanPavonePhoto, used via a Creative Commons license

In today’s society, there is an ever-increasing need for philanthropy (foundations and nonprofit organizations) to work hand-in-hand with governments to address social and economic challenges that cannot be solved by government programs alone.  The intersection of philanthropy and government is critical to finding lasting solutions to problems that affect society as a whole – but in reality, government often plans in a silo, and where they end, philanthropy often begins. 

For example, affordable housing

The City of Philadelphia has several programs to increase access to affordable housing and emergency shelter, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) which received 43.3 million in general funding and $19.9 million in funding, respectively.

While these programs provide supports such as rental assistance, homeownership assistance, and other services to low-income residents, Philadelphia continues to have one of the highest poverty rates among major U.S. cities, and many low-income residents struggle to find safe, affordable housing. To address this problem, nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity which received $10.4 million in 2021, and Project HOME which received $40 million in revenue and in support in 2022 have developed creative solutions to help low-income residents find affordable housing. These organizations provide resources such as home repair, rental assistance, and mortgage assistance that have helped many Philadelphia residents achieve stable and safe housing.

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$113 million dedicated to affordable housing, and there is an upward trend in evictions with Philadelphia’s facing deeper debt and more claims than before 2020.

The problems facing our communities are complex, they are systemic and institutional. To address these problems, it is critical that government and Philanthropy to work together, pool resources, and think more strategically about the how resources are allocated and actualized. 

According to the City of Philadelphia’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget (July 2020 – June 2021), approximately $1.4 billion was allocated for social service programs, including housing, homelessness, workforce development, and public health programs, to name a few. Philadelphia’s Annual Financial Report shows that this spending far exceeded the original allocation to meet community needs during this unprecedented time. However, at the same time, Philadelphia nonprofits received $6.5 billion in charitable support.

Roughly $7 Billion in supports to our communities and Philadelphia maintains a 23% poverty rate.

We are at a crossroads!

Government programs and policies are essential to providing basic services and addressing systemic problems, and Philanthropy can provide the flexibility and innovation needed to address complex problems that require more individualized and localized approaches. While philanthropy does not have a silver bullet and still have much to accomplish, it is critical for government to work with them, as well as with industry and community members themselves. By leveraging each other’s expertise and resources, together they can provide holistic and innovative solutions that are tailored to local needs and ultimately lead to positive social impact in the Philadelphia community.




Tell Us!

How can Government and Philanthropy work more collectively together?

What collectives and coalitions are working, and which need more support/strategy?

How can government better support our communities?

Share Your Thoughts Here!


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