With COVID-19, nonprofits get back to basics
State-mandated social distancing guidelines have forced many nonprofit organizations in Sammamish to rethink how they operate, from raising money to adapting the ways they serve the community.
One of these non-profits is Sammamish Kiwanis, which had to cancel all in-person fundraisers because of social distancing guidelines, and struggled at first to figure out how to replace those lost dollars. In normal circumstances, the group relies only on in-person fundraising events.
“The first online meeting during the lockdown was depressing,” Bob Keller, a Kiwanis board member, said. “We were discussing the cancellation of all our annual fundraisers.”
After initial discussions the board got creative, and came up with an effective way of working from home to raise funds. A member suggested a matching donation campaign of up to $10,000 to the Eastside Baby Corner and the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank. Initially, other members were hesitant to do an online fundraising drive, but they tried it and soon realized that the community was responding well. After two weeks of running the campaign, Kiwanis exceeded their goal and raised over $20,000 for the two organizations.
Patty Webb, the president of Sammamish Kiwanis, said she appreciates the support that Sammamish residents have provided during the crisis, and knows there is potential to raise even more.
“Each one of us thinks about more people to reach out to,” Webb said.
Even with this small victory, Keller is concerned that many families will need help during this difficult time, while nonprofits are short on resources to provide assistance.
“So many things were canceled, but needs are still there and even increasing,” Keller said. “It gets worse when we can’t get money for them.”
The Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank has adapted how they are acquiring and distributing nutritional food for families who need support. They held a community collection drive with Eastside Baby Corner, and accepted donations of essential supplies such as baby shoes, clothes, foods, diapers, blankets, toys, rice, sauce and cereal. In four hours, 565 donors showed up with supplies.
Tom Ehlers, the board chair of Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank, said he has been working with his group to adapt to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. To distribute the supplies quickly and safely, his team mobilized 600 individual cars to deliver the supplies door-to-door. This delivery program was expanded to cover all of Sammamish. The organization recently adjusted its distribution model, and now offers non-contact drive-through pickup. Families can pickup a box of non-perishables and a large bag of produce.
“Those most in need are often invisible to the rest of us,” Ehlers said, reiterating the challenge of reaching out to those who need help.
Cori Walters, the executive director of Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank, said she was concerned that despite having abundant supplies, nonprofits like hers could not distribute the supplies out promptly.
“The biggest challenge and goal right now is to increase our outreach capabilities so that more families and individuals know that we are here to help them today and in the future,” Walters said.
Mr. Ehlers believes a much more robust community-wide response is needed to meet the growing needs of families during this pandemic. That way, people can find out more easily about the resources available to them.
“We [Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank] have no income requirements and we are a confidential organization,” she said. “All you need to do is show up, let us know what you need, and we will do everything we can to help.”
For more information on donating or volunteering with these groups, please visit the websites for Sammamish Kiwanis, Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank, and Eastside Baby Corner.