One local aid group raised nearly $7,000 more than its goal.
As nonprofits have taken financial hits during the coronavirus pandemic, an annual statewide fundraiser raised more than ever to help them out.
Arizona Gives Day, a 24-hour donation campaign, raised $6.1 million for over 900 organizations on April 7, shattering last year’s record total of $3.6 million.
Jean Christofferson, director of marketing for Phoenix-based Catholic Charities Community Services, said her organization’s personal goal was broken as well. The charity raised just over $10,000 last year and hoped to hit that number again, but staff knew layoffs and other financial difficulties might limit their fundraising power. However, CCCS finished the day with $16,714 in its coffers.
“Our entire team … was completely thrilled with the results and the feedback from the community for Arizona Gives Day,” Christofferson told The Copper Courier. “We went into it just wondering whether we were even going to make our goal, and for us to surpass our goal at this difficult time just goes to show that there really is compassion and love out in the community.”
While people participating in Arizona Gives Day could donate to nonprofits and the emergency fund, they could also pledge volunteer hours. A total of 2,225 volunteers ended up pledging 81,862 hours to nonprofit organizations. Christofferson said CCCS did not offer that as an option due to confusion it could cause with its existing volunteer recruitment program.
She also noted that CCCS has fortunately not had to lay off any of its more than 400 employees. The group operates 23 programs in seven of Arizona’s counties, working in areas such as poverty, veterans’ issues, homelessness, sex trafficking, domestic violence, foster care, and more. While 85% of its staff have moved to remote work, remaining employees still work with clients in person, including locating people experiencing homelessness and helping them find shelter.
The Arizona Gives Day fundraiser also collected money specifically for coronavirus relief that will be distributed evenly among participating nonprofits. The fund hit a total of $150,757 on April 7, but donations are still being added through April 30.
Christofferson said fundraising during a pandemic generally has been a “challenge.” “Our primary fundraising is around tax credits,” she said, “and when this pandemic hit, we were right in the middle of the busiest part of our tax credit marketing for fundraising. So we kind of had to take a step back and pivot and change our focus area.”
Some of the group’s programs were left needing more money even after federal funding was applied.
“The program leadership felt there was going to be an increased need because we are already helping people who are in poverty,” Christofferson said. “And so knowing that all of these businesses were closing, and people are getting laid off or hours cut — incomes being decreased — we knew that that was going to impact us, in terms of we would more than likely be called on to help more.”
Christofferson said managing homelessness during a pandemic has extra challenges – the grand opening of the nonprofit’s new shelter in Bullhead City had to be put off due to the outbreak.
“We don’t have the new building that we can count on to have people come and stay overnight,” she said.
And generally, shelter environments offer little room for social distancing.
“What we have had a need for is more hotel rooms,” Christofferson said, “so that will help folks who are experiencing homelessness have an option for being isolated if that needs to happen.”
CCCS has also seen more need in its domestic violence programs. While its My Sister’s Place shelter in the East Valley is at capacity (as it typically is), more survivors are seeking help through the nonprofit’s hotline.
“Anecdotally speaking, we have seen an increase in calls,” Christofferson said.
People’s generosity, especially through Arizona Gives Day, she said, has inspired the nonprofit to keep pushing through a difficult time.
“I think the community was ready to help step up in ways they may not have known about before,” she said.
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