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Black Community Leaders Fund: Q&A with Philadelphia Foundation's Phil Fitzgerald

Friday, May 21, 2021

Following the launch of the Black Community Leaders Fund on May 13th, we asked Philadelphia Foundation's Phil Fitzgerald, Executive Director for Grantmaking, to give us some insights about how and why the fund was created and what the foundation hopes to achieve through this initiative.

Philanthropy Network - What is the purpose of the Black Community Leaders Fund, and how did Philadelphia Foundation come to be involved in this initiative?

The Black Community Leaders Fund fortifies Black-led nonprofit organizations serving Black communities in Greater Philadelphia.

We know from our own work in the community and from the data that there’s a need for this kind of support. Black-led nonprofits have smaller staffs, have fewer cash reserves and are more dependent on government grants than white-led organizations. These factors can make Black-led organizations more vulnerable to recessions and changes in government, and thus more financially precarious than white-led organizations.  Further, Black leaders of Black-serving organizations are often from the very neighborhoods where they work and have first-hand knowledge of the ongoing needs of their communities.  Those very organizations play critical roles in the community, so we wanted to raise awareness of their work as well as how important it is to invest in their resilience and leadership.

Philadelphia Foundation received a $1-million donation from Facebook, which helped seed the fund.  We wanted to make the most of this investment and knew we could have the most credible impact if we focused on work that has been core to Philadelphia Foundation’s mission for decades.

PN- What types of organizational activities will this funding support?

The grants will fund general operating support and capacity building. The applications will be considered on a rolling basis throughout the year. We anticipate the amounts will range from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the nonprofit’s needs and budget.

To be eligible for funding, organizations must be Black-led, serve predominantly Black constituents, committed to equity and interested in strengthening their programs, operations and governance in order to better serve Black communities. Eligible 501(c)(3) or fiscally-sponsored organizations in Greater Philadelphia, working in any sector, can access the application at

PN - How does the BCL Fund advance the foundation’s broader strategy and goals?

We’ve long supported the strengthening of nonprofits through general operating support and capacity building and prioritizing funding for marginalized populations.   

However, the challenges facing Black-led organizations are unique and pressing. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on a range of systemic barriers and social inequities that had been overlooked for far too long.

PN- What short- and long-term outcomes are you hoping to see from this initiative? What does “success” look like?

We believe that resourcing these leaders will yield timely, thoughtful solutions to longstanding issues.

It is our hope that this fund will serve as a model that can be used to support additional historically marginalized and underfunded communities in Greater Philadelphia.

The whole community benefits when nonprofits are stronger.

PN -Who are your partners in this effort, and how can others get involved? 

Philadelphia Foundation has long supported many of these important community-based organizations. Now -- thanks to the $1 million contribution from Facebook and an additional total of $800,000 in inaugural support from the Barra Foundation, our own discretionary funds, and our S. Albert Fund -- we have the opportunity to move the needle further and faster.

We’re looking to grow this fund to $5 million through additional private, foundation and corporate gifts. Those interested in helping use reach the $5 million goal may contact

PN - Is there anything else you want readers to know about this initiative?

We’re proud of our ongoing support for organizations supporting Black communities in our region and the trust we have developed over 100+ years of existence. 

The Marian Anderson Historical Society and Mother Bethel AME Church, among many other Black institutions, are supported through Philadelphia Foundation’s component funds. Other Philadelphia Foundation funds address civil rights and health disparities which disproportionately affect Black populations.

This fund amplifies our long-standing focus on increasing the impact of Black-led organizations as part of a significant strategy for increasing equity and advancing the vitality of the region.


Philip Fitzgerald is Executive Director of Grantmaking at Philadelphia Foundation, where he leads the program team and oversees discretionary, competitive grantmaking and special initiatives, supporting organization-wide operational and strategic priorities.