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Charities feel crunch, fundraisers forced to adapt

  • Haeleigh Hyatt from Aim High Canines performs at the 2019 Talent Show fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. Coutesy of Concord Coalition to End Homelessness

  • Roman and Jennifer dance at last year’s Talent Show fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Oct. 5, 2019. This year’s Talent Show, like many nonprofit fundraisers, may have to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy

  • Gary Stewart and Amanda Osmer perform at last year’s Talent Show fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on Oct. 5, 2019. This year’s Talent Show, like many nonprofit fundraisers, may have to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy

  • Runners leave the starting line at the 2017 Rock 'N Race 5K in downtown Concord. Monitor file

  • The Fletchtones perform as runners pass by during Thursday’s Rock ‘N Race 5K in downtown Concord on May 19, 2016. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Granite State Revival performs during Rock 'N Race 5K in downtown Concord on Thursday, May 18, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Niall (left) and Rory Campbell welcome the sprayed water offered by Roger Jobin (right) at the Northwestern Mutual station during Rock 'N Race 5K in downtown Concord on Thursday, May 18, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Thousands of runners and walkers took part in the annual Rock ‘N Race 5K in 2018. This year, the event is going virtual with participants running on their own. Monitor file

  • Runners at the start of the 2019 Payson Center for Cancer Care’s Rock ‘N Race in downtown Concord. The Concord Hospital event has raised more than $3.5 million for Cancer Care since 2003. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 5/30/2020 6:35:15 PM

Last year’s talent show fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness was such a hit that people who went vowed to return and those who missed it were kicking themselves.

“There was a Chamber of Commerce event three days after (the talent show) and one after another people were coming up to me and saying, ‘It was so good, I will never miss this thing. It was awesome,’” said Greg Lessard, who is on the CCEH Board of Directors and chairs the events committee. “Or if they didn’t go, they were apologizing that they missed it and saying they would come next year.”

Next year is now, and COVID-19 has scrambled plans for nonprofit fundraising events. Many have gone virtual, like the upcoming Rock ‘N Race to support Concord Hospital’s Payson Center for Cancer Care. Others have been postponed or canceled and some, like CCEH’s Talent Show, are still in limbo.

Lessard was hoping people might be developing unusual talents as they stay at home in isolation. That may be happening, but he hasn’t heard about it. Even after pushing back the deadline to submit audition applications, Lessard still doesn’t have nearly enough applicants to put on a show.

“It may be that people are just too preoccupied,” Lessard said. “But we also would normally distribute fliers about it all over town at all the businesses, but those businesses are closed. And one of the best places is in bars where people are performing, but that’s not possible. We did have PSAs on six different radio stations, and that’s a lot, but again, I think people are very much preoccupied.”

The CCEH board could postpone the event to 2021. Lessard said he is leaning in that direction, but he’s also still accepting applications through the coalition’s website, concordhomeless.org. The more offbeat the talent the better.

“What made the inaugural talent show so great was the diversity. It wasn’t just an open mic night. It’s more of a vaudeville show type of thing,” Lessard said. “So, if someone is a magician, or has a dog act, or some special talent, we highly encourage those types of acts.”

Last year’s show included an Argentinian tango, a theatrical performance from the Community Players of Concord, a poetry reading and dog acrobatics as well as several musicians. Those 2019 contestants will not be eligible for this talent show whether it happens in October or in 2021.

“I’d encourage people to still apply, some crazy things happen, you never know,” Lessard said. “It’s an easy event to pull together if the mindset of the public changes and people are willing to go out and sit with other people, and that’s allowed. I just think most of us don’t feel like that’s going to happen in October.”

CCEH already had to pivot with its SouperFest fundraiser in late March. The event had drawn as many as 800 people to Rundlett Middle School to taste soups and other treats. This year, it all went online as participants shared photos of themselves making or enjoying soup on social media. Virtual SouperFest raised $55,000, but Lessard doesn’t think a virtual talent show can match that success.

“A lot of that money for SouperFest was already there. It was a well-established event that already had sponsors before it had to go online, so it’s hard to compare it to the talent show,” Lessard said. “And we think the talent show just isn’t the same if you’re sitting at home and watching it instead of being there.

Rock ‘N Race

The 18th annual Rock ‘N Race was originally scheduled for May 14, but the popular 5K run/walk through downtown Concord was postponed back on March 17.

“This race, the Rock ‘N Race, is our most important fundraiser for Concord Hospital’s Payson Center for Cancer Care and the HOPE Resource Center, so we really do want you to keep fundraising, reaching out, building your teams,” race co-chairwoman Kate Fleming said when she announced the postponement with a Facebook message.

Instead of rescheduling the race for a different date, organizers moved it online for the entire month of June. Participants are encouraged to run, walk or move (and raise funds) however they want, whenever they want and for as long as they want any time in June. The online event is being labeled as a “6ft to 5K ‘go the social distance’ challenge.” Founding donors Norm and Melinda Payson have pledged to match all donations raised by this year’s participants up to $150,000. To register or donate go to giveto.concordhospital.org.

Walk for Sight

Future In Sight (the former NH Association for The Blind located in Concord) has transformed its Walk for Sight fundraiser, originally scheduled for June, into a partially virtual event from Aug. 1-20. There will be an interactive online map that gives participants a new place to walk each day. The locale will be in towns and cities that reflect Future In Sight’s impact while highlighting sponsors from those areas. There will be new facts, questions, drawings and prizes each day throughout the event. To register or for more information go to futureinsight.org.

Other fundraisers

There are, unfortunately, plenty of other New Hampshire nonprofit fundraisers that have been interrupted by COVID-19. The 30th annual Walk Against Hunger for the Manchester-based Families in Transition went virtual on May 17. The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center fundraising gala featuring performances from faculty and students also went online. Building on Hope – a volunteer organization of New Hampshire designers, architects, suppliers and builders – usually sends hundreds of volunteers to renovate a New Hampshire nonprofit in a 10-day span (they remodeled the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire in Concord in 2018), but this year the organization is renovating the Nashua Police Athletic League’s Youth Safe Haven in phases throughout the summer.

NH Gives

NH Gives, a 24-hour online giving event on June 9 and 10, is hoping to help the state’s nonprofits make up for some of the financial losses incurred by the fundraising disruptions. Donors can choose which organization they would like to sponsor and every gift of up to $1,000 will be matched by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and its Thomas W. Haas Fund and John F. Swope Fund up to $250,000. The foundation’s Bio X Cell Fund will provide an additional $10,000 match for participating Upper Valley nonprofits.

“N.H. Gives takes on new meaning this year as nonprofits face the impact of the global pandemic,” said Kathleen Reardon, CEO of the NH Center for Nonprofits, which organizes the annual event. “Organizations are rising to the needs of their communities, even while they’ve lost revenue from canceled fundraising events and programs. More than 250 nonprofits across New Hampshire are participating in this special fundraising event and we hope that Granite Staters will join us and donate to the nonprofits they care about, as well as discover organizations that might be new to them.”

The event begins at 6 p.m. on June 9 at NHGives.org and ends at 6 p.m. on June 10. A leaderboard will tally the donations for participating nonprofits with additional cash prizes going to groups that receive the most money. NH Gives has raised nearly $1.5 million for New Hampshire nonprofits since its inception in 2016.

“New Hampshire’s nonprofit organizations are there for all of us,” said Richard Ober, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, lead sponsor of the event. “Many are on the front lines during challenging times – feeding and sheltering people and caring for the ill. And others do so many things that improve our quality of life – conserving open space for all, making our communities more interesting and vibrant with the arts, reporting the news with diligence.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)




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