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Area nonprofits forced to get creative with virtual fundraising, as pandemic alters traditional plans

A volunteer brings out boxes to a Table to Table van in Iowa City on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)
A volunteer brings out boxes to a Table to Table van in Iowa City on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 21, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT
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Fundraisers usually mean large crowds, banquets, auctions, and, with social distancing, many groups have had to take a different approach.

This means there's now a shift from the in-person events to try and find a creative way to raise money and, for many non-profit groups, keep operating and helping others.

Anne Langebartels, the Communications and Development Coordinator for Table to Table in Iowa City, has been making contacts for months since she took the job, only to see the annual fundraiser for her group cancelled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"We just decided to plan a remote event pretty quickly," Langebartels said.

Table to Table typically hosts its Annual Benefit Dinner in the Spring with an ambitious goal.

"The goal is [the event] brings in $20,000 every year and so we needed to find a way that we could still have those funds to continue our operation throughout the year," Langebartels said.

The event typically features local restaurants and chefs, but similar to the day-to-day operations for both the group and those preparing food, they were forced to make quick changes.

"We're instead promoting and featuring those local restaurants that partner with us in a new way through a recipe book," Langebartels said.

It's called "Recipes to the Rescue," a book featuring recipes from a number of area restaurants and chefs. Table to Table is asking for a $50 donation, that would also include chances to win gift cards to various restaurants. The efforts were made in the hope they can still get donations but in an atypical way.

"This year has been a year of creativity and quick changes and a quick pivot, and we're excited to see where that might lead us in the future," Langebartels said.

Table to Table is not alone in needing to find a creative way forward.

NAMI of Johnson County has been preparing for its annual NAMI Walk.

"The date of our walk was initially May 2," said Erin Kay, the Walk Manager for NAMI Johnson County. "It has moved to May 30 to accommodate this virtual platform."

Kay and leaders with NAMI were planning to raise $100,000. They are still raising money, but for those participating, Kay says they have been given more freedom than in years past for the event.

"Literally anything you want to do," Kay said. "If you want to host a craft party with you and your teammates, you can do that, you can make a video of that."

That loose concept has already led to robust numbers. At the time of posting this story, the fundraiser had brought in $81,027.

"I am shook," Kay said. "But it's so needed."

Making creative, virtual fundraising a potential doorway for nonprofit groups in the future.

Those interested in the Table to Table Recipes to the Rescue can

.

Those interested in donating to the NAMI Walks Your Way for Johnson and Linn Counties can

.

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