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2020 U.S. Venture Open pivots to new format in response to COVID-19

Last year’s U.S. Venture Open. Fundraising will go on to support increased need due to COVID-19.

This year’s U.S. Venture Open charity event will take a different form in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This year marks the 35th year of the event and while there will be major changes from previous years, the aim continues to be raising millions of dollars to end poverty in Northeast Wisconsin. Last year the outing raised $4.3 million and a gift of $925,000 from the David A. Thiede estate, totaling a record-breaking $5.2 million in the one-day charitable event.

“We remain committed to our mission of ending poverty because now more than ever, our community needs our help navigating a pandemic world,” said John Schmidt, CEO of U.S. Venture. “This event is more than a golf game, it’s a strategic and collaborative approach to helping people in our communities move out of crisis.”

Watch John’s full statement here:

In following CDC recommendations on social distancing, the 2020 U.S. Venture Open will forgo golf at multiple regional golf courses and the evening dinner at Van Abel’s of Hollandtown. Instead, the event will move into a space designed to educate, activate and inform donors about how the funds raised help the most vulnerable in our communities:

  • Online fundraiser, donate here or text USVO to 76278.
  • Online auction to run July 29 – August 12
  • Regional Media-thon fundraiser in partnership with WBAY-TV & Woodward Radio Group leading up to a day of celebration and fundraising on Wednesday, August 12. More details on the Media-thon and how individuals may participate will be forthcoming.

U.S. Venture underwrites all expenses associated with the U.S. Venture Open, so every dollar raised goes to help area nonprofits.

“Since the 2020 outing is pivoting, U.S. Venture made the decision to invest $800,000 as a matching donation to the dollars used for grantmaking,” said Greg Vandenberg, director of giving & community engagement for U.S. Venture.

Matching grants from regional partners are key to sustaining the work of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, which is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc. and other community partners. The J. J. Keller Foundation established a legacy of offering matching funds for grant making. Their $800,000 grant-making investment has been joined by other lead grant partners, including Oshkosh Corporation at $250,000, ThedaCare at $200,000, and the Thrivent Foundation at $200,000.

With U.S. Venture’s added $800,000 donation, the grant matching will increase to $2.25 million, effectively matching every dollar donated through the U.S. Venture Open in 2020.

“We all miss the celebration and fellowship of group events, but our collective resources are absolutely critical right now,” Vandenberg said. “Rising unemployment, the economic downturn, and other effects of the pandemic are hitting at-risk populations the hardest.”

The hundreds of nonprofits supported by the U.S. Venture Open and the Basic Needs Giving Partnership are all reporting increased demand for their services and many are seeing a decrease in revenue.

Patti Habeck, CEO of Feeding America said, “The demand has increased exponentially. In the initial weeks of the pandemic we saw a 125% increase in demand for charitable food. We are now sustaining a 67% increase. We anticipate distributing over 20 million more pounds of food than the previous year.”

According to Vandenberg, families who are employed, but living on limited assets with a constrained income are most at risk. These families often must make the choice between paying the rent or buying groceries, and one car repair or medical bill can push them over the edge. According to the United Way’s ALICE report families most affected by the coronavirus will be:

  • Unemployed or under employed,
  • Service sector workers who cannot work remotely from home and often work for hourly wages,
  • Low wage workers without health insurance,
  • Families with school-age children who are not in school or daycare, thus requiring one parent to stay at home,
  • Families with reduced or no access to technology including computers, Internet, etc.
  • Families who rely on school districts for low or no cost meals for their children,
  • Senior citizens who face social isolation, increased health concerns, and limited transportation,
  • Children and adults experiencing increased mental health issues as a result of stress, economic uncertainty, or health issues.

“There are about 4,600 nonprofits in Northeast Wisconsin that help at risk families and individuals,” Vandenberg said. “Their services are not funded by the government, but they provide an invaluable service to reaching our neighbors who are desperate and in survival mode.” Vandenberg said these organizations are in acute need of funding to meet increased demand.

A statewide survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater shows the pandemic will have significant, long-term effects on non-profit organizations. According to the survey:

  • 93% of Wisconsin nonprofits are worried about declining donations.
  • In Northeast Wisconsin, 57% of nonprofits have already obtained emergency funding grants.
  • More than 80% of nonprofits in Northeast Wisconsin are somewhat or greatly concerned about declines in revenue.
  • 69% of statewide nonprofits have cancelled fundraising events.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners. Learn more here.

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