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Pandemic Repercussions: Nonprofits Respond

At no other time in Sonora Area Foundation’s 30-year history has its role been more sharply defined than it is now. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified its mission to assist donors, make grants and lead the community through the financial disruption and uncertainty caused by shutdowns, stay-home mandates, and other requirements. Of particular consequence for the nonprofit community has been an almost-universal cancelation of major annual fundraisers. Sonora Area Foundation (SAF) exists to help nonprofits and public agencies struggling with funding challenges.

SAF recently reached out to nonprofits for a glimpse of the repercussions of canceled or postponed fundraisers. While decreased volunteerism and revenue were common (and unsurprising) themes, good news and optimism were evident, as well.

Five organizations reported $125K in minimum estimated revenue losses due to canceled fundraisers. Proceeds from these annual events often comprise the majority of nonprofits’ budgets. Spiritual Roads’ annual fundraiser, for example, “constitutes nearly 85 percent of our annual budget,” according to Executive Director Chris Lytle.

“Canceling the event was devastating for us this year,” notes Jan Hiebert of Soroptimist International of Twain Harte of the group’s Twain Harte à la Carte event. The approximately $20K loss led to budget cuts which will be felt by others in the community.

“Some organizations in town will not see a check from us this year,” she says, shining light on diminishing funds’ ripple effect.

The group hopes to hold its annual Crab Feed in January as a drive-through event, a model that other organizations have adopted, as well.

Revamped or alternative fundraisers are just one way that nonprofits are bridging the funding gap. Assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA), an increase in grant opportunities, and the support of regular donors have helped provide stability to some groups.

“Our monthly regular donor base has been faithful to maintain support,” according to Gary Moes, Executive Director of TeenWorks Mentoring, noting that donations from individuals and churches generally have been consistent. Interfaith Community Social Services also has enjoyed the dependability of “ongoing personal donations,” according to Director Cathie Peacock.

SAF is committed to supporting Tuolumne County nonprofits and public agencies, and in March established the Community Recovery Fund (CRF) to do just that. As a repository of donations to assist local nonprofits in the midst of economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the CRF has received enormous community support.

As of August 24, 2020, more than $197K has been granted from CRF to both longstanding organizations and newly minted outreach programs. More than $55K has been granted to ATCAA Food Bank to meet the pressing needs of hunger and food insecurity. Other CRF food-program grantees include those newly launched by local businesses: Schnoog’s Hope Loaf and Chef Dave Cooks’ Soup Kitchen. An updated list of all CRF grantees and amounts awarded is available at https://sonora-area.org/.

SAF, in partnership with Sierra Senior Providers (SSP) and Clarke Broadcasting Corporation, awarded SSP’s Meals on Wheels program $50K in matching-grant funds for its successful Meals on Wheels Radiothon fundraiser. The on-air event was broadcast August 21, 2020. The Radiothon was the nonprofit’s alternative to its annual dinner and auction fundraiser, which usually generated a quarter of the program’s operating budget, according to SSP’s CEO Kristi Conforti.

The Radiothon, drive-through dinners and other creative fundraisers are inspiring examples of innovative ideas that have risen from the pandemic’s rubble. Kudos to all the nonprofits and committees that are creating new avenues of progress.

As the pandemic continues, the need continues, and Sonora Area Foundation remains a stalwart supporter of Tuolumne County’s nonprofit community. While SAF’s office remains closed to the public, the staff is available by phone and email. We’re here to help.

Darrell Slocum is the Executive Director of Sonora Area Foundation. Contact him at darrell@sonora-area.org or (209) 533-2596

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