Any other year, nonprofits would be able to rely heavily on in person gatherings and fundraisers for their causes. But this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting many events, it’s different.
For Dismas of Vermont, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and supportive services for Vermonters transitioning to life outside of prison, this meant not being able to host their largest fundraising event of the year, usually raising around $40,000.
With that cancelled, Dismas is forced to forgo the money they would have made from ticket sales but is trying to get by with a goal of $5,000 at their online auction, open until Aug. 28.
The auction is acting as a stop gap measure for the organization, which says recovery from the loss of usual donations will be difficult and they are scrambling to find new ways to raise money while being safe.
“We’re probably like a lot of nonprofits and Vermonters,” said Kim Parsons, director of the Dismas house on Buell Street. “We’re trying to be innovative and figure things out.”
For a lot of the people who live at a Dismas house, transitioning to life outside of prison amidst a pandemic was shocking, Parsons said.
“There were a few people who came, who knew COVID was a thing, but when they got here and the governor’s order was in effect, that was really difficult,” she said.
The auction itself allows potential bidders to bid on a variety of items including gift cards to local restaurants and artwork by local artists.
“We tried to focus on items like gift cards that people could use in a COVID friendly way,” said Liv Townsend, who organized the online event.
All items in the auction were donated by various businesses in the state. In the beginning, Dismas staff were nervous reaching out to local businesses for donations knowing how COVID has affected many, however Townsend said the turnout was great.
“Really we were just blown away by the fact that people were still willing to donate,” she said.
Despite the obstacles Dismas of Vermont has in its way, Parsons said they are really fortunate for the community’s response.
“As difficult as it is for everyone, people still want to know ‘What can we do?'” she said.