William Penn Foundation Deploys foundationConnect

“foundationConnect has led to a more collaborative grant development process and it’s a big win to have all information in one system. It has also led to more parity with admin functions internally, leading to increased transparency across the organization.”

– Samantha Shain, Database Administrator at the William Penn Foundation

About William Penn Foundation

As a family foundation with its roots firmly planted in Philadelphia, the William Penn Foundation has been committed to improving the quality of life in the city and the region for the last 70 years. Founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, the foundation’s mission is to help improve education for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creative communities that enhance civic life and advance philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region. To accomplish these goals, the foundation funds causes that increase high-quality, educational opportunities, support arts and culture, and protect the Delaware River watershed. Each year, the board of the William Penn Foundation reviews over 200 grants. The foundation awards $110 million in grants.


Before migrating to Salesforce and foundationConnect, grant data was stored in three separate databases. The William Penn Foundation used MicroEdge GIFTS for transactional records. A custom solution was built on top of the GIFTs SQL database that provided workflow and portfolio management. Lastly, the Foundation used excel spreadsheets to keep track of early pipeline entries that impacted the grant budget. While there was an interface between GIFTS and the custom solution, pipeline requests required manual entry into the system once they advanced to the stage of inquiry. This was a time-consuming and error-sensitive process.

Collaborating with grantees was possible but the foundation needed more sophistication. While grantees could submit applications online, there was not much design capabilities available to create useful forms. Communication between staff and grantees was also limited. Grants staff used email to follow up or request additional information. As a result, relevant communications with grantees lived offline (in individual email inboxes) and not in the system. Additionally, program staff had a limited view of the grants management lifecycle; there were no useful online tools available to effectively manage the grant post approval.

The underlying database structure and technologies were also pushed past their development limits. MicroEdge GIFTS (classic version) was sunsetting, and further development on the custom solution platform was limited. A scalable, stable, flexible, and innovative application was needed that could support the Foundation’s changing needs with current and future data usage, data sharing, and knowledge management.


The William Penn Foundation deployed Salesforce and foundationConnect in November 2017. The foundation uses out-of-the-box functionalities such as foundationConnect’s budget and program modules, payment schedules, reporting, and the Grantee Portal. The team also worked with an Implementation Partner to customize certain features to accommodate the foundation’s unique needs.

Since going live with foundationConnect, the foundation has seen a more collaborative grant development process. When requesting additional information from grantees, grants staff can now do so within the Grantee Portal instead of via email. This ensures all documents and information can be found in a single place. For situations where staff does need to email grantees, the seamless integration with Outlook ensures that emails are stored in foundationConnect and are visible to other staff members for reference.

Internal collaboration and transparency at the foundation has also improved. For example, program staff no longer relies on grants management to provide grantee information or invite inquiries and applications. Instead, program staff are able to send invites easily through the system and easily access grant data at the click of a button.

The most important feature is that all Foundation data is now stored in a single database, easily accessible in-house and remotely. The entire life cycle of a grant is now managed through foundationConnect—from the pipeline stage through grant closeout. Reporting is much easier and efficient; the Foundation has replaced many of its excel reports with automated versions generated directly from foundationConnect.

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