The Pittsburgh Foundation

Emergency Action Fund totals $9 million for COVID relief

Includes $700,000 donated since May to support nonprofits and key services

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 4, 2020 –The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Emergency Action Fund has now raised a total of $9 million for COVID-19 relief, with most of it already in use by 313 nonprofits navigating the economic and health crises of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Action Fund, which was established March 16, a week before shelter-in-place orders went into effect for most of Pennsylvania, represents an unprecedented level of giving by the region’s philanthropic and corporate sectors, as well as Pittsburgh Foundation donors and the general public.

At the end of two rounds of grantmaking in May, $8.3 million had been awarded to 228 nonprofits, government agencies and community health care providers – the majority to assist the most vulnerable residents of the region whose lifelines to food, shelter, medicine and employment were at risk due to the pandemic.

The window to apply for funding closed May 8, but in announcing the latest grants, Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder said the donation portal will remain open for foundations, corporations and the public to give toward future phases of grantmaking.

“Frankly, we expect that the journey to that wonderful point at which the virus is no longer a threat and our economy is completely recovered will be a long one, and, as we are all experiencing, there will be steps backward,” she said. “To stay on track, we will need every resource, process and community partnership that we are so fortunate to have had these past months, and the Foundation will be creating new criteria for support from the Emergency Action Fund to meet future needs.”

As the region moves into the fall with uncertainty about how schools, workplaces and child care facilities will operate, “we are particularly concerned about the pressures and impacts on families with children,” Schroeder said. “Equally urgent are the needs of our Black and Brown communities, which face disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 infection and unemployment.” Among the categories of greatest concern are health care, food, housing and transportation.

The Foundation’s staff and Board recognize how longstanding inequities in communities of color have been highlighted in the pandemic and have contributed to thousands of Pittsburgh area residents  participating in the protest movement that swept cities across the country after the May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police.  

Schroeder said that the three other largest philanthropies in the region that joined The Pittsburgh Foundation to establish the Emergency Action Fund have similar priorities going forward. They will continue to meet regularly and may rely on it for joint efforts in the future.

Each foundation – Pittsburgh, The Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation – contributed $1 million in seed funding to establish the Emergency Action Fund. The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania also joined the philanthropic emergency response, providing its 2-1-1 Help Line and food distribution systems to help connect people to services.

The Pittsburgh Foundation opened the Emergency Action Fund to public donations on March 17, paying all credit card fees to ensure that every dollar in goes to the community. In 15 weeks of operation, donations have included nearly $3.6 million from corporations and foundations and $308,000 from the public. Pittsburgh Foundation donors have awarded a total of $824,000 out of the $1.74 million from their donor-advised funds to COVID-related causes.

“In a time of so much economic and social upheaval, this community came together to spread hope at a magnitude and speed that we have never seen before,” said Schroeder.  “The Emergency Action Fund is a remarkable demonstration of how, as a community foundation, we are able to deploy convening power and social capital for the benefit of the entire region.”

The 313 total grants from the Fund issued as of this month were made in two categories to nonprofits in Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties:

  • Sixteen grants totaling $4 million are supporting public health and human services systems. This includes funding for temporary housing and food distribution; for staffing, deep cleaning and protective equipment for the Allegheny County Health Department; and to the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 2-1-1 call-in system. Also receiving funding in this category are six community-based health centers. Grant-making decisions were made by a committee of program officers and heads of the foundations group.
  • An additional 297 grants totaling about $5 million were issued for operating support to nonprofits in the several counties. The awards ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 were determined in a review process that involved Pittsburgh Foundation Program staff, the Program Committee of the Board and Schroeder. Applications were evaluated according to criteria developed from a series of conversations, summarized on the Foundation’s website, in which Program staff asked more than 100 nonprofit leaders from all sectors what they needed to be COVID-ready. The responses framed the Fund’s grant-making guidelines.

All Action Fund grantees as well as donors by sector are listed on the Foundation’s website.


About The Pittsburgh Foundation: Established in 1945, The Pittsburgh Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest community foundations and is the 15th largest of more than 750 similar foundations across the United States. As a community foundation, its resources comprise endowment funds established by individuals, businesses and organizations with a passion for charitable giving and a deep commitment to the Pittsburgh region. The Foundation currently manages more than 2,400 individual donor funds and has, together with its supporting organizations and its affiliate, The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, assets of $1.3 billion. Grantmaking benefits a broad spectrum of basic needs and development opportunities within Pittsburgh and beyond. Learn more at