Board Chair’s Message 2021

Foundation Thoughts for 2021″

2020 has been a time of unprecedented change and challenge with a world-wide pandemic causing death and illness, devastating economic upheaval, and disruption to the conventional approaches to education and cultural institutions. As we look to the 2021 philanthropic landscape, what opportunities and pitfalls may charitable foundations encounter?

A significant challenge will be the equitable distribution and inoculations of the COVID19 vaccines. A public health maxim is “vaccines don’t prevent illness and death, vaccinations do.” Without an overall national strategy for maximizing getting the vaccine “into peoples’ arms,” it may become necessary for health care oriented foundations to aid in funding vaccination clinics, especially in underserved communities. In addition to the vaccines which the federal government is underwriting, there will be need for syringes, alcohol wipes, band aids, PPE, personnel and administrative systems to track and follow up on which vaccine was administered and when a follow up shot is needed. With the current COVID legislation in political limbo, foundations may be asked to breech the funding gaps.


Tim Egan, CEO of Roseland Community Hospital, discusses the rollout of the first in Illinois Mobile Vaccine Program using the retrofitted for Covid -19 vaccinations, WSHF funded Dental Van.

Technology has become a predominant factor in the pandemic environment from working at home to ZOOM family holiday celebrations. Telehealth has, almost overnight and out of necessity, become essential to providing timely and safe health care. Virtual doctor visits and consultations have become a “new norm.” Expect to see the roll out of remote monitoring devices for managing diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and pulmonary diseases, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and post-operative follow ups. Such technology depends on high speed internet connections and equipment. Will community-based clinics and their patients’ home be equipped to handle the new health care delivery technology? Will foundation support be solicited to expand the reach of telehealth care?

The pandemic has also highlighted the discrepancies in health care provision and outcomes. COVID19 has especially devastated communities of color, poverty, jails and prisons and in rural and remote locations. Although there are limits to the extent that private foundations can provide sufficient funding to correct the lack of adequate health care in these communities, will non-profit foundations be called upon to work in a more uniform and coordinated effort to direct resources to areas of greatest need? The concept of a “well-being trust” has been implemented in some communities but requires a significant layout of financial and personal capital.

Mental health and substance abuse concerns have emerged from the shadows of COVID and have been exacerbated by the stress of social isolation and anxiety. Normal social and familial interactions have been disrupted as people are sheltering and working at home, avoiding gatherings, travel, and deal with the economic hardships of income loss and employment displacement. Vaccinations may control the corona viral infections but not the toll of depression, anxiety, abusive relations, alcohol and drug use and self-harm and suicide. Will foundations be called upon to support the community providers needed to address and treat the burden of emotional disease and dysfunction caused by COVID?

WSHF has traditionally supported nutritional resources through food banks and neighborhood pantries. Food insecurity has been aggravated by the pandemic. People are waiting in long lines to receive supplemental food. As the economic support of family incomes has become a political football, community based food resources may seek additional foundational support.

Non-profits have depended on various types of fund raisers to support their missions. With the lockdowns in place, charitable events have been cancelled or gone to a more limited virtual operation. Until the pandemic is under control and people feel safe to gather in large numbers, various charitable activities will be limited in scope and size. Some non-profits may cease to exist or severely limit the scope of their services. What will the non-profit charitable world look like on the other side of COVID?

I’m afraid that I have raised more questions than answers. I do anticipate a “reset” of the roles that charitable foundations will play in the future. I share my thoughts and solicit your ideas as we anticipate 2021.

William N. Werner, MD, MPH, FACP

Board Chair