Lenfest Foundation Announces Programmatic Shift, Spend-Down Plan

The Philadelphia-based Lenfest Foundation has made a series of changes that effectively maps out a path to its closure, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

According to the Inquirer, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest has stepped down as the foundation's board chair and will be succeeded in that position by Keith Leaphart, a local entrepreneur. Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, will remain on the eight-member board as the foundation begins to shift its grantmaking focus. Although the foundation spent much of the past decade providing support for large civic projects, including the Kimmel Center, it will spend down the bulk of its resources over the next fifteen years to help disadvantaged youth in Philadelphia in three areas — early childhood education, out-of-school care, and career and technical education.

The foundation's college scholarship program, which was started in 2002 to help students from rural Pennsylvania, will spend down its $25 million endowment over the next twenty years. The Lenfest Oceans Program, which is operated in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trusts, will receive funds through 2017 and close in 2020. While the foundation will not seek proposals for other projects, it has announced new guidelines for a "founder's grants" program. Ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, the majority of those gifts will likely go to organizations the foundation has supported in the past.

According to the foundation, the Lenfests have given more than $1 billion through the foundation and personally since 2000.

"I'm not in ill health. I don't believe in perpetual foundations," Lenfest told the Inquirer, which is part of the Lenfest-owned Interstate General Media conglomerate. "We've given away the bulk of our wealth already, and I will have a diminished role in the future. My success in business was finding people who were better at doing things than I was. It's a logical evolution."

Peter Dobrin. "Lenfest Foundation Maps Out a Path to Its End." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/25/2013.