Local nonprofits brace for big hit due to canceled fundraisers

As the coronavirus pandemic throws people out of work and compels social distancing, local nonprofit agencies that serve the most vulnerable are facing a significant hit to fundraising that could have an impact for months, if not years, to come.

“At the very time you’re going to see a peak in demand, we’re also seeing a big cash crunch,” said Jason Etheridge, executive director at Lifebridge North Shore, which runs two homeless shelters and two community meal centers.

Due to coronavirus, many nonprofits are postponing or canceling their biggest fundraising events of the year, typically held in the spring.

“Our Changing Lives Gala is canceled,” said Jo Ann Simons, executive director at Northeast Arc, which supports 15,000 children and adults with disabilities. “We were expecting to raise $700,000 to $800,000 to fund essential services. The nonprofit community is especially hard hit because we’re continuing to serve,” during the coronavirus crisis.

Northeast Arc has 1,100 employees and hasn’t laid off anyone. The agency is re-assigning some workers to different tasks.

“We have nurses going to homes, day staff being deployed to residential programs, and a lot of people who can do their work through Zoom calling. Just yesterday, we had over 83 Zoom meetings,” said Simon, who lives in Swampscott.

My Brother’s Table (MBT) in Lynn has had to cancel two fundraisers so far due to coronavirus. The soup kitchen relies entirely on philanthropy and typically raises $800,000 a year along with another $400,000 in food donations.

MBT served 204,000 meals last year to approximately 9,000 people. It continues to serve lunch and dinner, but now people have to take their meals to go, rather than eat inside the building.

“It’s heartbreaking to me,” said Dianne Kuzia Hills, MBT executive director. “We’re giving them a meal and they ask, ‘Where can I eat this?’ One man was released from jail that same day and said, ‘But I don’t have anywhere to go, where can I go?’”

“It’s tough,” she added. “None of us really knows how long this is going to go on for.”

Lifebridge, which serves 350 people every day, typically has a spring fundraising appeal.

“I don’t know how we’re going to pull that off,” said Etheridge, who is anticipating a big increase in the number of people needing services. “As more people lose their jobs and can’t pay their rent, there’s a direct correlation to homelessness.”

Some nonprofits may ultimately find a little relief through stimulus packages and emergency funds from groups like the Essex County Community Foundation.

“We’re watching all of that closely,” Simon said.

Close to home

Nonprofits in Beverly are also feeling the impacts of the coronavirus, which has forced Beverly Bootstraps and Family Promise North Shore Boston to postpone or cancel their spring fundraisers.

Heather Johnston, director of donor relations for Beverly Bootstraps, said the organization’s annual Boots and Bloom gala raised over $170,000 last year and was expected to raise over $180,000 this year. This year’s event, which was slated to be held this weekend, has been canceled.

“These funds are crucial to help local individuals and families who are in need of basic necessities such as food, heat and housing stability,” Johnston said. “As the health and economic crisis continues, we expect the need to rise sharply. Of course, the rising need and the loss of income from our largest event presents a challenge for our organization.”

In response, Beverly Bootstraps has launched a Help Feed Beverly fundraising campaign and is asking those who can, to make financial donations to help neighbors in need.

“We also plan to do an online auction at a later date featuring the auction items that would have been up for bid at the event on April 3,” Johnston said.

For those interested in the Help Feed Beverly campaign, visit http://weblink.donorperfect.com/bbemergencydonations.

Family Promise was forced to postpone its annual Taste the Promise fundraiser to October.

“This is a difficult decision for Family Promise North Shore Boston as we rely on this fundraiser to help us meet our annual budget needs,” according to the organization’s website.

Last year, the event raised over $70,000 to help Family Promise continue providing services to families in need of shelter and housing.

Though the event will still be held later in the year, Family Promise is in need of assistance now, and has started an Emergency Coronavirus Relief Fundraiser.

“This pandemic is affecting all of us differently, but it puts an added stress on families and individuals experiencing homelessness,” the website states. “Please consider helping Family Promise North Shore Boston assist these parents and children with securing all the resources they need. Your donation will change lives.”

Family Promise is also encouraging folks to purchase tickets to the Oct. 7 Taste the Promise event in advance.

To learn more, visit www.familypromisensb.org.