GoUpstate: Spartanburg groups tackle raising money during the COVID-19 pandemic

Samantha SwannHerald-Journal

Fundraising is usually a challenge for many organizations and it has become even more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organizers said since the pandemic began in March, they have been struggling with raising money for their causes. 

“Many organizations typically raise a large portion of their operating expenses through in-person fundraising events. With the onset of COVID-19, nonprofits have had to re-think how they fundraise and how effective virtual fundraising will be,” said Ashley Whitt, senior program officer with The Spartanburg County Foundation.

Rising above the noise

For Kathryn Harvey, principal and founder at Neue South Collective, a local marketing company, 2020 has become a year of fundraising, with many of her clients making marketing a low priority as budgets shrink. 

“I’ve been in a professional communication role in the nonprofit sector for 20 years and I have never seen a year where there’s so much competing,” Harvey said. From the pandemic to the election, the census to natural disaster relief, potential donors are receiving asks from all corners, making it that much more difficult for any individual organization to be heard.”

Collaboration has been key, she said, with nonprofits applying for grants or fundraising together. Partnering with matching donors can also help ensure success. Both will be key parts of efforts for this year’s Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1, said Harvey, whose company is creating a joint website for Spartanburg’s nonprofits to use on the day.

Another challenge for many nonprofits was the canceling of annual in-person fundraisers. However, Harvey has found that nonprofits and organizations across Spartanburg are coming up with creative ways to replace them. For instance, Spartanburg Area Conservancy has replaced its annual oyster dinner fundraiser with a photoshoot fundraiser highlighting its newly renovated boardwalk. Participants can get 10-12 photos on the boardwalk for $175 through the end of the month.

Harvey also has helped develop socially distanced fundraising events like Spartanburg Science Center’s movie night in Barnet Park. And the science center has another creative fundraiser in the works — a  calendar featuring its animals as a holiday fundraiser.

“A lot of it is just thinking about what would be useful for folks right now or engaging and how can we turn that into something that brings awareness of the organization,” Harvey said.

School fundraisers

Groups and organizations outside of the nonprofit sector are also working hard to raise funds for their causes during a year of financial strain.

The fundraisers for the Alexina Atkins Jenkins Pine Street School Scholarship found a way to make donating a personal experience. Their latest campaign for the scholarship asks former Pine Street alumni to donate in honor of their favorite teacher. The scholarship will provide money for college each year to a Spartanburg High School student who attended the elementary school. 

Alumni can designate a teacher when they donate to the top donation tier through The Spartanburg County Foundation, Fund 02215, on the organization’s website or by mail.

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