Helena nonprofits seeing a mix of success and struggle for virtual fundraising in 2021

Helena nonprofits seeing a mix of success and struggle for virtual fundraising in 2021
Posted at 6:00 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 17:48:20-04

HELENA — At the beginning of the pandemic, Helena-area nonprofits saw a surge in donations of people supporting their missions. However, as the pandemic drags on, many of those nonprofits are having a difficult time meeting fundraising efforts that they’d have done before COVID.

The Lewis and Clark Humane Society are currently holding their virtual “No Ball At All” event in place of their traditional “Wine for Whiskers” event.

The animal shelter is now in its second year of holding nontraditional fundraising events because of the pandemic. They are hoping to raise at least $30,000 in the coming weeks which is what Wine for Whiskers usually brings in. However, they just haven’t been seeing the same level of support they’d experienced with even their other virtual events.

“It’s been really interesting, it’s been forcing us to be creative with fundraising. Everything has been taking a turn in general, a lot of the traditional aspects are just not working,” explained Director of Development Lewis & Clark Humane Society Cassidy Cook.

The Humane Society are not the only organization facing virtual fundraising challenges. Prickly Pear Land Trust came in short of their recent “Crescent Moon Auction” fundraising goal. ExplorationWorks are holding their annual “Nightmare Affair” fundraiser and are concerned they won’t make their goal this year after seeing how other nonprofits have been faring.

The United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area raises funds for and coordinates area nonprofits to tackle community-wide issues. Executive director Emily McVey says their partners have been trying to adapt to COVID for fundraising, with varying levels of success.

Helena nonprofits seeing a mix of success and struggle for virtual fundraising in 2021

“Lots of our nonprofit partners are doing online fundraising, many have just canceled fundraising altogether. Some of them have been successful have not been successful so it’s really all over the place for fundraising right now,” explained McVey.

Running a nonprofit, any nonprofit, is not an inexpensive endeavor. It costs thousands of dollars each day for the Humane Society to feed the animals, pay staff and keep the lights on.

There have been success stories for virtual fundraising. Greater Helena Gives raised a record $216,186 this year for area nonprofits. During that event, $$11,647 was raised for the Humane Society. A huge help, but still well short of what a traditional Wine for Whiskers brings in.

Fundraising for a nonprofit is a full-time job with organizations working year-round to find dollars to help their missions. In-person fundraising events can help bring large amounts of money. Organizations say helping a nonprofit often creates a sense of community. Coming together for an event helps encourage people to make larger donations than they would just from home.

Cook says they want to return to in-person events as badly as everyone else, but the current pandemic situation is preventing that. Many venues have reduced capacity limits and they don’t want to be a super spreader event, especially while the hospital ICU and medical floors are full.

“Our events are huge. We have an amazing community who supports us and so our events are really big and we can not have that many people in a room,” explained Cook. “It’s hard because there’s a certain element of being in a room with a bunch of people who support the same cause that you support. You see and feel the energy of what’s happening and you lose that when it’s not a live event.”

Helena nonprofits seeing a mix of success and struggle for virtual fundraising in 2021

During the pandemic, nonprofits never stopped working to meet the needs of the community.

Many organizations grew their services to address new needs created during the pandemic, sure as the increase of families facing homelessness in the area.

That growing need in the community means there must also be increased giving from the community to help those causes.

“The nonprofits pick up where everybody else stops. There’s a lot of government services, there’s a lot of business that help people but the nonprofits are the ones that fill in the gaps,” explained McVey.

In Helena, there is no government program to care for stray animals, to provide immediate assistance to families who had lost a home in a fire or provide safe shelter to someone who has left an abusive relationship.

The United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area strongly encourages people to donate to area nonprofits if they are able and ensure those programs and community services aren’t lost.