Kathy's House among charities that will have to fundraise in different economic landscape

Posted at 7:03 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 08:03:16-04

Social distancing restrictions in place to try and slow the spread of COVID-19 have put a stop to people gathering at restaurants, bars and festivals.

They've also forced the postponement or cancellation of large events, even those for charities.

"We had to cancel our gala, which is our largest fundraiser of the year," said Patty Metropulos, President & CEO of Kathy's House. "Future events, like our golf tournament in October, those are also unknown right now."

Kathy's House is a nonprofit that serves patients of all ages, and their caregivers, who have to travel to Milwaukee for medical care.

Metropulos said many of the patients who stay at Kathy's House are undergoing treatment for cancer and other long-term medical conditions.

She said patient surveys have showed 40% of people at Kathy's House believe they would not have access to the medical care they need without an affordable place like Kathy's House to stay at. The house recommends all patients make a donation towards their rooms, but doesn't have a set, minimum contribution.

The house contains 18 rooms. But due to COVID-19, the nonprofit has limited the its capacity to half of that.

Only two staff members at a time are permitted in the house, which is undergoing extra cleaning these days.

Normally, volunteers from a group of roughly 300 people rotate in and out of Kathy's House to staff it. To promote social distancing, that's no longer happening.

"We’ve suspended our volunteer program. That’s been one of the biggest changes we’ve made," Metropulos said.

With the loss of the gala, which normally raises at least $100,000, Kathy's House is now faced with the challenge of making up that revenue.

Metropulos said the gala's main sponsors have agreed to match contributions up to $50,000, which could get the group to that $100,000 mark.

But with so many Americans taking a financial pummeling in recent weeks, Metropulos acknowledged fundraising is more difficult these days. She said that's likely to continue even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides and the community begins to rebound.

"There's this question of, 'What's going to happen in the future?' We don't know what fundraising will look like," she said.

But she thinks the post-COVID-19 world will result in more demand at Kathy's House - even if money is harder to find.

Many medical procedures deemed non-essential, even if they are important, have been postponed because of the virus.

"What that's created is a tremendous backlog," Metropulos said. "So we know that when we start to reopen, there will be tremendous demand for Kathy's House as those procedures are rescheduled."

In the next couple of weeks, Kathy's House hopes to break ground on its new house. The new facility will double the current capacity.

While fundraising at the moment is focused on operating expenses, and offsetting the loss of the funds from the annual gala, the organization will soon resume fundraising for the new house.

It's so far collected $10 million of its $12 million goal for that purpose.

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