Guest Essays, Opinion

Guest essay: The forgotten champions of the pandemic response

by Paul D. Daugherty

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, to youth programs and senior services, to community and economic development organizations, to United Ways and community foundations and so many more.

They have put the needs of our people, communities and 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. With their resiliency and incredible efforts, 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.

Philanthropy West Virginia’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 that are responding to the crisis.

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 they have not been provided with critically needed funding from CARES and/or ARPA for nonprofits to continue their work.

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 serving West Virginians’ various needs throughout the pandemic, but philanthropy cannot do it alone and the needs continue to grow. Right now, nonprofits need our state government’s leadership, specifically Gov. Justice and the West Virginia 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.

An investment in our state’s nonprofits ensures our citizens’ quality of life will be sustained and improved. As philanthropy statewide already has effective accountability and grantmaking processes, we invite state government to work 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. We call on our state’s government leaders to not forget the dedicated leadership of hundreds of nonprofits championing pandemic response and recovery.

Gov. 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 has served 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.