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Second Story Shares Fundraising Changes, Challenges During Pandemic

As two drive-in movie fundraisers gather donations for Second Story, the local nonprofit is reevaluating how to seek support as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Based in the Merrifield area, Second Story helps kids, teens and young adults seeking food, shelter and emergency support.

Tysons Reporter caught up with Jade Leedham, Second Story’s vice president of development, to hear how the drive-in movie fundraisers happened, what fundraising looks like now and how their clients’ needs have changed during the pandemic.

Drive-in Movies 

Leedham said that both Tysons Corner Center and Capital One Center, which have been long-time supporters of Second Story, reached out about the drive-in movies.

Tysons Corner Center starts its series tonight (Friday) with movies on the second weekend of each month through September, while Capital One kicks off its four-week-long drive-in movies series tomorrow (Saturday). Both events are asking moviegoers to donate $25 to Second Story.

“It just kind of happened coincidentally at the same time from two of our main supporters here in Tysons,” she said.

Because Second Story is not co-planning the drive-in movies series, Leedham said it’s hard to predict what the donations might add up to.

“We don’t have any expectations, but we’ve seen some donations coming in,” she said. “For Capital One, I believe we passed $1,000 and there’s still a long time to go… I imagine it’s going to be a pretty sizable donation at the end.”

Leedham said that the donations will go toward supporting young people’s needs for food, safety items, toiletries and other essential items.

New Needs

Over the last few months, Leedham said she’s seen clients’ needs change. The nonprofit has had to significantly increase funds for rent support for participants in the program for homeless youth.

“That’s one big area that we’ve seen a hit,” Leedham said, noting that unemployment is impacting people’s ability to pay their rents.

Second Story has also shifted its asks for community support to gift cards and donations after seeing a decline in volunteers helping with things like food pick-up and drop-off and bringing in donations.

Leedham speculates that some corporate sponsors may now be seeing a loss in revenue or challenges with remote work, which could impact their contributions to Second Story.

“At the beginning, maybe they had enough to be able to do what they were able to do, but now they’ve got to start focusing on how to how to maintain their own businesses, which makes complete sense,” she said.

Even with fewer volunteers showing up in-person lately, Leedham says she’s still seeing a variety of support, from people starting online fundraisers to memorial donation drives.

“We had a teacher contact us recently because their colleague teacher passed away. They are doing a memorial donation drive because that teacher who passed away cared a lot about young people and especially homeless young people,” she said.

Some people were even able to donate personal protective equipment even when it was largely out of stock.

“I don’t know how they did it, but people were going out and looking for all of these essential items and bringing them to us. And so without that help, I don’t know how we would have been able to provide those things to our clients,” she said.

Sustaining Support

As Virginia rolls back COVID-19 restrictions and the start of the new school year approaches, Leedham said there are new, pressing concerns for people to grapple with.

“I just feel like the demand is just so high that it may be hard to keep up with the demand in terms of donating food,” she said.

To make sure people don’t forget about Second Story’s efforts, the nonprofit has increased its online marketing campaign and created a task force that alerts members of the organization’s immediate needs. Second Story’s podcast and newsletter also share how people’s support makes a big difference.

“We are trying to look for opportunities and help people to come up with fundraising ideas, while of course also relying on others to pitch ideas to us and just supporting them however we can with our materials and our branding and our videos and our messaging, so that they can represent Second Story in their own unique creative ways,” she said.

Second Story is also working toward a three-year fundraising goal that began last fiscal year. “As we go into the second half of the year here in 2020, we are doing our best and staying cautiously optimistic that we will have a great holiday season to sustain all of the things that we’re doing, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that COVID will have long term effects on everyone,” she said.

How People Can Help

Second Story is encouraging donors — if they have the capacity — to commit to the Beacon of Hope Society’s commitment to at least $1,000 per year for five years, Leedham said.

Leedham also hopes that people donating smaller amounts will be able to increase their contributions on a consistent basis.

There’s even a free way to help the nonprofit — by voting for Second Story on Apple Federal Credit Union’s list of four charities, Leedham said. The votes will determine how much each charity will receive from a pot of funding up to $100,000.

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