MUNCIE, Ind. — As COVID-19 continues to halt concerts, summer festivities and other large events, nonprofits also have had to reconsider their fundraising initiatives.
With many depending on large, annual public events to bring in money for key programs, organizations have needed to get creative when it comes to engaging with donors and the community in a safe manner.
For some local nonprofits, that has meant making in-person fundraisers virtual and continuing to engage with audiences online. Here’s a closer look at how they will do that:
YWCA to make H.E.E.L.S. virtual
While the YWCA of Central Indiana is a multifaceted organization focusing on racial justice, empowerment of women and girls, and health and safety, its two biggest fundraisers help sponsor its emergency shelter program.
However, due to COVID-19, the annual Texas Roadhouse charity luncheon and Put Yourself in her H.E.E.L.S. (Help. Encourage. Empower. Lift. Support) event have faced some challenges.
WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO of the YWCA of Central Indiana, said fundraising is a huge component to keeping the emergency shelter up and running, since its services are free to those who utilize it.
“It’s all complimentary, and so we are only able to do those types of things because fundraising, donations, donors and grants,” Barnes Griffin said.
Typically held in March, the Texas Roadhouse charity luncheon was canceled this year as the virus began to spread through Indiana. The event brings in about $15,000, and at first, the YWCA was just trying to postpone the event.
“It got to the point where Roadhouse was uncomfortable and we were uncomfortable with even trying to find the best time to reschedule it,” Barnes Griffin said. “So, we ended up postponing it until 2021.”
Luckily, sponsors including the Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, Ball Brothers Foundation, George and Francis Ball Foundation and United Way helped mitigate the loss of revenue from the luncheon.
As for “Take a Walk in Her H.E.E.L.S.,” the event, which takes place in September, will be moved to a virtual platform. While the event normally raises about $50,000, Barnes Griffin is expecting that to be lower due to the online switch. She is hoping to raise about $20,000 this time.
While it’s normally a one-day event, Barnes Griffin said the online fundraiser will run for the whole month of September.
“We understand that most nonprofits are in the same boat and we’re all trying to recoup revenue and continue to support our missions financially,” Barnes Griffin said. “We just look to try and still raise at least a percentage of that money.”
The YWCA has ramped up other online initiatives, including email blasts, frequent blog updates and sharing social media platforms.
Barnes Griffin said the organization has become savvy with how it engages with its donor base, and even when large groups can congregate again, she said the YWCA will continue to utilize an online platform.
It also has tried to secure new legacy donors in other generational groups, like Millennials. Barnes Griffin said she’s noticed that generation is passionate about social and racial justice, so marketing has shifted.
“(COVID-19) has strengthened us in a way that we’re more resilient and we’ve had to become really creative and do some things that are unorthodox,” Barnes Griffin said. “I think it’s something as a nonprofit organization that we will continue to utilize what we’ve learned and what we’ve gained, into the future.”
Despite the virus, the YWCA is still accepting interns and volunteers, as well as donations. For more information, visit https://ywcacentralindiana.org/.
Children’s Museum putting together ‘A Day to Play’
As COVID-19 put a halt to indoor activities at the Muncie Children’s Museum for a few months, some programs were moved online. That is no different for the museum’s fundraising efforts.
Typically, the children’s museum’s largest annual fundraising event is “A Night for the Museum,” an adult-only dinner, dance and silent auction event. Due to the virus, that event has been canceled for 2020.
The event usually raises between $20,000 and $25,000, and is an essential part of funding.
“It played a pretty big role in providing operational support for the museum,” said Executive Director Kynda Rinker. “Obviously, all of this has been a huge change.”
Instead, Rinker told The Star Press the museum would be focusing on online fundraising events, starting with, “A Day of Play,” which is a family-focused fundraiser.
The event will take place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1. Registered families will be given various envelopes with activities inside that can be completed out in the community or at home as a family. Participants will document it virtually by taking and submitting photos, and prizes will be awarded.
While a finalized budget hasn’t been created yet, Rinker is hoping to raise about $10,000, including sponsorships.
“It’s more about making the community aware of the things we have to offer, that even though they may not want to come to the museum in person for various reasons, they can still do things as a family and still participate and support the museum in that way,” Rinker said.
