- May 28, 2020
The shutdown hit many local nonprofit organizations on multiple levels: not only preventing them from delivering their usual programs and services, but also causing the cancellation of vital fundraising events. Charitable service agencies have had to be nimble and innovative to overcome those obstacles, using technology to keep members and supporters engaged. TotalLink2 Community, which provides social and employment inclusion services for young adults with disabilities, faced that challenge by creating a variety of online programs for its clients. “We have offered one or two online programs every day since March,” explains Alisa Martorano, TotalLink2’s Director of Development. Virtual dinners, karaoke parties, art workshops and exercise classes have provided much-needed consistency for their participants.
Virtual programming has also replaced TotalLink2’s annual “Nuflatot” fundraiser. Instead of a one-day family fest, the fundraiser was transformed into a four-day series of online activities from March 26-29. For a $35 donation, families enjoy hour-long dance parties, bingo, raffle drawings and more. Alisa notes that the event’s original sponsors have continued their commitment through the changed format, helping to ensure that the organization will at least come close to its original fundraising goal.
The North Suburban YMCA similarly ramped up its online presence to support its diverse population. Daily fitness classes are now shared live on Facebook, and free online programs for seniors have moved seamlessly to Zoom. The Y also used its website and social media to launch a variety of community service opportunities that reached a wide audience. Community outreach was a major goal to serve not only Y members but others in need.
The Y also had to face the postponement of its major annual fundraiser, the Strong Kids Dinner, which generally brings in over $250,000 to make programs accessible for individuals in financial hardship. This year’s event was especially meaningful as it would honor the Y’s previous CEO/President Howard Schultz, who retired at the end of April after 13 transformative years at the NSYMCA. In addition to rescheduling the Dinner, which they hope will take place in some form in the late summer or fall, the Y encouraged members to support its mission through the online #GivingTuesdayNow and #StaywiththeY fundraising campaigns.
“Now more than ever we need to continue to fundraise to continue supporting the community with our many free programs such as the adult education series as well as being able to provide financial aid so everyone can access health, wellness and childcare support,” says Kathy. “We are constantly working to remind people that the Y is here for them, and also that we appreciate the community’s continued support.”
For nonprofit mental health service provider Family Service Center, the shutdown combined a need to move services to a HIPAA-secure online platform with an increased need for programming to deal with the stresses created by the shutdown itself. “Since transitioning to a telehealth model on March 16, FSC has opened up our waitlist to offer services to people whose presenting challenges can be addressed effectively via teletherapy,” states Dr. Renee Dominguez, FSC Executive Director. “Additionally, FSC is working to support our community by delivering trauma-informed support to essential workers and to parents who are managing their families during this difficult time of social distancing.” Mindfulness webinars and stress management techniques have been shared with a variety of community groups in FSC’s service area, and new programs are in development like the upcoming “Love in the Time of COVID-19” couples group workshop.
Like other groups, FSC’s fundraising was disrupted due to the cancellation of the annual gala in May. The organization is now preparing to host a virtual fundraiser on July 11, with basket raffles, auctions and other fundraising elements conducted online. “We had a wonderful, meaningful theme built around the Keagan’s Rocks suicide prevention program,” relates Renee.
For organizers of the North Shore Chamber Music Festival, the pandemic forced the cancellation of their signature summer event but also created a new opportunity to connect with fans. Musicians from the Festival are appearing in a series of “Musical Postcards” on Facebook, providing intimate solo performances and interacting with viewers. “We’ve really had an amazingly great response from the community,” says Angela Yoffe, the Festival’s Executive Director. “In a way, people know us better now. They are sitting in the front row and having their questions answered by the artists.”
The Festival has also elected to use funds raised at its benefit last February to expand scholarship awards to young artists. In addition to three annual scholarships, last week the Festival presented two special Opportunity Award grants: to a Columbus, Ohio program that provides instruments, instruction, and musical experiences to underprivileged inner-city kids, and to a talented young violinist from Austin, Texas, whose family was financially affected by the pandemic. “It’s so important that young people like these can continue their musical studies,” explains Angela. “We really appreciate the support we receive and want to be able to help others as much as we can.”
The American Cancer Society is also leaning into social media to replace its traditional Relay for Life fundraiser. In most years, Glenbrook North students raise money for ACS with an overnight walkathon; for 2020, the fundraiser will run from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm on June 6 with hourly events on Facebook and Instagram. “Most of the activities will be adaptations of what we would normally do on event day, including our traditional Luminaria ceremony,” describes Tessa Poulson, ACS Community Development Manager. “We would love for the community to support the event with fundraising or starting a team, and we are looking for survivors to feature during our event.”
These are just a few examples of the many nonprofit organizations belonging to the Northbrook Chamber, serving the community in a myriad of ways. Click here for a list of Chamber nonprofits; visit their websites for ways to donate or volunteer.