Who Runs the Charter Foundation, and What Does It Support in Greater Philadelphia?

The Charter Foundation has only been around for about seven years, but the trustees behind the scenes have been working within the foundation world for decades. This Philadelphia-focused foundation was funded by a gift received in 2010, and today it gives broadly in the areas of healthcare, medical research, education, and to other types of charitable organizations as well.

This is a family-run foundation that has strong ties to Philadelphia, and its entirely run by its board of trustees. The foundation’s website doesn’t share much about its history or who these trustees are. But after a bit of digging, we have a little better understanding of who’s involved and what types of causes they tend to support.

The Charter Family’s original trustees were Joseph K. Gordon, Esq. and Ray McLean Gordon. Joseph was an attorney, bank exec, and philanthropist in Philadelphia who passed away in 2015. His obituary shared, “Perhaps his most notable professional accomplishment was coming up with the legal framework that allowed for the creation of the multi-bank Money Access Center, or “MAC,” automated teller network, a now ubiquitous term for ATM machines in the Philadelphia region, used by millions of people around the world.”

We can see how that little innovation might make someone very wealthy. 

Joseph’s wife, Ray, was a Philadelphia native and lifelong volunteer who contributed to many local causes. Before she passed away in 2011, she was involved with the Lankenau Hospital and The Association for the Blind and Dyslexic, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia, Friends of Ludington Library, and the Art Ability Program at Bryn Mawr Rehab.

Current trustees are the couple’s adult children: Leila Gordon, Hunter R. Gordon, and C. Scott Gordon. The Gordons are involved in the banking and finance industry, which you can see in the siblings’ LinkedIn profiles.

Although this funder keeps a relatively low profile, we do know that it is particularly interested in the issues of poverty, abuse, illness, aging, hunger, and homelessness. And almost all grantmaking takes place in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Arts and culture grants often go to museums, theaters, zoos, art centers, and programs that reach underserved populations are favored. Education grants target at-risk and disadvantaged children and adults, and healthcare grants go to nonprofit hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and medical research institutes. Children and the elderly are of particular interest to this funder for human services grants. And while Charter is not a big environmental funder, it has supported educational programs focused on environmental science in the past.

This is a foundation that’s tied up in numerous multi-year grant commitments, which means that new opportunities are a bit limited. The resources allocated to the aforementioned program areas vary from one year to the next based on what type of grant requests Charter receives. Most past grants have ranged between $5,000 and $25,000 each, and you can download a list of past grantees here. In a recent year, the funder awarded $718,000 in grants.

Charter funds program costs, equipment purchases, operating costs, capital needs, and endowments, and it uses an online application process. Charter Foundation grants are awarded quarterly following a rolling application process, and grant requests are considered on a first-come-first-served basis at meetings in March, June, September, and December. Email is the preferred form of contact to get in touch with this funder.