Even if someone doesn’t have a child, Rinker said there will be an opportunity to sponsor a family who cannot afford the event.
While the museum is slowly opening back up its normal programming, Rinker knows that schools probably won’t return for field trips this year. To keep kids engaged, the museum is trying to find new programs to offer students from the safety of their homes.
For more information, visit http://www.munciemuseum.com/
United Way ‘Day of Action’ moving online
United Way in Delaware County has various fundraising efforts throughout the year, starting with a kickoff event in the summer.
For the past three years, the months-long annual fundraising campaign has kicked off with a concert on Walnut Street that has brought in hundreds of guests. Another hallmark of United Way’s fundraising efforts is in-person presentations at workplaces.
Throughout campaign, United Way of Delaware, Henry and Randolph Counties President and CEO Jenni Marsh, told The Star Press in an email that the organization holds several gatherings to convene past campaign leaders and donors and to provide them with updates and seek their support.
However, due to the virus, those events are all on hold. But for many, they’re being moved to a virtual platform.
“COVID-19 has forced us to find our way in virtual spaces and up our game with technology,” Marsh said.
United Way started using Zoom to meet with companies’ leaders and find out how the pandemic has disrupted their business and also how the organization could continue to partner with them. Phone and email also have been utilized to connect with donors and volunteers.
As for the annual concert, United Way will have a Virtual Kick Off Concert on social media at 7 p.m. Sept. 26.
The organization’s annual Day of Action, which last year had about 1,200 volunteers across two counties, will be all virtual. Marsh said advocacy and volunteer opportunities that participants can complete on their own will be available, as well as project ideas for workplaces.
“From our organization, large public events serve a very important function in bringing awareness to United Way’s work,” Marsh said. “So, not being able to have these events presents a challenge. And we’ll have to work to find other ways to get our message out.”
Annually, United Way raises about $1.5 million from all efforts. Marsh said while most projects are moving online, she hopes to be able to host some events, even if they’re smaller. That will all depend on how the pandemic is impacting Delaware County.
The organization also started Mobile Cause to help meet donors’ desires for text-to-give and text-to-pledge options. Marsh said United Way is also working to produce a short video series to get the word out and gain support.
For more information, visit https://www.invitedtoliveunited.org.
Meridian reboots Rialzo
In March, Meridian Health Services was gearing up for Rialzo XI, entitled “Go, Baby, Go!” with a Kentucky Derby theme.
The black tie charity gala, tickets for which have sold out in recent years, sees about 1,000 guests and raises more than $100,000 for the one of the health provider’s programs.
For the past several years, money has gone to the maternal treatment program, which serves women with substance abuse issues who are either pregnant or have young children.
Because of COVID-19, Rialzo has been postponed until April 2021.
“Those dollars go straight to that program to help with everything from personnel to diapers for the babies,” said Scott Smalstig, vice president of development at Meridian. “We do have other funds that support those programs, so we’re not completely dependent on the event, but the event does enable us to do some enhanced things with the program.”
Meridian’s other events in Delaware County, including Fam Fest and the Ducky Derby, were also canceled this year.
Like other nonprofits, Meridian has looked to virtual platforms to keep audiences engaged. Smalstig said that has ranged from email blasts to updating social media often.
“The biggest change is that we can’t gather as we like to gather and celebrate, but it doesn’t mean we can’t communicate about the need,” Smalstig said. “We’ve taken up different media channels to get those messages out.”
To keep interest in Rialzo alive as attendees wait until next April, Meridian created a program called, “Rialzo Reboot,” which is a month-long promotion.
Taking place online and on WLBC at 7 a.m. every Thursday, it has Meridian staff members talking about the online auction and the maternal treatment program.
At the end of Rialzo Reboot, a one-hour online and radio live auction will be held on Sept. 3.
Just as their medical services have shifted to a virtual platform, Smalstig said online fundraising is here to stay.
“Fundraising is going to be no different,” Smalstig said. “We’re going to have to do more online, we’re going to have to gather people in chat groups and be that much more effective in our digital communication to make sure that we’re connecting with people.”
Charlotte Stefanski is a reporter at the Star Press. Contact her at 765-283-5543, email@example.com or follow her on twitter @CharStefanski.