How Nonprofits Are Adapting to a Quarantined City

King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, FareStart, Plymouth Housing—each is changing in its own way.

By Nicole Martinson March 19, 2020

FareStart has closed its restaurant and cafes, but is ramping up its services from around 2,000 community meals a day to 15,000 meals. 

Typically, on March 6, donors would have spilled into the Westin’s ballroom for the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center’s Be Loud Breakfast. The annual fundraiser for the nonprofit, which provides services such as legal advocacy and trauma therapy to victims of sexual assault, raises a third of the year’s total funds. This year, though, in response to coronavirus, organizers abandoned months of planning and pivoted to an online fundraiser.

KCSARC’s virtual campaign is now roughly $23,000 from its $605,000 net goal (the fundraiser ends Friday night at midnight). KCSARC’s director of external relations Karen Sharp points to this as an example Seattle’s community strength. Like businesses, nonprofits across the city are scrambling to adjust their services and funding streams.

FareStart, which provides community meals and culinary job training for people facing homelessness, responded to Jay Inslee’s moratorium on dine-in restaurants by redeploying its resources. The restaurant and cafes temporarily closed, but the nonprofit is increasing its distribution of meals for multitudes now in need.

Marketing and communications director Stephanie Schoo said FareStart was supplying the community with roughly 2,000 meals per day a couple weeks ago. Now they are scaling up to deliver roughly 15,000 meals per day to homeless shelters, child care centers, and even King County’s quarantine facilities. If the demand continues rising, she said they are planning a call for regional restaurant employees—who have been hit particularly hard as Seattleites social distance—as backup support.

Plymouth Housing, a nonprofit that provides homes and support to people experiencing homelessness, was slated to raise $1.3 million in this year’s Seattle Dances—an event of cocktails, dinner, dancing—but shifted to a virtual campaign. Director of development Shoko Toyama said the organization is $500,000 short; it has a couple of days left. A dearth of funds may put the organization in a difficult position if more people begin experiencing homelessness (as more Seattleites are left jobless) and reach out to Plymouth.

Much like affected businesses, the question of whether nonprofits can stay open themselves arises. The economic reckoning in this city appears titanic, and plans are still being formulated. For the moment, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan’s civil emergency order prohibiting the eviction of small businesses for at least 60 days or until the end of the emergency also applies to nonprofits.

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