As signature annual black-tie fundraising galas and cocktail receptions succumbed to COVID-19 shutdowns, stay-at-home months and crowd restrictions, local nonprofits got creative. Hello virtual philanthropic world.

Signal online bike rides and runs, bidding online for familiar silent auctions, cooking together on Zoom and Facebook, watching delightful videos of work done by groups, and supporters celebrating together with part of the audience from home in yoga pants and others socially distancing with small groups of masked friends.

Donations and paddle raises come in with clicks on keyboards or by phone. And there’s more to come.

Realizing early on that their popular annual Gingerbread & Jazz wouldn’t be possible in 2020, Early Connections Learning Centers created Beyond the Plate for a virtual cooking and wine evening June 27.

Plans were for 50 guests but it did even more than sell out, it turned people away after 86 reservations came in.

Youngsters at Early Learning centers had painted boxes to be filled with dinner ingredients at Cravings Catering and delivered to homes by volunteers.

The menu: tri tip sirloin, roasted baby bakers potatoes, roasted asparagus and flourless chocolate torte with fresh berries. To sip with the meal: Chappellet wines from Napa Valley.

The colorful boxes contained all directions and hungry participants watched their screens to follow along with chefs Kathy Dreiling and Michelle Talarico. Besides cooking instruction, there were handy tips to watch including carving the tri tip (on the grain) and how to use the steel utensil to keep good knives sharp.

While dinner was in the oven, Jim Little of Coaltrain and Mike Bell offered a wine guide short class, describing the red and white from the Chappellet family winery. There were also “Our Future Begins Here’’ videos starring youngsters at the centers, which served 570 little ones last year.

Virtual host Scott RC Levy led guests through donations, including “Raise the Virtual Paddle,” and the evening raised more than $76,000.

Also going virtual was Homeward Pikes Peak’s Dinner in the Dark, which last year was in a party tent on Myron Stratton Home campus.

On June 25, supporters set out meals picked up from The Picnic Basket and shared them at home with family as they watched the program. This demonstrates, said Executive Director Beth Hall Roalstad, “how the community can come together no matter what.”

Featured via Zoom were those in the nonprofit’s Project Detour and Bloom Recovery Home programs, which focus on women working toward self-sufficiency. Roalstad introduced one success story who said if it hadn’t been for Bloom her child would have been taken away. The women shared how many months they had been sober, how they have found jobs and gained life skills.

The goal for the evening was $25,000.

In May, several nonprofits moved their planned events online. The CASA Light of Hope breakfast and lunch was changed to virtual and raised $110,000 for trained advocates who become the voices for abused and neglected children.

Kidpowers’ popular Chocoholic Frolic became a FAUX Frolic online, raising $22,000 for programs to empower youngsters and keep them safe. Chocoholic Frolic has been moved to 2021.

Junior Achievement’s “A Night to Celebrate the Spirit of Entrepreneurship” went to Zoom, raised more than $50,000 and has been seen by more than 200 people. Honorees who shared their entrepreneur stories in a speaker series were Jessica Fierro, head brewer and owner, Atrevida; Arturo Acosta Chavez, owner, Araco Concrete Contractors, LLC; and business partners Russ Ware and Yemi Mobolade, Wild Goose Meeting House and Good Neighbors Meeting House. Their stories: Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado Facebook.

Virtual nonprofit fundraisers planned:

• Off the Street, The Place, a former affiliate of Urban Peak. July 16, 7:30 a.m. It has been an annual early morning tradition for 1,000 supporters helping homeless teens out of homelessness to enjoy a fundraising breakfast under the Colorado Avenue bridge. Enter COVID-19 and it’s going virtual. While starting the day with breakfast at home, stream live to learn “the why” of The Place from those who live it. Donations will be made at

• Fur Ball, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. Aug. 1 It’s their signature fundraising gala, with a virtual 2020 adjustment. Replacing a black-tie gala with hundreds of animal lovers, it’s a blended night with a livestreamed broadcast for several hundred, and some donors and sponsors hosting small, socially distanced house parties. The live/silent auction launches the week before for bidding and that night everyone can participate in a “raise the paddle” for donations to support homeless, abused and neglected animals.

• National Mill Dog Rescue Virtual Dog Jog. Aug. 22, 9 a.m.-noon. Pups and their humans won’t be packing into Cottonwood Park this year for this lively fundraiser. Instead, they’ll be heading out on their own to run “at a park, around your neighborhood, in the mountains, or at home on a treadmill.” Run or walk, then go online for activities, visits with rescue supporters nationwide, shopping from vendors and seeing lots of doggies. Register for Dog Jog 2020 Facebook Group at

• Special Kids Special Families Night of Comedy, Oct. 10. Virtual. Supports Zach’s Place program for kids with disabilities. Comic Steve Mazan. Silent auction.

Send nonprofit event information to

Load comments