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The Buhl Foundation

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Henry Buhl, Jr.?

Henry Buhl, Jr. built his fortune in the retail industry with his partner, Russell Boggs. In its day, the Boggs & Buhl Department Store on the Northside of Pittsburgh served the carriage trade of the Western Pennsylvania region. Henry Buhl, Jr. died on June 11, 1927.

How long has the Buhl Foundation been in existence?

Upon his death, as a memorial to “my beloved wife, Louise C. Buhl,” Henry Buhl, Jr. created the Buhl Foundation to which he gave the remainder of his estate after bequests to his relatives, friends and a number of charitable organizations. The Buhl Foundation officially began operations on June 1, 1928. As the first multi-purpose foundation in Pittsburgh, the Buhl Foundation was endowed with $11 million, which made it then one of the ten largest of such foundations in the country.

How large is the Foundation today?

The Foundation's assets in recent years have ranged between $75 million to $100 million depending on the volume of grants and financial market conditions over any given period. In a typical year, the Foundation grants between $3 million and $5 million.

Is the Buhl Foundation related in any way to the Buhl Planetarium or Chatham Village in Mt. Washington?

Yes. Two of the earliest projects of the Buhl Foundation were the construction of the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science on Pittsburgh's Northside and the construction of the Chatham Village neighborhood. The Buhl Planetarium opened in 1939 as only the fifth planetarium of its kind in the United States. Through the decades, the Foundation provided over $6 million of funding for the Buhl Planetarium until 1991 when the Buhl Planetarium merged with the Carnegie Science Center, also located on Pittsburgh's Northside. Inside the Carnegie Science Center, a new Buhl Digital Dome now amazes patrons with the latest in Digital Dome advanced production technology. For questions about the Buhl Planetarium or the Carnegie Science Center, contact 412-237-3400 or visit www.carnegiesciencecenter.org.

Chatham Village, which was conceived, funded and built by the Buhl Foundation, is an architectural gem in Mt. Washington that is studied and visited to this day by planners and architects from all over the world. Constructed in 1932, Chatham Village offered families the opportunity to “ride out” the Depression until a more buyer-friendly economy emerged. The Chatham Village project was turned into cooperative housing in 1960. In 2005, it was designated a National Historic Landmark, taking its place alongside unique historic treasures such as the Allegheny County Courthouse and Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece. Chatham Village is regularly listed among the top neighborhoods in the United States.

What is the Henry C. Frick Educational Fund?

The fund was established in 1909 by famous industrialist Henry C. Frick for the support of “sound education and useful training” and today grants are made with special concern for strengthening K-12 public school education. The Frick Fund joined the Buhl Family of Funds in 1994. Learn more.

What is the William and Elizabeth Rodgers McCreery Memorial Fund?

Miss Emilie McCreery, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Rodgers McCreery of Pittsburgh, died in the year 1938. Miss McCreery's will provided that, following the death of three beneficiaries, the balance of funds be given to the Buhl Foundation to support musically talented students residing in the Pittsburgh region to further their musical education or to enhance young people's appreciation of music. The McCreery Fund joined the Buhl Family of Funds in 1955. Learn more.

What became of the original Buhl Planetarium building?

The Buhl Planetarium building is now part of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and was integrated into that museum as part of an award-winning architectural project undertaken in 2004. The Buhl Foundation provided the Children's Museum a grant of $1.5 million toward that $28 million project. The sky show that used to be shown in the original Planetarium building is now part of the Buhl Digital Dome and is located within the Carnegie Science Center.

What are the principal areas that Buhl funds?

Remembering that Henry Buhl , Jr. lived and worked on the Northside of Pittsburgh, and knowing his love for Pittsburgh and its people, the Buhl Foundation is particularly sensitive to four major areas:

  • Education - Initiatives that improve quality of instruction, advance the professional development of teachers, develop effective curriculum with a particular emphasis on science and math, integrate arts and culture into curriculum in partnership with community groups, support environments in which youth can learn, encourage community and higher education partnerships that further science, technology, engineering or math education (STEM), and promote intermediary organizations that improve school quality, governance, leadership and accountability.
  • Youth Development - Initiatives, particularly in disadvantaged communities, that support young people in out-of-school time activities, that develop leadership, enhance learning, encourage community service, provide recreational enjoyment or prevent violence.
  • Human Services - Efforts that support a thriving and diverse community, encourage citizen volunteers or improve access to services. Support is also provided for special projects that improve the effectiveness of such organizations to reach out and meet these human service needs.
  • Economic and Community Development - Programs that encourage innovation and entrepreneurial solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Preference is given to undertakings that support Downtown and Northside revitalization, enhance neighborhood vitality, or encourage use of our parks and recreational opportunities.

Commencing in 2013, the Foundation embarked on a revisioning effort to determine how these historic themes might be integrated into a more geographically focused effort on the Northside of Pittsburgh. In furtherance of that effort, Buhl has been engaged in an extensive planning effort with the Northside community to find consensus around key needs and the strategies to address them. The results of that undertaking will significantly impact Buhl's granting priorities over the next decade or longer. Until that process is completed, grantees, and prospective grantees are encouraged to learn more about this undertaking by visiting www.northsideconversation.org or by contacting Buhl staff.

The Frick Fund has a focus on public education while the McCreery Fund focuses on musical education and training for young people.

How do I submit a grant request?

