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Dallas nonprofits cope with the cancellation of crucial fundraisers due to coronavirus

Dallas charities cope with fundraiser cancellations due to coronavirus

Paul Jackson, Melanie Jackson, Shawna Kuykendall, John Kuykendall, Brooke Jackson, Jeff Jackson
AWARE is already planning its 2021 gala. Photo by Dana Driensky and Rob Wythe/Gittings

Normally, this is the time of year when Dallas' philanthropic set are tying bow ties, slipping into gowns, and opening their checkbooks to support their favorite nonprofits at glamorous fundraising galas.

But COVID-19 had other plans. In the wake of orders to shelter in place, limit gatherings, and close venues, many of the spring society season's biggest events have been postponed or even outright canceled.

Not only is this no fun for attendees who were looking forward to celebrity speakers, exciting auctions, and open bars, but it can have devastating consequences for the organizations that rely on this crucial fundraising.

DIFFA/Dallas has already postponed its lavish House of DIFFA: Extravaganza party that was to be held in May, while the Mad Hatters Tea at the Dallas Arboretum and AWARE Affair have both been canceled.

The Junior League of Dallas canceled its "Deep in the Heart of Texas"-themed Auction Party, which was to be held on March 28 at The Statler.

"This event is one of the highlights of the year and it is also one of our biggest fundraisers, raising significant dollars for the JLD Community Service fund," says president Brooke Bailey. "Funds raised from this event send trained member volunteers and grants to 39 agencies across our city. It also benefits our three signature projects, provides scholarships for college-bound students, grants for innovative teaching programs, and a dynamic healthy eating program for students K-5.

"As this crisis evolves and in the months that follow, our community will need the League's support even more."

Equest, a group that works with horses to provide therapeutic treatments to kids and adults, canceled its April 25 gala as soon as the edict to stay at home was issued.

"The proceeds from the gala account for 15 percent of Equest's annual revenue," says a representative of the nonprofit. "This budget also supports the care of 30 therapy horses and maintenance of the Equest facility. Every table and ticket purchased is extremely important to provide hope and healing to the thousands Equest serves annually, including veterans and their families who receive services at no charge."

Gala chair Elizabeth Fischer and honorary chairs Lynn and Allan McBee say they are exploring hosting a virtual event, an option that may prove more popular if restrictions continue to limit gatherings.

Groups that are known for hosting big-name celebrities might also have to rely on creative technology to continue drawing in the donations. 

Instead of welcoming more than 500 supporters to its Pot of Gold luncheon at the Omni Dallas on April 17, Rainbow Days is putting keynote speaker, honorary chair, and former Dallas Cowboys star Darren Woodson on camera for a virtual luncheon in June.

Community Partners of Dallas was supposed to welcome legendary actress Diane Keaton to the popular Chick Lit Luncheon on March 27. Instead, organizers have to hope that their important work for Dallas and its surrounding areas will be enough for people to continue giving.

"Our annual Chick Lit Luncheon is our largest fundraiser in which the net revenue raised goes directly to our operating fund, which enables us to annually serve 20,000 children in Dallas county through our partnership with Child Protective Services," says CPD's vice president of development, Joanna Clarke. "While we do not yet know the impact that canceling our luncheon will have on our organization, we are incredibly grateful to all of our luncheon donors, many of whom have transferred their sponsorships and table purchases into a direct donation.

"We know that the children we serve will need us now more than ever."