The Forgotten Champions of West Virginia’s Pandemic Response

A volunteer stocks the pantry at Christian Help in Morgantown, WV

by Paul Daugherty, President & CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia

Since the first hours the pandemic arrived in our state, West Virginia’s nonprofits have taken initiative, shown leadership, and provided continuous service from the local to the state level. The nonprofits range from food pantries to health centers, youth programs to senior services, community and economic development organizations, United Ways and community foundations, and so much more. 

They have put the needs of the people, communities, and our entire state first by addressing crucial needs such as: food and housing insecurity, health needs, PPE supplies, remote learning, broadband access, small business survival, public safety assistance, community and economic development; children, family, and senior services; and more. The resiliency and incredible efforts of nonprofits and foundations working along with businesses have been champions of pandemic response since the start. 

In addition, many nonprofits are responding to the increased need and request for services while handling their own significant losses in income, jeopardizing their future and ability to serve. The nonprofits responding to the pandemic have provided critical assistance to our most vulnerable citizens.   

Philanthropy WV’s members, representing nearly 90 foundations, corporations, and other funders, have awarded over $15 million in emergency response grants to organizations assisting with COVID-19 pandemic needs at all levels in West Virginia.

Unfortunately, the needs of our citizens, communities, and the nonprofits serving them are at least three times greater than what is available through philanthropic grants. Philanthropy WV and its partners, the WV Nonprofit Association and WV United Way Collaborative, have advocated to state and federal government leaders since the start of the pandemic to ensure government funds be used to support the nonprofits who are responding to the crisis. 

Food Distribution by the United Way of Marion & Taylor counties

Nonprofits and philanthropy have stepped up to use the limited resources at their disposal to save lives, sustain businesses, and preserve our communities.  Their work has been recognized, but critically needed funding from CARES and/or ARPA for nonprofits to continue their work has not been provided.  

While the Payroll Protection Program gave some initial assistance, many nonprofits had to increase staffing and costs to respond while not having the revenue to maintain operations. New funding for nonprofits is needed now. 

Philanthropy has done its part by helping with various needs of West Virginians being served through the pandemic, but philanthropy cannot do it alone and the needs continue to grow. Right now, nonprofits need our state government’s leadership, specifically Governor Justice and the WV Legislature, to make monies available with recovery grants by effectively using remaining CARES and new ARPA dollars. Just as United Ways and community foundations came together to raise and award millions in private donations for COVID-19 response to our local nonprofits, state government should come together to provide federal grants to ensure nonprofits can survive these rocky times.  

Your Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia awarding Emergency Impact Funds

An investment in our state’s nonprofits ensures the quality of life for our citizens will be sustained and improved.  As philanthropy statewide already has effective accountability and grantmaking processes, we invite state government to work along with us by using their remaining CARES and ARPA funds for nonprofit recovery grants.

This use of CARES and ARPA funds for nonprofits ensures that they can continue to do the challenging work as our state recovers and rebuilds. West Virginia and our state’s government leaders, we call on you to NOT forget the dedicated leadership of hundreds of nonprofits championing pandemic response and recovery. 

Governor Justice, Speaker Hanshaw, and Senate President Blair, West Virginia needs your leadership and action to work together with Philanthropy WV, the WV Nonprofit Association, and the WV United Way Collaborative to use critical federal funds to help these nonprofits, businesses, and communities rebuild. The world is watching and time is ticking so let’s support the champions of pandemic response. 

Paul D. Daugherty serves as president and CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia since 2011. Philanthropy WV represents the diversity of the Mountain State and central Appalachia’s philanthropic funders. Philanthropy WV is committed to fulfilling our vision that: West Virginia has thriving communities, due in part, to a strong and vibrant philanthropic sector. For more information, visit:, follow @Philanthropy WV (Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn), or call: 304.517.1450.