A written letter of inquiry, not to exceed three pages, is sent to the President, to be followed by a formal proposal, if invited. When invited, formal proposals may be submitted using the Common Grant Application Format available through Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania.  Electronic inquiries are not accepted.

Staff meets regularly to review letters of inquiry and either a phone call or a letter regarding the inquiry should be expected within 6 weeks, if not sooner. If taken under consideration, an inquiry may be acted upon immediately, followed by a request for a proposal or it may be allowed to percolate over time so as to evaluate its potential impact in relation to other funding options in the face of limited resources. Staff will often meet with potential applicants to discuss feasibility and may work with prospective grantees to develop a proposal that appears to have potential for community impact consistent with Buhl's giving priorities. Expression of interest in a proposal, or work with an applicant to assure best possible presentation, should not be construed as an indication of forthcoming grant approval.

If a proposal is invited, staff will work with the applicant to establish a specific time frame for submission of the proposal and consideration by the Board.

Interviews or site visits may be carried out by arrangement with the staff.

The Board of Directors of the Foundation usually meets five to six times a year to act on grant proposals.

When a grant has been awarded, the grantee and Foundation agree upon a schedule for grant payments. A report on program achievements, including accounting for dollars spent, is required at the conclusion of the program.

All letters of inquiry and proposals are reported to the Board of Directors.

It is important to note that the Foundation receives more good proposals than it can support; worthwhile projects must often be declined.

What types of proposal will not be considered by the Foundation?

Grants are limited to organizations that are located in Southwestern Pennsylvania and are defined as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and which are not private or operating foundations as defined in section 509(a) of the Code.  The Frick Educational Fund giving is limited to Allegheny, Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

Grants are not normally made for building funds, overhead costs, accumulated deficits, ordinary operating expenses, general fundraising campaigns, loans, scholarships and fellowships, other foundations, nationally funded organized groups or individuals.

Grants are not made for support of propaganda, sectarian religious activities, or efforts to influence legislation.  The Foundation does not contribute to political events.

Support is not provided for charity events or fundraising benefits, nor does the Foundation purchase tables at such events.  Conferences or seminars are not normally funded.

When is it appropriate to request a multi-year grant?

The Foundation rarely provides multi-year grants but exceptions occasionally are made depending on the nature and the impact of the particular proposal.

What is an appropriate amount to request?

In order to qualify for funding, a proposal should demonstrate the intersection of all or many of the following considerations which are important to the Buhl Foundation:

  • Leadership in education, economic and civic improvement, human services and youth development
  • Unique, innovative, timely and creative solutions to meeting community needs
  • Collaboration with community partners
  • Outreach to diverse populations, especially those who are economically disadvantaged or at-risk
  • Preventive solutions that are enduring

The greatest volume of Buhl grants, both in total dollars and in number of proposals funded, fall in the range of $2,500 to $25,000. Buhl’s largest grants tend to focus on sustaining regional institutions that play a unique role in our community based on historic relationships with the Foundation and its mission.

The Henry C. Frick Educational Fund supports K-12 public school initiatives and the McCreery Fund focuses on programs that encourage musically gifted and interested students. Grant requests to both of these Funds follow the same guidelines and procedures as the Buhl Foundation.

How long does it take to approve a grant?

The staff meets regularly to review letters of inquiry and either a phone call or a letter regarding the inquiry should be expected within 6 weeks, if not sooner. If taken under consideration, an inquiry may be acted upon immediately or it may be allowed to percolate over time so as to evaluate its potential impact in relation to other funding options in the face of limited resources. If a proposal is invited, the staff will work with the applicant to establish a specific time frame for submission of the proposal and consideration by the Board. The Board of Directors meets regularly six or seven times a year to consider proposals recommended for funding by the staff.

What should I do if I have an idea that is not fully developed?

A letter of inquiry should be sent to the President, to be followed by a formal proposal, if invited. The staff will often meet with potential applicants to discuss feasibility and may work with prospective grantees to develop a proposal that appears to have potential for community impact consistent with Buhl’s giving priorities.

Do I have to do anything after I receive the funding?

When a grant has been awarded, the grantee and Foundation agree upon a schedule for grant payments.  A report on program achievement, including accounting for dollars spent, is required at the conclusion of the program.

Will you consider a grant that is outside of your funding priorities?

The Buhl Foundation, by will of Henry Buhl, Jr., is focused on Southwestern Pennsylvania with a particular emphasis on Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and the Northside. Letters of inquiry for projects located within this geographic focus will be accepted for comment by the staff. Letters of inquiry within the specified geographic area are considered based upon their alignment with Buhl’s mission, core objectives and guiding principles. Requests outside the geographic focus of the Foundation will be declined. 

How large is the Buhl Foundation Board?

The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors that generally has four to six members.

Does the Buhl Foundation make grants to individuals?

No.  Grants are made only to tax-exempt organizations classified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and, on rare occasions, to qualified government units and agencies.

Does the Buhl Foundation award scholarships?

No.  The Foundation ceased awarding scholarships in approximately 1970.

Does the Buhl Foundation support fundraising events?

No.  The Foundation does not generally support fundraising events, does not purchase tables for fundraising events, does not contribute to general fundraising campaigns and makes no political contributions.

Does the Buhl Foundation accept inquiries electronically?

No. The Buhl Foundation does not accept electronic or faxed inquiries. The granting process is initiated by a written letter of inquiry followed by a proposal, if invited. Details of the application process are contained on this website.