It’s hard to find a nonprofit that doesn’t say it’s struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s finding ways to meet the needs of its constituents, pushing forward programs, raise funds to finance their operations or keep staff on payroll.

According to PPP data, 137 Delaware nonprofits representing many different industries have received PPP loans worth over $ 150,000, of which 27 have received at least $ 1 million. This list includes 10 private schools and Wesley College, but the list of loans of $ 2 million or more also includes Westside Family Health Care, Winterthur Museum, Exceptional care for children, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, and Delaware Hospice.

Here are some stories of how nonprofits survived; we will have an article in our next issue on some of the social service agencies that have done the same.

Free man scene

“The performing arts industry has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation / The Freeman Stage and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. The Freeman Stage had to cancel its entire season as initially planned with 67 performances, including national recording artists. After providing virtual programming from March through June, we found a way to continue presenting the arts in southern Delaware by setting up “seats” that provide physical distance and limit attendance. Our open-air room focuses on small local and regional acts.

The Freeman Stage has implemented “seat shells” which provide physical distance and limit attendance. | Photo c / o Freeman Stage

Grimes said the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive, and post-event polls indicate that over 96% of attendees felt well informed about what to expect at the site and would definitely come back for future performances.

“The brand value of The Freeman Stage really played a big role because people said they trusted us to create a nice but safe environment for them to go out for an evening of outdoor entertainment.” , she said.

Delaware Boys and Girls Club

At Delaware Boys and Girls Club, which operates across the state, more than 15 locations are open right now.

“When the schools closed in March, we stayed open for a week, but then we became uncomfortable with the size of our gathering with 650 kids in our clubs,” said the president and CEO , John Wellons. “We closed for two weeks, but the governor wanted to make sure there were daycare centers for essential workers, so we opened six sites from April 7 to June 17, when we expanded to 15 sites. But we are still operating at only 25% of our capacity at a time when the community needs our services.

The Boys & Girls Club received a PPP loan of just over $ 2 million, which allowed it to protect the jobs of its 462 employees and create programming that would engage its 7,200 members. The programs were moved online, the organization being done through Zoom meetings and Facebook Live used to read books to young children.

But the organization “didn’t know what we didn’t know” about Internet and broadband availability and access to laptops and desktops, Wellons said.

“We tried to fix the problem where we could, but we didn’t understand how much of a problem it was,” Wellons said. “We’re trying to settle in now for whatever the school year might bring and we’re working to get the kids who are having these issues here this fall doing their homework in our computer labs. “

Wellons concedes things “looked pretty dark until PPP,” but as a licensed child care provider, the Boys & Girls Club was able to access some of the state’s reimbursement programs. But he is worried about the length of time the state will be able to maintain this program.

“It’s a delicate balance,” he said. “Our donor base has stayed connected. We just finished our fiscal year but were unable to raise funds due to event cancellations. We’ll be bringing a few back in the fall and hope to fill the void.

REACH Riverside

For REACH Riverside CEO Logan Herring, the organization was “on the run” before the pandemic after raising a third of a $ 37 million fundraising campaign for REACH, Warehouse, and the Kingswood Community Center.

Herring Logan | PHOTO C / O REACH RIVERSIDE

“We didn’t know how to do it, but then we focused on our central question: ‘How can we help the community? »», He remembers.

The organization immediately requested financial support programs like PPP and has received assistance through three, allowing it to avoid time off or layoffs for its 100 employees. Then herring created what he concedes to be the “crazy idea” of the Riverside Relief Fund, which distributes $ 250 to each of the neighborhood’s 300 households in May, June and July.

“We’ve learned what our community needs through registration” for the program, said Herring, which led to the distribution of 400 Chromebooks via NERDiT NOW.

The team also worked with ChristianaCare to perform local screenings and tests, as many residents of Riverside do not have a car or family doctor.

Delaware Museum of Natural History

At a time when the doors of cultural centers are closed, Delaware Museum of Natural History Executive Director Halsey Spruance advises thinking outside the box to reach clients.

Exterior shot of the Delaware Museum of Natural History | Photo c / o the DMNH

After securing a PPP loan from M&T Bank, DMNH brought back its staff and began to reinvent online cultural experiences.

The museum had a strong social media presence for marketing, but it has now been revamped for programming like story time and interviews with scientists. He has also developed paid online programs.

“It’s a balance between finding what our audience would be willing to pay and what programming can work,” Spruance told DBT in mid-May. “It is also about our close relationship, because we work with Country House [retirement community] on programming too.

Moving forward, Spruance said the lesson he was learning is to be nimble in the services offered. For example, the gift shop staff are now making efforts to put exhibits online.

This lesson also extends to DMHN’s $ 9.8 million fundraising campaign. While half of the funds needed for the museum renovations have been raised, all additional fundraising has stalled. But Spruance said it also helped his team prepare for remote opportunities outside of the building.

“It’s like a rehearsal for when we’re closed for renovations,” he said. “In the end, the goal is always the same: to offer a cultural and naturist experience to the Delawarens. It just looks a little different at the moment.

Brandywine Zoo

More at Brandywine Zoo, which recently reopened, attendance is dropping but patrons continue to enjoy the zoo within social distancing constraints.

Mark Shafer, Acting Executive Director of Brandywine Zoo | Photo c / o Brandywine Zoo

“We had been operating on two two hour time slots, but this week we changed our hours from 10 am to 3:30 pm with a ‘deep clean’ that takes place during the day while it is still open and this is going well, “said Mark Shafer, Acting Executive Director of Delaware Zoological Society since May 1. “People are wearing masks that we need but luckily we haven’t had any issues with the app. We started our camp programs this week. We had to limit the number of campers, but we love to hear the sounds of young campers mingling with the sounds of our animals.

State lawmakers have retained the $ 2 million allocation in the governor’s 2020-21 bond budget that will be used to build an animal care facility that the zoo needs to maintain its Association of zoos and aquariums. And he received $ 10,000 from the COVID-19 Strategic Response Fund, which “helps a lot,” Shafer said.

So what’s the next step? “We need to continue to focus on list building and our ability to segment our marketing with people who have a history of engagement in the past,” he said. “The members of our board of directors have really come together to support the annual fund. We have 860 members and their passion for this place is strong. We focus on educating these members and trying to move them from membership to donor status.


By Peter Osborne

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Katie Tabeling contributed to this story.

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