Yes, it’s June. But our “May Days of Giving” — a digital campaign to help 32 nonprofits raise money in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been extended to June 20.
As of Friday, with 15 days left in the campaign, more than 300 donors have contributed nearly $54,000. You can check out their stories at maydaysofgiving.crainsdetroit.com or in greater detail in our annual Giving Guide in this issue. (The section starts on Page 17.)
I’ve been reporting out on some of those nonprofits in online columns. Here are some highlights from participating nonprofits who I haven’t featured previously. We’ll report on the remainder online next week and a final summary on June 15.
Probably no other nonprofit has been slammed by the COVID-19 crisis as hard as the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. The Y lost nearly 50 percent of its membership and more than a third of operating revenue, prompting the closure of two Y facilities. Affected members have free memberships at eight other facilities until December, said Helene Weir, president and CEO. All programming stopped but in May, with donor support, the Y started childcare for essential workers.
“Recovery will take a significant amount of time and may require more difficult operational decisions in the future,” Weir said in an email. Meanwhile, the Y has responded to the current challenge by providing nearly 100,000 meals at 20 sites from mid-March to May 30. Its virtual YMCA offers online fitness and youth development classes, art and teen counseling.
Another nonprofit with a focus on teens is the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), which encourages under-represented minorities to pursue careers in science, engineering and research. Because of COVID-19, it plans to serve 11,000 students this year with a hybrid program that combines modified live and on-demand virtual courses that focus on STEM subjects including robotics, coding, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and drone certification. But the new programs require additional funding and in-kind technology contributions. It’s also looking for companies in the STEM field to host virtual field trips, mentoring and career chats.
With DAPCEP focusing on teens, Ypsilanti-based HighScope Educational Research Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, focusing on early childhood education, particularly with a racial equity lens. Originally focused on long-term research that measured outcomes of children in HeadStart programs, the foundation uses research to create recommended curriculum and best practices for early childhood programs, including sites in Detroit. Its web site includes profiles of alumni of those programs, including Marlon Cox, a former Detroiter now working at NASA in Washington, D.C., after earning a degree at Case Western Reserve University. The current national conversation about racial justice and equity supports the foundation’s goal of ensuring children of all backgrounds have equitable access to tools for learning.
The Goodfellows have got to be among the leanest nonprofits around. Fundraising is mostly by the volunteer Goodfellows themselves who send out letters every year urging people in their networks to donate to hit the goal: “no kiddie without a Christmas.” This Christmas, the need may be greater.
“Many families we serve may have a parent or both parents out of work because of COVID,” says Sari Schneider, executive director. “If kids are not in school in the fall, we will be challenged to get our applications out into the community. We have been working to do this more via our website and will have to step up that effort in the weeks ahead.” Schneider said the biggest challenge could be the actual distribution of the planned target of 30,000 holiday boxes, usually through churches, school gyms and police precincts.
The challenge may be in September if Goodfellows cancels its annual fall breakfast, honoring civic luminaries; the event is a civic “who’s who,” drawing as many as 1,000 attendees and netting about 10 percent of the operating income.
“We are working to make some upgrades to our website and trying to move into more virtual forms of fundraising. This Crain’s May Days of Giving has really helped us to get our mind-set into doing more of these types of crowd funding programs,” Schneider said.
BUILD Institute has helped hundreds of small businesses, mostly consumer-facing, launch in Detroit in recent years. Now it is preparing to help some of them “close with dignity” and move on to a new endeavor. BUILD’s programming has shifted to virtual workshops on how to survive, with one-on-one consultations and a weekly Coffee & Conversations series. BUILD also promotes to a wide audience up to 10 businesses a week, urging potential clients to support a local entrepreneur.
Most companies need cash, so BUILD also offers community capital/crowdfunding programs through Kiva and Honeycomb Credit that provide matching for borrowers. So far, most businesses have been funded within days versus weeks. And businesses that have taken loans through BUILD have received loan relief of 3 to 6 months.
In health care, Ascension and Providence Foundations had plenty of priorities this year — expanding a neonatal intensive care unit and a minimally invasive spine surgery program. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of a major fundraising event, donors supported the neonatal project with an online silent auction that raised nearly $125,000.
Meanwhile, foundation work pivoted to include raising money for COVID efforts, from a hardship fund for employees having a hard time (bringing some recipients to tears) to shower trailers for frontline staff to use after their hospital shifts before returning home. For patients, the foundations purchased iPads so they could communicate with families who couldn’t visit.
The Autism Alliance of Michigan knew that the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order that closed schools would cause significant disruption and stress. Calls to the alliance soared; parents became 24/7 caregivers for their children with autism, with the potential for an increase in “elopement” or wandering. So the alliance pivoted its support programs and urged therapists and care providers to exercise new standards for “essential workers.” It also offered free wearable GPS devices, a service that one mother from Redford Township reported as a “blessing” for her son who has “very limited verbal skills … and issues with wandering/running.”
Meanwhile, fundraising is taking a hit. The group’s annual Michigan Shines for Autism Gala, which usually earns $1 million, was bumped from April to September. Another event, the annual Superhero Walk at the Detroit Zoo, will be virtual this year. Combined, the two events could see a revenue drop of 50 percent.
Another nonprofit devoted to health, Gilda’s Club, went “virtual,” literally overnight. Support groups, lectures, art, music, yoga and healthy lifestyle workshops — previously all done “in person” — morphed into virtual formats. Gilda’s Club serves people diagnosed with cancer and caregivers. Laura Varan Brown, CEO, said the nonprofit is serving hundreds of clients in more than 30 weekly virtual programs.
But, like many other nonprofits, she also reconfigured a major fundraiser. Gilda’s Big Night Out in April became “Gilda’s Big Night … IN.” But she’s aware that “virtual fatigue” may also set in.
May Days and the Giving Guide in this issue are great ways to learn more about a nonprofit devoted to a cause that’s important to you. We hope you find it useful.