Watershed Protection Grant

William Penn Foundation

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Grant amount: US $50,000 - US $5,500,000

Next deadline: Oct 25, 2019 (Full proposal)

Later deadlines: Nov 29, 2019 (Letter of inquiry), Jan 17, 2020 (Full proposal), Feb 28, 2020 (Letter of inquiry), Apr 17, 2020 (Full proposal), Jun 14, 2020 (Letter of inquiry), Jul 26, 2020 (Full proposal), Sep 6, 2020 (Letter of inquiry)

Applicant type: Nonprofit College / University Museum/Library/Zoo Elementary / Secondary School

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Project / Program, Research

Location of project: Delaware, Pennsylvania, Counties in New Jersey: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County Show all

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:



NOTE: The Foundation has a two-stage online application process which includes an initial inquiry and an invited full proposal. Inquiries are accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Once an inquiry is received, organizations are typically notified of next steps within 30 days. If an organization is invited to proceed to the second stage of the process and submit a full proposal, the deadlines above are provided as a guide for when materials are due for consideration at a board meeting. Organizations are encouraged to submit their materials by these deadlines. Your program officer will let you know when materials need to be submitted for consideration at a particular board meeting.

  • Grants at or below $82,500 are not required to be considered at a board meeting, and thus do not follow the deadline schedules listed under Deadlines.

Our work to protect the Delaware River watershed aims to ensure an adequate supply of clean water for generations to come, and our support helps accelerate conservation of this precious resource.


Supporting Watershed-Wide Research, Policy, and Practice. We consider opportunities to:

  • Fund scientific research and analysis to provide information on water quality.
  • Advance policies and practices that accelerate, strengthen, or expand public and private watershed protection.

Our goal is to better understand the baseline data, progress over time, emerging threats, policies, and practices that can advance private and public watershed-protection efforts, with an emphasis on protection of forests; reduction of agricultural run-off and polluted stormwater; and protection of critical aquifers.

Selections are based on the potential for a proposed project to significantly improve water quality in the Delaware River watershed, as well as an applicant’s capacity to implement the proposed work, secure desired outcomes, measure change and progress, and contribute to collaborative or cooperative efforts with other key stakeholders.

We assess the success of the watershed-wide strategy in the near-term by monitoring progress toward the adoption and implementation of policies and practices that address key stressors to protect or restore water resources, and over the long-term by measuring indicators of watershed health, such as land cover, biological, chemical and environmental metrics, and stream regulatory status.


Protecting and Restoring Ecologically Significant Sub-Watersheds. We consider opportunities to:

  • Develop and implement conservation and restoration models.
  • Provide capital for land acquisition to promote conservation and protect water quality.
  • Provide capital for stream and upland restoration to restore water quality.

To further enhance successful interventions, the Foundation also seeks opportunities to fund science-based outreach and advocacy campaigns supported by targeted communications strategies. The Foundation will consider funding for strategies that focus on increasing support for watershed protection and restoration, highlighting innovative practices and effective implementations, and driving replication of successful sub-watershed work locally and across the Delaware River watershed.

The Foundation invites applications for planning and implementation in the priority sub-watersheds identified above. As part of the application process, the Foundation makes data and analysis available for each priority sub-watershed so that applicants can respond to specific local challenges and opportunities. Although most work in the sub-watersheds is supported through this structured invitation process, in some cases the Foundation may support complementary work outside of these efforts.

Strategies selected for each targeted sub-watershed area must address the abatement of specific stressors in the geography or, for preservation efforts, the protection of specific high-value resources. Plans must articulate specific indicators that will track and measure change directly associated with these stressors/conditions and include a plan for data collection and analysis. Sub-watershed stressors are likely to include one or more of the following

  • Forest fragmentation and loss in headwaters
  • Stormwater
  • Agricultural run-off
  • Aquifer depletion

Constituency Building

Empowering constituencies to act. We consider opportunities to:

  • Secure funds to complete “the Circuit,” Greater Philadelphia’s regional trail network.
  • Strengthen existing and emerging environmental education and outdoor recreation centers by encouraging shared programming and coordinated outreach.
  • Support programs that make use of targeted trails and rivers and provide outdoor enthusiasts with information about water.

Completion of the Circuit

Complete and increase visibility of the Circuit, Greater Philadelphia’s regional trail network, as a platform to engage people in outdoor activities and encourage them to take advantage of the benefits of the region’s waterways. 

River and Trail Related Centers

Develop a strategic network of existing and emerging environmental education and habitat preservation centers at key portals to trails and rivers, encouraging shared programming and coordinated outreach related to water quality.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The Foundation supports specific projects with measurable outcomes.
    • However, project costs can include funding for staff, materials, and other organizational costs associated with the project, and we encourage organizations to allocate a portion of project funding to support necessary support functions (i.e., overhead).
  • Watershed-wide: We consider funding for:
    • Research, baseline mapping, and data analysis that will be made publicly accessible and can be inform programs and policy options used to advance targeted research and advocacy.
    • Research on and analysis of innovative policies and practices with the potential to significantly affect water quality.
    • Science- and data-driven monitoring programs.
    • Science- and data-driven public and policymaker education efforts about campaigns, including targeted advocacy for effective federal, state, and regional policies and practices that promote protection or restoration of watershed resources.
  • Sub Watersheds: Funding may be used for:
    • The implementation of innovative, transformative, or model conservation and restoration projects.
    • Fee or easement acquisition of priority watershed lands.
    • Research, analysis, and communications about threats and successes in targeted sub-watersheds and their relevance to the Delaware River watershed.
    • Technical assistance for and coordination of local stakeholders, including landowners, municipalities, and watershed associations to advance plan implementation.
    • Data collection and monitoring of relevant water quality indicators to assess progress (or lack of progress) and refine interventions to more effectively restore or preserve water quality
  • Constituency Building:
    • Completing the Circuit:Funding may support:
      • efforts to secure public and private funding for priority trail infrastructure;
      • development and early implementation of programming to increase near-water trail usage;
      • communications strategies aimed at increasing trail usage and conveying the importance of clean water to Circuit users; and
      • strategic development of trail networks that are outside, but connected to, the Circuit with access points along rivers and waterways
    • River and Trail Related Centers Funding may support:
      • strategic and business planning; curriculum and programming development;
      • branding, marketing, and other outreach efforts, including an emphasis on connections to the Circuit and regional watersheds;
      • direct programming costs; and analysis of program efficacy.


  • Under no circumstances may the Foundation’s funds be used for lobbying at the Federal, state, or local level.
  • Watershed-wide: 
    • We Do Not Fund:
      •  Work that is not grounded in credible science or other relevant data.
      • Work with primary impact outside of the Delaware watershed.
  • Sub-Watersheds:
    • We do not fund:
      • Work that is not targeted to specific sub-watersheds.
      • Work that is not designed to respond to specific local stressors.
      • Work that is not grounded in credible science or other relevant data.
      • Work with primary impact outside of the targeted sub-watersheds identified above.
      • Work that is not aligned with basin-wide improvements
  • Constituency building: 
    • We Do Not Fund:
      • Work with primary impact outside of the Delaware River watershed.
      • General environmental education or outdoor recreation programs not directly tied to watershed protection
      • General operating support, except as it supports targeted constituency building initiatives.