Philly philanthropies launch $9 million fund for America’s 250th birthday

America’s 250th birthday is coming in 2026, along with the World Cup, All-Star Game, and PGA Tour. Will you be ready?

Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art during an Independence Day celebration, Friday, July 4, 2014, in Philadelphia.

File photo: Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art during an Independence Day celebration, Friday, July 4, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Some of the largest philanthropic foundations in the Philadelphia region are teaming up to fund America’s 250th anniversary.

The Philadelphia Funder Collaboration for the Semiquincentennial includes William Penn Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Neubauer Family Foundation, and the Connelly Foundation. They have pooled together $9 million, which will be distributed to nonprofits who submit plans for semiquincentennial projects in 2026.

“We want everyone in our region to feel welcome to participate and for groups to use this opportunity to think about events, activities, and exhibitions that are meaningful to them,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, senior vice president at Pew.

The funders’ collaboration is currently accepting proposals for consideration through its website.

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Tom Riley, director of the Connelly Foundation, expects more philanthropies to join the collaboration and grow the pool of funds. The first round of funding is expected to be released as quickly as this fall, with three or four rounds of funding annually until 2026.

“A lot of times with foundations, you send a proposal — you kind of throw it over a wall and you never know whether it’s going to take a short time or a long time to get back,” Riley said. “There’s a sense of urgency here. We want to make sure people hear back quickly so that they can make their plans in the most efficient way.”

The collaboration represents one of the largest pools of money for Philadelphia projects pegged to 2026. Members of the collaborative have already supported Philadelphia250, a coordinating entity ushering community-based projects developed at the grassroots level, offering planning and marketing support for events based in neighborhoods throughout the city.

“Each gateway experience will be co-curated with the people who live, work, and play there,” said president of CEO Danielle Dileo Kim, who is raising $250,000 to support three selected programs as part of Philadelphia250.

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The 250th anniversary celebrations are just one part of a confluence of major events coming to the Philadelphia region in 2026. Other significant events include soccer’s World Cup, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the PGA Championship in Newtown Square, and a packed lineup of bookings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center — including a conference and expo of craft beer brewers and a convention of convention planners.

Riley is concerned that average Philadelphians may not fully appreciate what is about to land on them less than three years from now.

“This is a huge deal,” he said. “You can have the most elaborate and detailed birthing plan possible, but this baby is coming in 2026.”

Riley said the funding cohort will consider a broad range of project ideas from any non-profit entity in the region. Prospective organizations need not have a prior relationship with any of the funding partners.

“One of the reasons for doing it this way is to hopefully get to know some small nonprofits, or nonprofits that are from traditionally underserved communities and give them a doorway in,” Riley said.

Riley would also like to repair Philadelphia’s historic record when it comes to major national anniversaries. While the centennial celebration and world’s fair in Fairmount Park in 1876 is seen as a major success, subsequent celebrations in 1926 and 1976 were beset by problems. They are remembered – at best – as having not lived up to their potential.

“Philadelphia is, I think, the greatest and most underrated city in America. If we’re honest with ourselves, we do have a tendency sometimes to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Riley said. “This shouldn’t be one of those times. This is a chance for us to take advantage of it.”

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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