ORANGE CITY—As event and activities continue to “go virtual,” one Orange City nonprofit has been forced to do the same after losing its physical location.
Guiding Star Orange City, a nonprofit providing comprehensive women’s health-care services, closed the doors of its office on Albany Avenue on Oct. 15.
The reason? Insufficient funds to continue paying rent and other bills. Like many nonprofits, Guiding Star has seen its donations decrease since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It can depend on the seasons and right now with a lot of our donors hit hard and having to reduce their donations, it’s a bit unstable,” said executive director Kaleigh Van Middendorp.
To try and fill the gap, Guiding Star is planning a virtual fundraiser during November and early December. The goal is to raise $15,000, which would be used to support continued services and to pay rent so the nonprofit can reopen at a new location.
“Basically, we’re fundraising for that first year’s worth of rent so we’re not solely relying on our monthly donors to sustain us for a rental basis,” Van Middendorp said. “The second purpose is to help us to continue to provide services in the meantime, in this process of transition.”
The fundraiser will run Nov. 23-Dec. 1 as a donation campaign followed by a virtual auction.
A weeklong e-mail and social media campaign running Nov. 23-27 will highlight each of Guiding Star’s areas of service: family planning, pregnancy, breastfeeding and family life. The last two days will highlight the organization’s mission and goals for the coming year.
The virtual auction will be held Dec. 1, either through Facebook or via Guiding Star’s website. Gift cards, coupons and baskets donated by local businesses and organizations will be auctioned off throughout the day, with final bids closing at 10 p.m.
“December 1 is Giving Tuesday, so if you need little gifts for stocking stuffers, this is a perfect way to do that while being able to give to us,” Van Middendorp said.
Guiding Star is still seeking donations of auction items. Gift baskets, homemade items, treats and other donations are welcome.
The fundraiser is a push to help fill funding gaps caused when the coronavirus forced Guiding Star to postpone its annual spring fundraising gala and hold it virtually in September.
Although the event went well and had great community response and participation, Van Middendorp said Guiding Star only raised about $20,000 of its $50,000 goal, which would have helped it keep its building.
“It was a wonderful event but did not bring in as much money if we were to have it in person,” she said. “Even though we had great support from our donors, we didn’t have quite what we needed to make.”
It is a struggle many nonprofits are feeling as they try to find virtual alternatives for in-person events.
“One of the main challenges is having something tangible for people,” Van Middendorp said of virtual fundraisers. “That’s why people give to organizations, when they have that one-on-one connection with people, and it’s always harder to find that connection virtually.”
Although one-time donations will likely make up the bulk of Guiding Star Orange City’s $15,000 fundraising goal this November, the nonprofit also needs more monthly donors.
One-time contributions help meet short-term goals, like Guiding Star’s hope to save up and rent a new building. But monthly donors give the organization the stability it needs to continue providing services.
“When we know we have this much money we can count on every month, that allows us the ability to provide services without question,” Van Middendorp said.
“That’s what we are hoping for in this fundraiser is to garnish a lot more of those consistent monthly donations. Continuing to get those monthly donations is what’s going to provide us that stability as an organization and a nonprofit.”
In the meantime, the need for Guiding Star’s services has not gone away — in fact, Van Middendorp said needs have increased as women and moms find themselves more isolated from their usual support systems.
“We’re finding that women right now have such great needs for connection,” Van Middendorp said. “We’re losing those pieces of connection with COVID and social distancing, and so while we may not be able to physically be next to our clients, we will continue to be with them through all these trials that they’re going through.”
Pregnancy consultations, counseling and health classes are available over video call, by phone or via e-mail or text. The only services Guiding Star is not able to provide virtually are ultrasounds and pregnancy tests.
The Attic, Guiding Star’s “shop” that provides free newborn and maternity clothes, has stayed open, although it operates out of a board member’s home now. Products are delivered or mailed by request.
Guiding Star is searching for a new location, hopefully in Orange City, but it has not nailed one down yet.
If it can meet its $15,000 fundraising goal in November, Van Middendorp hopes Guiding Star can locate a suitable space and return to in-person services within the next six months.
“I miss seeing people face to face and I miss being able to just have that time with people in person, so I’m really hoping it will be sooner rather than later, but we really can’t say where that’s going to take us or what that’s going to look like,” Van Middendorp said.