St. John Bosco Catholic School in Ahwatukee benefitted from their excellent leadership and flexibility during the COVID-19 shut down.  Catholic schools depend on their spring galas to fund special projects, educational programs and to assist families. When the state shut down, due to the pandemic, St. John Bosco made a new plan for their spring gala.

Principal Anita Pettiti and Preschool Director Jamie Bescak had never hosted an online event before, but “Kickin’ it up for the Kids: An evening of Jazz and Generosity” gave them the opportunity to try.  Organization, using web tools, and building community were crucial to the event’s success.  “The event actually exceeded our expectations,” shared Bescak. “We ended up raising more money because net income was higher and expenses were low.”  Event sponsors also contributed to the event, even though it moved to an online format.

The event coordinators utilized video to showcase auction items, to share a message from the principal, and to allow students to express their gratitude for support.  While Bescak stated that the event was a success, she would prefer an in-person event in the future.  “Our community looks forward to getting together to support the school,” reflected the Preschool Director on the importance of togetherness.  There is something to be said for the momentum of a LIVE auction!

Bescak shared some advice for organizations and schools that plan to do online fundraisers in the coming year.

  • Introduction/Welcome and Thank You videos from the principal or other leadership are important.
  • Plan as early as possible to stay organized and proactive.
  • Deliver auction items within 3 days after the event.
  • Have a tech-savvy volunteer on the committee!
  • Offer additional benefits to event sponsors, such as promotional opportunities on campus, with families, online, etc.

While some schools cancelled spring events, other schools like Notre Dame Prep and Seton Catholic Prep pivoted to online formats as well.

Notre Dame Prep’s 2020 Reflection Online Auction ran May 4 through May 8. Kimberly Haub, Assistant Director of Communications at NDP shared that there were so many more people engaged in the online auction than have been during in-person events in the past. Some winners were not school affiliated—they just wanted to be part of a great event. “The greatest surprise of all was that the auction was very successful,” stated Haub. “We had to walk by faith and trust that the Lord would bless our efforts.  Our prayers were answered!”

The support for each school community was notable.  At Seton Catholic, the gala event has been postponed to August 29, 2020; however, the Cash & Tuition Raffle was moved online and streamed live on the date of the original event.  “I would have been pleased and maybe a little surprised with 300 raffle tickets sold, with or without the virus,” said Jim Pogge, Director of Advancement for Seton Catholic. “In the end, we sold 405, with a net beyond our expectations!”  New families supported the event, and momentum is already building for the August 65th Anniversary Gala for Seton.  While the virus derailed much of normal life as we knew it in the Spring, Catholic schools, notorious for their ability to spin gold from straw, experienced success in unprecedented circumstances.