COVID-19 has not only affected the life and health of those who contract the virus, it has literally affected every person and every institution in different ways — if in no other way financially, because of mandated closings or curtailment of operations.

In response, many nonprofits have stepped in to assist as best they can.

An excellent local example of this is the West Conshohocken-based Connelly Foundation, which quietly distributes many millions of dollars annually. It was founded in 1955 by the late businessman John F. Connelly and his wife Josephine.


Their work has been carried on by their foundation led by their daughters, Josephine C. Mandeville and Emily C. Riley, and joined most recently by their grandson Tom Riley as president.

A great deal of the grants given by the Connelly Foundation support Catholic education, health care and cultural outreach programs mostly within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia but not exclusively.

Almost a hallmark of the foundation is its reticence in beating its own drum by publicizing its philanthropy, except perhaps its high school scholarship and grant programs where the publicity honors the student recipients.

Tom Riley, in response to an inquiry from, described how a major foundation pivoted on a dime to respond to this very real crisis.

“When COVID hit we realized that most nonprofits would be swamped – and perhaps not have the capacity to submit formal proposals,” he said. “So we did two things to try to be helpful.”

First, all current grantees were contacted and given the option “to convert whatever program grant they had from us into a general operating grant,” he said. For example: “All the museums that were scheduled to host field trips from Catholic school kids [that were now not going to happen] could use the funds as they saw fit.”

The foundation also designated “over $3 million in proactive COVID relief grants to area nonprofits. This was in addition to our ongoing grant process. These COVID grants did not require anyone to apply or jump through any bureaucratic hoops – the idea was to get cash to them as quickly as possible to help during the time of maximum need,” Riley said.


Below is a list of those grants in response to COVID-19 since March 26:

$400,000: Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office of Catholic Education – to increase scholarship aid for nearly 400 Josephine C. Connelly Award winners attending archdiocesan high schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

$350,000: 14 Private Catholic Schools in the Region – to support private Catholic schools currently struggling with lost revenue and increasing enrollment concerns due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

$300,000: Summer Help – building on the longstanding Connelly Foundation tradition of Holiday Help and the success of the first pilot of Summer Help in 2019, the Board authorized an additional $210,000 to expand the number of grantees receiving Summer Help to 30 organizations while also increasing the funds distributed to each to $10,000.

$200,000: Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office of Catholic Education – toward the purchase of 815 Chromebooks for students in archdiocesan elementary schools in the suburban counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery. This grant was made through the Foundation’s existing board-approved PACT (Promoting Achievement through Classroom Technology) budget.

$200,000: Philadelphia School Partnership – matching grant toward the purchase of just under 1,700 Chromebooks for Catholic School students in the city; archdiocesan, Independent Mission Schools, and inner-city private Catholic schools with higher poverty.

$200,000: Broad Street Ministry – in support of the Step Up to the Plate campaign: a partnership among Broad Street Ministry, Project HOME and the City of Philadelphia to expand meal services for the homeless in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

$150,000: Catholic Social Services – in support of three Catholic Social Services (CSS) programs serving adults with intellectual disabilities; delinquent and dependent teens; and individuals facing food insecurity that are experiencing rising costs, revenue loss and staffing shortages as a result of COVID-19.

$100,000: Philadelphia Foundation – toward the PHL-COVID Relief Fund to aid nonprofits that are on the front line of the pandemic, providing urgent resources throughout the Philadelphia region.

$100,000: Philadelphia Cultural Alliance & PIDC Community Capital — to join philanthropic partners in launching a regional relief fund to support arts and culture organizations impacted by COVID-19 crisis.

General Operating Support grants of $50,000 each to:

  • Boys and Girls Club; Cradles to Crayons; Drexel University; Faith in the Future Foundation; Franklin Institute; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • Independence Mission Schools; Museum of the American Revolution; Philadelphia Zoo; Thomas Jefferson University; Women Against Abuse

General Operating Support grants of $25,000 each to:

  • Cathedral Kitchen (Camden); Caring for Friends; Covenant House Pennsylvania; Face to Face; Joseph’s House of Camden; Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Mural Arts
  • Philadelphia Police Foundation; Please Touch Museum; Play On Philly; Sisters of St. Francis (Anna’s Place); SEAMAAC (Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Community); Woodmere Art Museum