Local nonprofits are coming up with creative solutions in the face of fundraising challenges

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(WYDaily/Bacon Street Youth and Family Services Facebook)
(WYDaily/Bacon Street Youth and Family Services Facebook)

Many have faced financial difficulties and had to find ways to move forward during the coronavirus pandemic.

For local nonprofit organizations, that means coming up with creative and virtual fundraisers to make up for a decimating spring and summer season.

“Our development and fundraising programs are absolutely critical to what Bacon Street does,” said Jennifer Daley, development director for Bacon Street Youth and Family Services. “Like a lot of local nonprofits, I think there will absolutely be an impact on our budget.”

Bacon Street provides prevention, education and counseling services to the community to encourage a life free of substance abuse.

The organization hasn’t been able to host its typical in-person fundraisers this year because of the pandemic. Bacon Stteet has had to get creative and come up with virtual events that encourage donations or require a fee to participate.

For example, each year the organization holds a Run for the Bacon 5K and typically has about 100 participants. However, this year the organization decided to host the event online and while there were only about 50 people who participated, Daley said the participants were from all over the country.

“So there were fewer people but we were able to have people run this year who never could before because they don’t live locally,” she said. “And all of those people chose to post on social media and had a deeper level of engagement in the event.”

Bacon Street also started an online coloring book where local artists donate empty coloring pages for the organization that people can download and use. The organization posts the coloring pages online and asks that people consider giving donations, but it’s not required.

Daley said while those new fundraising activities have helped provide some relief, it still hasn’t matched the same level of fundraising as before the pandemic. 

The organization hasn’t officially planned any new fundraising events but Daley said they have started thinking about their annual gala for spring 2021, which will also celebrate Bacon Street’s 50th anniversary. Any future events will also incorporate new virtual aspects as well, she said, because it helps keep a greater population of people engaged with the organization.

“I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that there isn’t an impact on a lot of nonprofits in our community because of having to postpone fundraising events,” she said. “But we’re still optimistic that we have a community of people who believe in our work and are willing to step up.”

Similarly, the Arc of Greater Williamsburg has also had to change its fundraising and program functions in light of the pandemic, said Pam McGregor, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The Arc of Greater Williamsburg provides programs and resources to help improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities.

The organization typically raises money at various events such as the Jamestown Jam concert series but many of those have been canceled this past spring and summer. As a result, Arc has had to come up with virtual solutions to help with fundraising. 

For example, the organization was planning to host a 5k event at Williamsburg Landing. However, because Williamsburg Landing is home to many vulnerable elderly individuals, the organization decided it wouldn’t be good to bring hundreds of people to the area.

Instead it is hosting a virtual event that McGregor hopes will still have a decent number of participants.

“We’re finding that our sponsors are very receptive to this idea and fundraising donations are very steady,” she said. “It’s really a tribute to our community in understanding that they need to support these nonprofits because we’re still doing our work.”

The organization over the past few months has had to re-imagine how it engages some of its clients. Recently the organization delivered 75 yoga mats to various families so clients could participate in online yoga classes through the organization. The Arc has also used its fleet of vans, which typically helped transport clients in the past, to help deliver food throughout the community. 

But the lack of in-person fundraising has still been an issue. The Arc doesn’t receive any state or federal funding, McGregor said, which means the organization relies heavily on fundraising, donations and grants.

“We still need to pay the rent, our drivers and all of those expenses,” she said. “We have 250 families where we are their link, we are who they rely on for information, food and medical needs.”

As the pandemic continues, McGregor said the organization is always trying to come up with new solutions to the fundraising issue but at the same time tries as much as possible to support fundraising events from other local nonprofits.

While the new virtual aspect to fundraising has posed financial challenges, it also helps bring greater awareness of the organization to a larger community because virtual events can reach across the globe, McGregor said.

“Too often, people with disabilities are hidden away and marginalized, so it’s important for people to know us,” she said. “At the same time, just like everyone else, we’re stuck.”

While the lives of many have been put on hold because of the pandemic, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters’ patients have not stopped needing treatment.

When Logan Argabright was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Since then the Argabright family has been participating in CHKD’s LemonAid Stand fundraiser.

This would have been the York County family’s third year participating in the event, but because of COVID-19, this year’s fundraiser required a little more creativity.

CHKD moved their fundraiser virtually, and they put out four different challenges for each week of the event. The challenges were various activities involving a lemon, including baking, art and eating one.

Then there was the sports challenge.

“For the sports challenge, they said ‘get creative, use a lemon in some sort of sport.’ So we thought, since there is no Olympics, there is no lemonade stand, we put two and two together to see if it could work,” said Bobbi Argabright, Logan’s mother.

She and her husband, David, have been making videos of Logan and his older brother Evan, playing soccer with the yellow fruit and even going as far as shooting one off of their mother’s head.

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Bobbi Argabright)
Logan Argabright, and his brother Evan, become stunt devils in the lemon olympics to raise money for CHKD. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Bobbi Argabright)

In the past, Logan and his family had a lemonade stand up at Walmart stores and held raffles to raise money. This year, Logan and Evan jumped over lemons on bikes and scooters and hit home runs to the Chariots of Fire theme song.

“The reason we’re doing it is because we have such a valuable source at CHKD. A lot of kids don’t have a local way to get treatment for cancer,” Argabright said. “When you meet other families of kids that are in treatment, and they become like family to you.”

Thanks to CHKD, Logan has been off treatment for two-and-a-half years. He will be considered cancer-free after five years.

“While everything else crazy is going on in the world there are still children getting cancer and kids who need treatment. We just want to make sure that they’re not forgotten,” Argabright said.

You can find footage of the Argabright’s lemon olympics on Facebook and donate on their LemonAid fundraising page.

Editor’s note: WYDaily is a sponsor of the Arc of Greater Williamsburg’s 5k event.

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