Protect vulnerable populations

Updated February 9, 2022

Helping vulnerable populations in the United States

The most vulnerable populations among us continue to be most affected by the pandemic. People who rely on safety-net services need them now more than ever, and many more people have needed to seek services for the first time due to the ripple effects of the ongoing health crisis. We’ve identified several key areas where COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact: food insecurity, elder care, mental health, homelessness, economic insecurity and child and domestic abuse. Fidelity Charitable has collaborated with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to provide the following list of organizations offering support services in these areas

Looking for local nonprofits helping with COVID-19 relief? Check out these resources.

Food insecurity

Continued employment challenges plague many as the pandemic wears on. Rising costs are an additional burden for many. Getting enough food has become increasingly difficult for those who already struggled to keep themselves and their families fed. Children who rely on school for meals may not consistently have access to those resources.

Elder care

COVID-19 poses a greater risk to those over the age of 65. As such, it’s even more important for seniors to practice social distancing than others to protect their health. Programs that support our elderly neighbors through safe food delivery are essential, as are programs that address isolation or complex medical issues.

Mental health

The stress of ongoing health concerns, loss of loved ones and the unknown nature of the pandemic can place an extreme burden on someone struggling with mental illness. The isolation required to slow the spread of the virus has lead to loneliness, and continued social distancing means restricted interaction with family, friends and support groups. The emotional toll of working on the frontlines of a pandemic is impacting first responders and medical professionals. Others may still have trouble accessing needed therapy, like those recovering from addiction.


Increases in housing costs, paired with the lifting of eviction-protection measures, may increase homelessness. Those without shelter inevitably face difficulty in acquiring the necessary food and hygiene essentials to stay healthy in addition to finding medical care for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Older homeless individuals or those with existing health conditions are particularly at risk. Shelter staff also face many obstacles to preventing an outbreak.

Economic insecurity

The pandemic continues to cause employment issues for many. Recent rising costs on housing and goods are adding additional stress. Many struggle to make ends meet, juggling rising housing expenses and food costs, childcare, medical bills and more. National safety net organizations, like United Way, may have local affiliates in your community. Your local community foundation is also a good place to check in; many community foundations work with local organizations providing essential safety net services.

Child and domestic abuse

Home isn’t a safe place for everyone. A rise in violence in the home may stem from an intensely stressful situation, including unpredictability around childcare, children more frequently out of school, continuing economic challenges and health-related restrictions on mobility.

Resources for finding local nonprofits

Much of this response will take place at a local level, so check in with your favorite local organizations and ask about addressing any gaps.

Need additional guidance on how to select a local organization?

Below is a map tracking all local foundations with funds dedicated to COVID-19 relief. Clicking on a specific fund will give you information about what that fund is addressing. Community foundations often work with local safety net organizations on a regular basis to serve local populations. They may be a great resource for finding local nonprofits doing the most good in your region.

*This resource is reprinted with permission from National Center for Family Philanthropy and Giving Compass. The views and opinions of third-party content providers are solely those of the author and not Fidelity Charitable. Fidelity Charitable does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by such third parties. Fidelity Charitable is not responsible for the accuracy of such information or the ability of any organization to achieve specific goals. Fidelity Charitable makes no recommendation or endorsement with respect to any particular organization.

Please note the organizations listed in this guidance do not represent the full list of organizations raising money for relief efforts for the coronavirus. Fidelity Charitable has collaborated with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to provide these organizations to donors for reference purposes only, and Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees. Fidelity Charitable will communicate all grant designation recommendations for coronavirus relief to grantees.