Central Gardens opts for virtual garden party

Non-profits face fundraising challenge with creativity

by Marianne Gasaway

It’s been said that gardening is an exercise in optimism.  That’s probably never been more true— especially for those involved with Central Gardens of North Iowa.

Back in March, as businesses closed and people hunkered down in their homes due to COVID-19, it was hard to believe we would still be feeling the effects by summertime.  But here we are.  And non-profits like Central Gardens of North Iowa are facing the challenge of modifying their fundraising efforts to keep the public engaged.

A Summer Garden Party is Central Gardens’ largest annual fundraiser.  The June event is counted on to provide more than $14,000 to the gardens’ operating budget.  When organizers realized the party couldn’t go on as planned due to coronavirus restrictions, they decided to get creative.  This year the popular event has been turned into a virtual garden party.

Beginning Sunday, June 28, and continuing through July 4, the usual live auction of one-of-a-kind garden-related items, sports packages and professional services donated by local businesses, will be offered online.

The public can bid on a variety of items, sure to appeal to all.

There are also multiple opportunities to support the gardens through the sponsorship of programs, flower gardens, hanging flower baskets, beds and urns.  You could buy a personalized brick, schedule a time to rent the Nature Education Pavilion for corporate events, meetings or a family celebration, or sponsor a Picnics & Performances held on Sundays in the gardens.  You could even cover the cost of a summer groundskeeper— part-time employment for a high school student to learn horticultural skills by working in the gardens.

In addition to losing the on-site Garden Party this year, a Garden Fiesta typically held later in the summer has also been canceled in 2020.  The loss creates the opportunity for someone to step forward and pledge funds to be a named co-sponsor of the 2021 event.

“With no Summer Garden Party ticket sales this year, we are trying to be creative and raise money in new ways, while still having fun with the event, explained Summer Garden Party Committee member Danette Schutjer.  She suggested the cost of a garden party ticket ($45) might be a good starting point for donors, but added that all gifts to the gardens are appreciated and needed.  Membership is also welcomed and can be made

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