Giving Tuesday, and beyond, crucial as pandemic constricts cash flow and limits volunteers

Erin's Home, Washington City, Utah, May 7, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Following on the heels of Black Friday, Giving Tuesday is a celebration of generosity. Black Friday is all about making a buck, while giving Tuesday thrives on a broader palate of resources.

While their purposes are different, they have one thing in common this year: They have been severely affected by the pandemic.

Nonprofits across the country hoped to see an uptick in donations to offset projected losses in government funding due lost tax revenue. They also hoped to get the word out that they need much more than funding to keep their doors open.

Dawn McLain, coordinator at Utah Nonprofit Association, said the situation for nonprofits is dire.

“We knew in September that 20% of nonprofits in Utah would be closing,” McLain said. “Now, with this second wave of COVID-19, we could lose up to 30% of nonprofits. That’s a phenomenal hit.”

McLain said that nationally, the nonprofit sector generates over $1.1 trillion a year, accounting for 5.4% of our gross domestic product. In Utah, nonprofits contribute over $10 billion a year to the economy, which is 5.8% of our gross domestic product.

“Nonprofits employ 106,200 workers in Utah,” McLain said. “That’s 6.7% of our workforce. And somehow, nonprofits weren’t even mentioned at the recent Economic Summit. I just don’t get it.”

While McLain laments the struggles arts organizations are facing, she emphasized the importance of nonprofits who are tackling major societal issues, like poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“Nonprofits give so much to our communities,” McLain said. “It’s difficult to overestimate the variety of services they offer in Southern Utah. They offer help to those who need it. ”


One of those organizations is Switchpoint, located at 948 N. 1300 West, in St. George. Switchpoint’s services include a food pantry, counseling, a residential treatment facility for people suffering from substance abuse disorder, a thrift store, pet grooming, as well as a new 55-unit apartment complex.

Coral Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, at the groundbreaking for the Stepping Stones childcare facility, St. George, Utah, Oct. 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Switchpoint Director of Development, Linda Stay, said their goal is to tackle all facets of poverty.

Stay had high hopes for Giving Tuesday. While she hoped to receive donations, she also wanted something that is much harder to obtain.

“More than anything else, we need to get the word out,” Stay said. “Volunteers are the difference between continuing our mission and closing our doors.

Stay said Switchpoint suffered inestimable losses due to the pandemic.

“We lost a lot of resources beginning in March,” Stay said. “We lost 90% of our volunteer hours overnight.”

To put that into perspective, consider that Utah leads the nation in volunteerism.

“Over 51% of Utahns volunteer,” McLain said. “If we have 3.68 million people in the state, we have 1.64 million people who spend significant time volunteering. This strengthens the fabric of our communities, and brings us together.”

That loss pushed Switchpoint to its limits as they scrambled to find balance.

“We had staff trying to fill in the gaps for as long as they could,” Stay said. “It put quite a strain on us. We had to shut down computer labs, cancel classes. We really had to scale back to survive.”

Switchpoint has done a lot of outreach since then. In August, it started to pay off.

“Our volunteer numbers shot up,” Stay said. “And whereas our volunteers were generally the older crowd, now we had younger people coming in.”

Stay said that while she hoped Giving Tuesday would bring in $10,000, which an anonymous donor agreed to match, she feels it’s vitally important to get the word out about the wide array of services Switchpoint offers.

“We want to pique people’s interest in who we are and what we do,” she said. “We need more than money to keep providing these services to the community. We need people to get involved.”

As of Wednesday morning, Switchpoint had received $10,650 in donations. With the matching funds from their anonymous donor, their total rises to $20,650.

Dove Center

Princess Gutierrez is the Fundraising and Grants Manager at the Dove Center, located at 1240 E. 100 South Suite 221, in St. George. The Dove Center serves victims of domestic violence, which has seen an uptick since March.

Shonie Christensen, board member for the DOVE Center, reads the story of a local domestic violence survivor, who chose to remain anonymous, St. George, Utah, Oct. 9, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Markee Pickett, St. George News

“The need for our services has spiked since March,” Gutierrez said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, calls to our hotline have spiked.”

This is in contrast to the reported drop in domestic violence numbers. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine said that, while reported cases had fallen by 50%, it wasn’t because incidents weren’t happening. It was because victims of abuse were trapped at home with their abusers.

That’s where the Dove Center comes in. They provide shelter, transitional housing and counseling for their clients.

“With this increased need comes an increased need for funding,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve received pandemic help, but it hasn’t been consistent. It hasn’t kept pace with the community’s needs, which show no sign of slowing.”

Gutierrez said The Dove Center was hoping to get a few thousand dollars for Giving Tuesday, but they’re working toward an even larger goal.

“We set a conservative goal of $1,000 for Giving Tuesday,” she said. “But we’re in the midst of our end-of-year campaign, which runs the week before Thanksgiving, and on through January. We’re trying to raise $40,000 for that so that we can continue to offer these services to our communities.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Dove Center had raised $1,945.

Encircle House

Given the restraint of donors and the loss of revenue, Jacob Dunford’s goals may seem impossible. Dunford is the COO at Encircle House, whose mission is to provide mental health services to the LGBTQ community.

The Encircle House in St. George at an unknown date | Photo courtesy of the Encircle Facebook page, St. George News

“We provide services to youth, as well as families,” Dunford said. “Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth under 17, and LGBTQ youth are at substantially higher risk to commit suicide. We’re really focused on the whole family. You know, when a young person comes out, it can be stressful for the parents, too.”

Encircle already has locations in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George. Dunford’s goal is to raise $350,000 to open a center in Heber, Utah.

“It’s a conservative pocket in the mountains,” Dunford said. “They say we won’t make it there, but that just motivates me even more. There are people there who need the services we provide. We always build where no one else will go.”

As of this writing, Dunford said that Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons, had signed on with several others to match donations up to $120,000. By Wednesday morning, Dunford had already reached that mark.

“I’m confident that we’ll pull it off,” Dunford said. “When we came to St. George, they said we wouldn’t make it, nobody would come. Today, St. George is our busiest location.”

Dunford said that he’s always suspicious when he hears that an area is predominantly conservative and that nobody will utilize Encircle House’s services.

“We have our fiercest supporters in areas like that,” Dunford said. “We don’t take sides. We don’t push any particular ideology. We’re trying to see the humans behind all that. There are no sides, only love.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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