Nonprofits around Gahanna: Traditional fundraising strategies shifted during pandemic

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been a game-changer in how local organizations raise funds.

Sharon Tomko, president of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation, said the foundation is very sensitive to the difficult economic situation businesses, especially local small businesses, might be experiencing due to the pandemic.  

The Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation will be host to its largest fundraiser, the Gahanna Gala, as a virtual event Feb. 20.

The foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Gahanna Gala, typically is a one-day event held during the winter. Participants purchase a ticket to attend the gala, where silent and live auctions are held to raise money for grants that fund innovative projects, equipment and materials beyond the traditional expenditures of the Gahanna-Jefferson school board.

Because of the economic conditions caused by the pandemic, Tomko said, the foundation isn’t calling on a number of business partners for donations this time.

“COVID has made it difficult for us to secure new sponsorships and donations because we are unable to meet with potential donors in person,” she said.

Tomko said another difficult area is the group’s contact with the parents. 

“We typically meet monthly with PTA/PTO presidents, and we also attended some meetings,” she said. “None of this has happened, so we feel we've lost the personal touch with parent leaders.”  

Tomko said most of the teaching was done from home in the fall, so the foundation pivoted to help supply materials for distance learning.

In one case, she said, the foundation collaborated with the Gahanna Lincoln High School special-education department to provide equipment for distance-learning cooking lessons.

Tomko said the foundation will hold the 17th annual Gahanna Gala virtually.

“Our theme this year is Twilight in the Tropics because we figured everyone needed a little sunshine in their life,” she said.  

Everyone is invited to register for free to participate in the silent auction that opens Feb. 20, with the live show airing on YouTube at 7 p.m. Feb. 27.

“We are hopeful that we can receive enough support as in previous years so we do not have to reduce the amount of grants awarded,” Tomko said.

Taste of Gahanna

Brad Fisher, president of the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, said the 2020 Taste of Gahanna had to be very different because of the coronavirus.

The event has served as the chamber’s signature event for many years, showcasing the city’s restaurateurs and businesses in the food industry.

Fisher said the chamber still wanted to give food establishments some exposure and give the community an opportunity to support its local businesses.  

The event was held over six weeks, Oct. 1-Nov. 15.

“Instead of a large outdoor event with all of the restaurants serving food under one tent, we had each food establishment donate gift certificates, which were used to create gift baskets,” he said. “We had about 10 food establishments donate certificates, and each basket had a total of $90 in value.”

Fisher said the Taste of Gahanna gift baskets were sold to the community at a 50% discount.  

Those who purchased the certificates could use them at the various businesses at their convenience. 

He said more than 100 tickets were sold.

“We really appreciate the support of the community,” Fisher said.  “It was a success in our book.”

Gahanna Parks & Recreation Foundation

The Gahanna Parks & Recreation Foundation, guided by a committee of community volunteers, focuses on protecting, nurturing and growing parks and recreation opportunities for the benefit of Gahanna residents.

The foundation had to cancel one of its main fundraisers in 2020 because of the coronavirus, said Stephania Bernard-Ferrell, Gahanna parks and recreation director.

“The Hops and Vines event is one of the largest mechanisms to raise money for the foundation,” she said.

The event’s ticket sales allow participants to sample Columbus craft beers, wine and spirits from central Ohio breweries, wineries and distilleries.

The event was canceled due to the health concerns of the coronavirus, Bernard-Ferrell said.

 “The Parks and Recreation Foundation provides funding for summer camp and aquatics scholarships, as well as funding for programs and events,” she said. “The foundation has also provided financial support for park projects like the nature playground at Woodside Green.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla