Rumor Mill: Why Are Area Non-Profit Folks Doing A Goddamn Jig Over Jeremy Nowak Leaving William Penn Foundation?

As news broke late yesterday that the controversial Jeremy Nowak was stepping down from his post as president of the William Penn Foundation just a year and a half into his tenure, cries of “Hallelujiah!” and “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass!” were issued, quietly, and into NPR coffee mugs, at many non-profit agencies in the Philadelphia area.

To be sure, in the relatively muted world of foundation/non-profit funding, Nowak’s departure announcement was as explicitly “Yeah, we fired this guy” as it gets, billed as a mutual decision that read with the same level of eye-roll as “artistic differences.” Though it might have been just that, after all: The William Penn Foundation, which gives $85 million in grants each year locally, just issued a new three-year plan, and all indications were that Nowak was not a part of the new vision. Could it have been the conflict of interest described in that Newsworks story above? Or was it something else?

In any case, the jubilation is in the air. One non-profit wonk told us “how crazy happy local non-profits are that the board fired him”; another told us, “Er, he was not what you would call a do-er.” In any case, it’s nice to see some excitement in this part of the world. We worry about these folks sometimes.

  • Alice Kinnon

    I know nothing about his tenure at the William Penn Foundation but Jeremy Nowak is most certainly a “do-er” in life. One of his kids went to school with Alex Scott and in the wake of Alex’s tragic death he volunteered his expertise in the nonprofit world to Jay & Liz Scott– as the first chairman of the board of Alex’s Lemonade Stand he played a HUGE part in turning it into the nationally known, wildly successful & significant organization it is today. Again, Im not familiar with his current work, but as a person he’s outstanding. A difference in vision doesn’t necessarily mean one side is 20/20 & the other is Ray Charles

  • friendlynerd
  • locustst

    Yeah this isn’t a net positive for the city. I think the sense of relief you’re hearing from non-profits reflects a broader frustration with the changing funding landscape both nationally and in Philly. William Penn, like all other major granting organizations, now requires a lot more quantitative/results-driven analysis before handing over checks. That, along with the fact that Rebecca Rimel demolished Pew’s presence in the city, has resulted in a much tougher environment for local non-profits looking for grants.

    It also doesn’t help that the overlap between people who oppose charter schools and those who work in the non-profit world is like 1:1. A lot of people heard BCG and decided he was a corporate raider, while having no idea that he created the Reinvestment Fund in the early 80s and won the Philadelphia Award all the way back in 1994.

  • Amarikah

    And the person behind that founded a charter! Locustst just has no idea what they’re talking about.

    That link deserves it’s own post, tips.