Canadian artist Julia Gilmore exhibited her paintings during a past Birmingham Street Art Fair to benefit Common Ground.

Canadian artist Julia Gilmore exhibited her paintings during a past Birmingham Street Art Fair to benefit Common Ground.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Nonprofits get technical to stay afloat during COVID-19

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 20, 2020


BIRMINGHAM/BEVERLY HILLS — It’s been a tough year for most of us, but especially for those organizations that do a lot of good without getting much in return.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the kibosh on almost all of our favorite summertime  community events, even those that double as fundraisers for local nonprofit groups.

That’s the case for Common Ground, Oakland County’s 24-hour crisis and resource center for families, runaways and homeless youth. For several decades, the facility has hosted its annual Birmingham Street Art Fair in the open air of downtown Birmingham with hundreds of artisans in varying mediums. It’s become not only a kind of “farewell to summer” event for residents, but it’s also one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers, and it had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

“The news is unfortunate, since the art fair has been a tradition for the last 45 years for Common Ground, but we’re staying optimistic,” said Amanda Greco, the marketing and communications specialist for Common Ground. “Our annual Legacy of Home Breakfast was moved to virtual this year due to the pandemic but was still a positive outcome.”

Virtual engagement has been a key way to keep supporters involved during this period of special isolation for lots of businesses and nonprofits. The Shades of Pink Foundation, a Birmingham-based group aimed at giving financial assistance to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, had planned to host its largest fundraiser of the year at the Detroit Zoo Sunday, Aug. 2, with a few thousand attendants.

The virus, unfortunately, had other plans.

“We are hosting a live virtual event at our founder’s home (that evening), and we are planning a Wild Time at the Zoo-M,” she explained, noting that the Detroit Zoological Society has canceled all in-person events for the time being.

The Shades of Pink Foundation will go live on Zoom and Facebook Live at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 from the zoo for a “virtual walk.” Before the event, supporters are encouraged to continue raising money for the mission and to commit to walking 100 miles before the virtual zoo walk.

It’s like a walkathon, but socially distanced.

So far, the foundation has raised just over $90,000 of its $300,000 goal.

The parents at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Beverly Hills have a goal to hit, too. But asking families to come together for the school’s annual 5K fundraiser just isn’t a good idea currently.

“This has definitely been an unexpectedly turbulent year for us all. In these trying, unprecedented times, it’s really important for us — not only those in the education system — but everyone in our neighboring communities to focus on staying healthy,” Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Principal Jill Geden said in an email. “With the need to continue fundraising, it became important to figure out a way to continue doing so in a manner that would allow people to maintain social distancing.”

So they had to get a bit more creative. The 5K was swapped out for a virtual run, and they added for the first time an open-air scavenger hunt that can be done individually and judged virtually. On Aug. 15, participants will get a list of items they need to photograph. They’ll have from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. that day to snap pictures and upload them to the event page on Facebook to earn points for prizes.

“This scavenger hunt is a great way to safely get together, forget about all the trouble for a while and just have fun. And it’s for a good cause,” Geden said.

To learn more about Common Ground, visit

Want to help?
To take part in “A Wild Time at the Zoo-M,” to benefit the Shades of Pink Foundation, Sunday, Aug. 2, visit To participate in Our Lady Queen of Martyrs’ first scavenger hunt, you can visit the parish or school’s page on Facebook.