No matter how you slice it, there’s no getting around the fact that big changes are in store for non-profit organizations as stay-at-home orders are lifted and life gains some semblance of normalcy.
The future of galas that once brought crowds ranging from 100 to 1,000 or more to hotels and other venues is uncertain. So, too, are plans for such popular and well-attended fundraising events as nights at the ballgame, concerts and 5K runs/walks.
We reached out to leaders of several organizations to assess needs going forward – and to get an idea of what, if any, changes might be made to structure and services.
The reply heard most frequently was that with demand for services increasing at sometimes overwhelming rates, the greatest immediate need is for donations of money and volunteer time. Also needed is advice and ideas regarding how to best assemble virtual fundraisers in light of the social distancing measures that are likely to remain in place for the remainder of 2020.
Denver Rescue Mission needs volunteers under age 60 who are healthy and have no underlying health conditions to volunteer as servers for the daily meals available to those experiencing homelessness. Donations of N-95 masks and thermometers – preferably those that register temperature by rolling the instrument over the forehead – are an ongoing need. And, notes of encouragement to the mission staffers on the job every day are always welcome.
Organizations with fundraiser dates in late summer or fall – such as the Aug. 8 Celebrity Waiters Dinner benefiting AMP the Cause, the Oct. 3 star-studded Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show benefiting the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and the Oct. 17 Western Fantasy, where the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will entertain over 1,000 supporters of Volunteers of America – are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.
The Fine Arts Foundation moved its annual Debutante Ball from June 20 to Aug. 8, noting that the August date would be reevaluated in mid-June to see if indeed it was still viable. Denver Ballet Guild was set to honor its 2020 debutantes and Young Men of Distinction on June 6 but opted to take no chances and has postponed the ceremony a full year, to June 11-13 2021.
The Spring Brass Ring, a luncheon and Mark Zunino fashion show benefiting the Barbara Davis Center, switched from May 6 to Sept. 9 in hopes that social distancing guidelines will have been relaxed and co-chairs Scottie Iverson and Dave Barnes would be able to fill the Hilton Denver City Center ballroom with about upwards of 900 of those committed to supporting the Center and its research and services to those with Type 1 diabetes.
Tennyson Center for Children conducted its 10th Mile High Country Q and Brew on Facebook Live. The April 26 concert by country singer Lindsay Ell and auction called by Gary Corbett reached 53,000 fans and raised $165,000. “Together We Breathe,” an April 24 virtual concert featuring Michael Franti and members of OneRepublic and The Lumineers, was so successful that National Jewish Health presented
it again the following day. It raised over $100,000 for the hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
We Don't Waste, which since 2009 has recovered enough food from restaurants, caterers and venues to provide 100 million servings to hungry individuals and families served by food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and community centers throughout the Front Range and the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, considers itself lucky to have been “well-positioned prior to and at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis,” says founder and executive director Arlan Preblud.
“We have had good relationships with the restaurants and venues throughout the metro area, so we benefited by large quantities of product being donated due to the closing of these establishments,” Preblud said. “Going forward, we have received continuing volumes of fresh product, produce, vegetables, dairy and some protein.” At the same time, however, demand for food has increased 25 percent from pre- COVID-19 days and is a figure likely to increase as weeks pass.
We Don’t Waste’s major concerns include a reduction in the amount of food being donated as farmers and ranchers begin to adjust their production to a decrease in orders from restaurants, hotels and sports venues that are either closed or attendance-restricted.
“All of this is happening as the demand on food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens increases as those that are currently unemployed will not find sufficient opportunities to return to their previous employers since those employers are now out of business,” Preblud said.
At the Barbara Davis Center, Dr. Robert Slover shared that by the second week of March, the pediatric clinic that he directs had moved almost entirely to telemedicine as a means of continuing to see patients.
“This was a large effort,” he said, “because up until that time only a few of us had used telemedicine. All providers and staff were trained to conduct visits online. We called all scheduled patients and either switched the appointment to electronic or canceled. From that time until now the only actual patients who have entered the building are newly diagnosed persons and their parents, because it is necessary to do at least a few hours of direct face-to-face teaching: how to give insulin and test glucose and ketones, and some opportunity to ask questions and seek reassurance.
“The impact on clinical care,” Dr. Slover adds, “has clearly been significant, despite heroic efforts on the part of all the staff. The financial impact for the clinic is very large, and will grow as parents are unemployed and lose insurance. Pediatric clinical research has come to a stop. We are not enroll- ing new subjects and are limited to paperwork activities. The financial impact upon the families will grow even after the isolation gradually ends.”
Likewise, Executive Director Lisa Hill points out that her organization, Invest In Kids, “has had to rapidly adapt and creatively utilize technology and new strategies to continue delivering support to the public health nurses and teachers who deliver our programs – the Nurse-Family Partnership and The Incredible Years. One of the most important things we are doing is listening and responding to what each community’s needs are; each one faces different challenges and needs different resources.
“As we continue dealing with the impact of COVID-19, being able to support staff on the front lines, such as public health nurses guiding a first-time mom or teachers engaging with preschoolers via Zoom, becomes increasingly critical.”
Hill’s view is echoed by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s president and chief executive officer Michelle Sie Whitten. “Unfortunately, people with Down syndrome are high risk for COVID-19, so Global has quickly created an important Q&A to ensure our families take the utmost precaution. There is also shocking discrimination whereby people with intellectual disabilities would be denied COVID-19 care and we are fighting that every day.”
In light of the various challenges, however, nonprofit leaders are cautious not to discourage supporters or those on the receiving end.
Lauren Arnold, chief executive officer for The Adoption Exchange, seemed to reflect the overall stance of colleagues throughout the state when, in a video posted on social media, she noted: “Even when circumstances change, our work does not stop. We’ve got you.”
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