With the help of generous donors, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation awarded a record 52 grants totaling $1,365,641 for COVID-19 relief in less than three months.
When the foundation launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund in March with $150,000, we had not fully realized the magnitude of the pandemic and how it would affect our nonprofit partners and the low-wealth citizens they serve. We now know that, regardless of their area of focus — from arts and culture to basic needs, education to health, community economic development to emergency aid — the sustainability and capacity of all nonprofits have been affected by COVID-19. These organizations need philanthropic and government support so they can emerge on the other side of the global pandemic.
As fate would have it, an anonymous donor, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and Huntington Bank were cognizant of the need to support community efforts like ours and contributed $1,060,641, $150,000 and $5,000, respectively, to our relief fund. All the funds we received went toward grants — no administrative fees were assessed. We also expedited the application and approval processes so the funds could get to the community as quickly as possible.
The primary objective of our relief effort was to keep low-wealth households and families intact as they lived through the pandemic. Since we do not make grants to individuals, our approach was to provide financial support to high-performing nonprofit partners that serve our community.
As with all of our discretionary grant funding, we focused on Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties and primarily funded food access, health care and medication assistance, shelter and utility assistance programs. Seventy percent ($950,141) of funds awarded were for these emergency-need purposes.
We also awarded $137,000 to programs that serve the educational and safety needs of children. Schools and youth-serving organizations are reeling, as learning loss and difficulty reacclimating to the classroom are expected, so teachers need support as they try to remediate at the beginning of the school year.
As school systems pivot to begin planning for more remote-education options, broadband infrastructure and distance-learning mechanisms need support, as do the many students who do not have computer and internet access for remote learning.
Additionally, as stay-at-home orders and physical distancing requirements continue, many are concerned about child abuse and domestic violence. Child abuse reports in West Virginia are down significantly, which is alarming and might be because people who usually make reports aren’t in contact with children.
We responded to immediate basic-needs crises while also planning for what our communities will need in the future. Many of our arts and culture nonprofits are concerned about the economic downturn and what that will mean for individual giving and corporate sponsorships. They’ve had to cancel fundraisers that provide flexible income, and many that rely on audiences and ticket sales to survive are struggling.
When crises strike, funding for arts and cultural activities is the first reduction many business and donors make. Yet, art nourishes the spirit, which is something all our communities need, especially now and as our region recovers.
We know that, for our communities to thrive, we need to feed and house our neighbors, but we also need to attract people and businesses that will help invest in our communities. Research shows people and businesses situate themselves in places that are attractive to live, work and play. Therefore, we provided $128,500 in support to arts and cultural communities so they will still be around when the pandemic subsides.
The remaining $150,000 provided general support to high-performing, long-term partners across all sectors, including basic needs, education and arts. Many of these partners were ineligible or not approved for the Payroll Protection Program offered under the federal CARES Act.
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation’s COVID-19 relief efforts would not have been possible without generous support. We are immensely grateful to these partners for caring so much about those severely affected by the pandemic.
As infection rates continue to rise in West Virginia and across the country, we remain concerned about the future of our nonprofit partners and the low-wealth citizens they serve. We are all in this public health emergency together. Let us follow the directives of public health officials so that we can get the health of the nation under control and get back to a socially enriching life.