Pandemic putting squeeze on donations to some Michigan nonprofits

Posted at 2:02 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 14:02:55-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The pandemic has affected donations to a lot nonprofits, especially grassroots organizations, according to Kelley Kuhn, Vice President of Michigan Nonprofit Association.

Related: Metro Detroit nonprofits facing different pandemic battles, recoveries based on industry

"And that's what worries us in the long run is what happens when those organizations are not able to continue to provide those basic needs, supports in communities that need it most."

And Auntie Na's Village on Detroit's west side is one of those organizations where the people they help have very little money, if any, for their most basic needs.

"We're all sharing. We're networking together just to sustain and maintain," said Sonia Brown who is known as Auntie Na, a woman who, years ago, began providing food, tutoring, hygiene kits, and even emergency shelter to strangers in her own home.

With grants and other donations, Brown has been able to buy several houses on her block of Yellowstone in Detroit to offer additional shelter and even a medical center where a physician visits once a week to offer care to those in the community.

But the pandemic has caused donations to slow to a trickle, and some of those who were previously able to make donations have found themselves in need.

"You no longer have the funds available because people don't have the funds available to donate anymore. And the grants that are there, you don't have the volunteers or those that you need to go out and get the grants or to write and apply for the grants, so you don't have that available to you," Brown told 7 Action News.

In Northville, at Maybury Farm, they've been able to enjoy seeing visitors during the pandemic, because there's so much to see outdoors with all the animals, but donations have slowed, dramatically.

The Northville Community Foundation (NCF) raises money for the farm and its mission of education and connecting the community to animals and agriculture through fun and exciting hands-on experiences.

"I will tell you that probably 95% of the money that we raise will go directly back into the farm," said Diana Wallace, Executive Director of Northville Community Foundation and Maybury Farm, who adds that a lot of the money goes to feeding their animals.

But in 2020, NCF had to cancel the Holiday Home Tour, a popular fundraising event, due to the pandemic.

And this year, they thought they could just control the crowds that walk through the homes that have been beautifully decorated for Christmas, but that would still mean about 600 people a day in each home.

The foundation's board knew they had to pivot so this year the Holiday Home Tour is going virtual!

Guests will be able to sit in the comfort of their own home and enjoy a virtual tour of eight beautiful homes and get to see downtown Northville.

"One of the things that I want to tell people to do is sit back, put your feet up, have your most comfy clothes on, and have a drink of your choice, and just sit back and enjoy," Wallace said.

And while some nonprofit organizations have struggled, others have had record years of fundraising.

Samaritas does have a very nice foundation of donors, loyal donors, generous donors," said Kelli Dobner, Chief Advancement Officer at Samaritas. "Last year, when people were receiving additional funds that they may not have needed for support from our stimulus package, they wanted to pay it forward and made a donation to Samaritas to support the families in our care."

But that doesn't mean Samaritas is still not in need of donations to continue all that they do for senior citizens, those with disabilities, those who are homeless, and refugees.

Dobner said, "People can plug into Samaritas at a number of different points and give in a big way that really changes the trajectory of someone's life."