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How the pandemic is affecting funding for local nonprofits
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A team of volunteers pack boxes with food Thursday, May 21, 2020, at Family Promise of Hall County to deliver to area families. - photo by Scott Rogers

With in-person galas and events out of the picture, Hall County nonprofits are having to tap into a new vein of creativity to fund their work. 

That could mean seeking new grants, looking to donors for more or doing virtual fundraisers — or all of the above.

Family Promise of Hall County, which aids homeless families, has experienced a wave of contributions. 

Lindsey McCamy, the organization’s director, said for the month of April, Family Promise received an 84% increase in funds from individual donations and grants, compared to last year. 

The nonprofit recently acquired a combined $45,000 in grant funding from Bank of America, the North Georgia Community Foundation, Wells Fargo and United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

“The Family Promise board and I are overwhelmed by the generosity of these grants along with private donations we are receiving daily,” McCamy said. “It is true that there are always people who have the means to step up and help, even when the economic picture appears bleak.”

Because of the pandemic, McCamy said the nonprofit has seen an increased need for diapers, food and financial assistance for families in Hall. 

Luckily, the surge in donations has helped them meet the need.

“I’ve noticed that people have been extremely generous,” McCamy said. “I’ve seen a lot come through people wanting to help with COVID-related things.”

Thanks to contributions, Family Promise started delivering 950 boxes of food to people in Gainesville and Hall, each package weighing 40 to 50 pounds. The last drop-off will take place on Tuesday, May 26.

The chicken included in each box was donated by Pilgrim’s Pride, Gold Creek Foods and Mar-Jac Poultry. 

McCamy said the packages of food are intended to help families during the two weeks school systems won’t be dropping off free meals to students.

The nonprofit partnered with Hall County Schools and Gainesville City Schools to deliver the boxes and identify the areas with the highest need.

“It has been a massive undertaking,” McCamy said. “It’s a great collaborative program where we’re all able to work together and get out food for those two weeks.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak reached Georgia, United Way of Hall County’s Compass Center has experienced a more than 50% increase in call volume. 

Jessica Dudley, the social services organization’s president, said in a press release that many have been first-time requests from people whose lives have recently taken a negative turn.

The organization started a COVID-19 Relief Fund that helps provide direct financial assistance to people through the Compass Center and to nonprofits who are doing their own work to help.

“We are seeing first-hand the very real health and financial impacts the virus is having on families across Hall County, and launching a COVID-19 Relief Fund is a way for our community to continue to Live United by coming together to help these struggling families,” Dudley said in a statement. “Missing paychecks, the inability to pay rent and a lack of access to food and essential supplies are realities many of our neighbors are facing and will continue to face in the coming weeks.”

The nonprofit recently received a $25,000 matching grant from the North Georgia Community Foundation for its Hall County COVID-19 Relief Fund.

“Providing matching grants is a way for the North Georgia Community Foundation to come alongside organizations doing the good work that they specialize in and enabling them to double their impact,” Michelle Prater, North Georgia Community Foundation president and CEO, said in a statement. “We appreciate how United Way of Hall County will use this additional funding for the Compass Center and will continue to meet the needs of people in our community.”

To make a donation to the relief fund, visit unitedwayhallcounty.org/covid19-relief.

Good News Clinics started an initiative to raise $25,000 in 25 days after expending resources to offer free testing for COVID-19.

The nonprofit clinic, which typically serves the uninsured, held two free COVID-19 screenings with Northeast Georgia Health System. 

Although NGHS covered the cost of testing for each event, Liz Coates, executive director of the clinics, said the events still proved costly.

“Our role in the testing event was not only to provide human resources for registration of every participant, but also take those results when they come in and call every single person and notify them of their results,” Coates said May 6. 

Both free testing days required overtime work from the clinics’ nurse practitioners. 

The fundraising challenge will end May 25. People can donate by visiting goodnewsclinics.org/covid-19-support-fund/.

“The cost to us has definitely been significant in terms of our response to all patients,” Coates said. “We’re trying to ask for the community’s support by raising $25,000 to help cover those expenses for us.”

For the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, its gaze has turned from fees — for the healthy pet clinic, adoption and other services — to individual donations.

Julie Edwards, the nonprofit’s executive director, said its adoption center and clinic have been closed to public foot traffic during the pandemic. She said the service fees from the two account for around half of the organization's budget. 

During the spring, Edwards said the organization holds many small fundraising events, which were anticipated to gather around $25,000 before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thinking quickly on their feet, the nonprofit's staff reached out to 10 of their best supporters.

In six weeks, Edwards said the organization was able to raise $40,000.

“Even though ahead on donations because of money lost for services, we’re still way behind on income for this time of year,” Edwards said. “Typically our big months are April through July, and we’re losing two of those months to COVID.”

Elachee Nature Science Center transformed its biggest fundraiser of the year into an online event and raised $123,000 with Flights of Fancy donations and sponsorships. 

“At the end of the day, this was comparable and in some ways exceeded years past,” Kim Marks, the organization’s director of development and communications, said.

The nonprofit’s volunteer host committee and board of trustees had 39 days to shift the fundraiser into a scalable online platform.

She said $22,000 from the event will go toward increasing the organization’s outreach capacity by 33%. Two teams of Elachee educators currently visit schools in North Georgia 75 days per year.

“Our intent is to be able to deploy additional naturalist teams to go to schools or community centers for outreach programming,” Marks said. “We do realize there will probably be, through December, not as many field trips coming here. What we offer to schools is vital.”

Because of the pandemic, The Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocate organization postponed one of its biggest fundraisers of the year, the Mitch Farmer June Jam.

Janet Walden, the nonprofit’s executive director, said a new date hasn’t been scheduled.

The concert has been held for around 10 years as a tribute to Mitch Farmer, who died in 2009. Walden said CASA was one of Farmer’s favorite organizations. CASA provides volunteers who are appointed by a judge to advocate for an abused or neglected child in juvenile court dependency proceedings.

CASA’s goal for this year’s Mitch Farmer June Jam was to raise $20,000. 

To make up for lost donations, the nonprofit participated in the Giving Tuesday Now campaign on May 5, and was able to gather $4,000.

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Marshall Bruner expresses why he donated to Hall-Dawson CASA during the nonprofit's Giving Tuesday fundraiser on May 5. Photo courtesy Janet Walden

“Some are eligible for matching donations, so hopefully we’ll be able to double that amount,” Walden said. “We also have partners in the community who donate to us on an annual basis, and we’re hoping new partners will want to join.”

Fundraising and donations account for 30% of the organization's budget. As of April 30, Walden said the nonprofit has reached 18% in this area of funding. 

“We will continue to pivot and adjust to our new realities, like so many of our nonprofit partners, as we work to ensure we have both the volunteer and financial support necessary to make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children,” Walden said. 

Once schools and day cares reopen, she expects to see a large increase in referrals for CASA. 

Walden said the organization is currently looking for more volunteers and will host its first session of virtual training on Saturday, May 23. Those interested can visit halldawsoncasa.org/how-to-help/volunteer/ for more information. 

“We’d love to have 50 new volunteers this year,” Walden said. “Typically we’d be out in the community, talking to folks in groups, but we’re having to figure out how to spread the word, so we can meet the needs of the kids in our community.”

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