For 47 years, Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM) has fought for fair and affordable housing, homelessness, economic justice, poverty, racism, quality education, health care reform, and criminal justice system reform. Every spring at MUM’s Partners for Change Luncheon, they highlight different programs that are run by MUM out of their offices on Madison’s south side and the impact they are making on the community.
Partners in Change also raises a ton of money to keep important MUM programs going. The annual event raised $80,000 for MUM last year and MUM Executive Director Linda Ketcham was hoping to raise $100,000 this year. However, the impact of Coronavirus, COVID-19, has led MUM to make the difficult decision to cancel the event that was scheduled to take place on April 30 at the Madison Concourse Hotel.
“Looking at the trajectory of how COVID-19 has spread and how the number of cases exponentially grows over a period of time … the whole goal is to slow the spread so we don’t overwhelm our health care system,” Ketcham tells Madison365. “Our program participants are some of the most vulnerable just because of underlying systemic racism in terms of health care access, underlying health issues because of years of incarceration or elderly people coming out of prison.
“Just in consideration of our own staff, as well, and our donors … it just makes the most sense that we cancel,” she adds. “It just seemed to us the most responsible thing to do for the overall health of our community.”
COVID-19 has created many unprecedented circumstances throughout the United States and world. Here at home, Coronavirus has had a serious effect on Madison’s non-profits and in many cases is hurting the most vulnerable members of the community whom they support. The “Partners for Change” luncheon is MUM’s largest fundraising event of the entire year.
“It was a difficult decision to make; we had a great speaker lined up from Minnesota. We may try to bring him to Madison for the keynote address at our annual meeting,” Ketcham says. “It’s a hard decision to make, but our neighbors are more important than money. We weathered the recession and we will figure out how to weather this.”
Fortunately for MUM, the Concourse discounted their $4,000 cancellation fee as a donation for the Partners for Change luncheon that they thought they would lose entirely. MUM had their newsletter all ready to go to print, too, highlighting the upcoming Partners in Change Luncheon. “We were able to snag it and pull that back at the last second,” Ketcham says.
Beyond the money lost, Madison-area Urban Ministry has concerns about its many programs – such as Journey Home, Mentoring Connections, Just Bakery and Healing House – that support those returning to the community after periods of incarceration, children with an incarcerated parent, individuals facing high barriers to employment, and homeless families in need of recuperative care.
“That is going to be the challenge. We need to keep the doors open so our services are still available. Some of our staff can work remotely, but this will affect us. We canceled our Sunday morning church sales for Just Bakery, for example. That’s another financial loss there,” Ketcham says. “It’s just one of those things where we’re going to have to figure out how to get through this together as a community and that includes the entire non-profit community.
“Those of us who provide direct services, we’re all going to be struggling,” she adds.
MUM has disaster plans in place for when a building burns down or a tornado comes through forcing employees to work at a different site. “A pandemic is a little different in terms of how you handle contact with participants,” Ketcham says. “Some of the pieces are the same, but we’ve had to kind of augment and supplement and work with staff to make sure they are calm and that we are getting information out to participants.”
Ketcham estimates that she spent over 25 hours last week addressing Coronavirus and figuring out how they can do things differently.
“And for non-profits, or any other business, you still have all that other work [to do],” she says.
In lieu of the canceled April 30 event, MUM will be planning a “virtual event” at another time to help donors learn of the work they do and the difference MUM makes in the community. For those who want to help make up some of the difference for the lost revenue from the Partners in Change cancellation, they can do so here.
“We just have to get creative. I know our fundraising committee and our development director [Kathy Eckenrod] are working on a virtual event,” Ketcham says. “Our Partners for Change are still with us, we’re just not having lunch together this year.”
MUM would love to have been able to reschedule Partners for Change but that’s a very hard thing to do.
“You try to bump something to another part of the year and you run into agencies that have their signature events and we don’t want to set up a situation where we are competing with a non-profit and their event,” Ketcham says.
“But we will be back next year,” she adds. “We are determined here at MUM.”