Local Nonprofits Get a Boost from Cape Ann Community


On Cape Ann, where there is a need, the community always seems to respond.

That is the message received by numerous non-profits located in the area from those who live in it.  In an age where inflation and COVID pose barriers on a daily basis to accomplishing traditional goals and benchmarks, local non-profits have gotten creative, and the community has responded.

In some cases, overcoming those barriers was crucial to meet a need that seemed higher than it had been in some time.  For example, take a look at Gloucester-based Open Door:  Even with a small bump in fundraising, the need for nutritional support on Cape Ann has expanded exponentially.

“Even as we finished slightly ahead of our fundraising goals for the first two quarters of our fiscal year, our food costs spiked and our holiday basket program saw a 49% increase year-over-year, for a total of 3,378 baskets this year vs. 2,267 last year,” explains Open Door Executive Director Julie LaFontaine.

The need was certainly there for ACTION, Inc., and their annual Cape Ann Kids Holiday Fund.  Run in partnership with fellow non-profits Wellspring and Pathways to Children, the fund raises money for families looking to provide gifts for their children during the holiday season.  Provided in the form of a Visa gift card.

“Our community has traditionally responded to the need, and they continued with that great response,” explains Kristin Macek, Director of Marketing and Planning at ACTION, Inc. “Over 1,200 families were served, and the donations were coming in, but maybe not as large as they have been in year’s past.”  Inflation has had a profound effect on the local residents – with the need for assistance continuing to expand on Cape Ann - and on the non-profits aiming to provide that assistance as well.

“The donations were coming in, but maybe not as large as they have been in year’s past,” explains Macek.  “That’s due to inflation and a rise in utility rates.  We were able to reach our final goal due to all of our outreach efforts, but it was touch-and-go at first, initially.  It’s been a tough year for a lot of people.”

“We are in the business of connecting people to good food when hard times come, and this year’s inflation has put tremendous pressure on households across the region,” says LaFontaine.  “We are preparing for an increase in request for food assistance throughout the winter months and into the spring.”

These factors – especially COVID – posed a challenge for nonprofits dedicated to preserving and educating about our local history.  The Cape Ann Museum launched a new campus right during the height of the COVID epidemic and lost the ability to host in-person events and programming.  It was a similar situation for the Manchester Historical Museum, a group that softened its focus on membership during the COVID era. 

At the same time, however, the museum had a change in leadership and named Robert Booth as executive director, who changed up much of the museum’s programming to place a focus on Manchester’s working-class heritage.  The move worked, and last year the museum saw record giving in its annual appeal.  But higher giving came from fewer donors.  Booth said this year the museum wants to expand membership, especially this year, as the museum will celebrate its Bicentennial.

“The health of the Manchester Historical Museum is its reach and relevance,” said Booth.  “And that is about a wide, strong membership base.”

Getting creative has provided some of these non-profits with the opportunity of tracking down the funding they need.

“Our fundraising plans for this fiscal year have stretched to help meet the community need in a COVID era,” says The Open Door’s LaFontaine.  “We have had to find creative ways to modify our in-person events like the Empty Bowl TO GO and limited seating at our Autumn Breakfast.  We have doubled down on our mission and the community has stepped up to help.”

To give their program a boost, ACTION, Inc. teamed up with other local institutions to help get the word out.

“We participated with 1623 Studios on a fireside chat with our partners to get the word out about fundraising,” says Macek.  “We went to grocery stores on busy Saturday mornings to raise awareness and get donations.”

“Something we did a month or so ago, the museum held an event which we called the CAM Luncheon and had over 200 people here,” explains Cape Ann Museum Director Oliver Barker.  “We were looking to support our education programs here at the museum to engage eighth graders, and we raised $75,000 in one afternoon.  These are targeted initiatives seeking community support.”

The CAM has not only managed to keep going in spite of the challenges posed by COVID and inflation but actually increased interest and funds:  The annual operating budget for the museum went from $1.8 million in 2018 to $2.8 million in 2022.

“The community has been generous in recent years in keeping us afloat,” says Barker.  “As a non-profit, it’s a challenge to raise money, and we’ve seen an increase in gifts and an expanded membership program.”

Things have also turned around for the MHM, thanks to the return of some events like historical re-enactments and the appointment of a new director.

“We have an annual appeal going right now - it started in mid-November – and we’re doing fairly well,” says Chapman.  “Our numbers, the dollar amount, are higher than last year.”

Those membership numbers are also increasing.  “We haven’t changed our membership amounts yet, but we’re seeing a forward trajectory for our

membership,” adds Chapman.  “We’re hoping to claw our way out of the hole we dug during COVID.”

All of this is good news because big things are happening this year with these organizations.  It’s the Manchester Historical Museum’s Bicentennial and a number of events are planned to celebrate with the community; The CAM has a large-scale Edward Hopper exhibit slated for later this year, bringing 36 pieces of the artist’s work to town, along with events like this weekend’s “Gloucester’s So Salty”; and Open Door continues to fundraise for a new commercial production kitchen.

“We are fortunate to live in a generous community where neighbors help neighbors,” says Macek.  “Whether they are getting something through our program or another program in the community, I’m grateful for the strong community support we have here.” 

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