Amidst a global pandemic, many individuals and faith organizations are struggling to find ways to safely make a difference. Those who have previously hosted Alternative Gift Markets in-person are now faced with a number of decisions to make about how to proceed in uncertain times. While this has posed challenges, it has also sparked creativity and innovation. AGI has collaborated with volunteers from all over the country to brainstorm new and safe ways to enable communities to continue to make an impact and gift meaningfully.
There are many ways you can host a Gift Market fundraiser. While some existing Market types already allow for social distancing and minimize contact, such as Crowdfunds, others have been adapted to fit the times. Many organizations have previously opted to extend their Markets by setting up a table with Gift Catalogs for shoppers to collect and purchase gifts at home. Called a “Catalog Market,” this has now become a viable alternative to a traditional in-person Market. It allows shoppers to social distance and eliminates the need for a team of Market volunteers.
AGI traditionally sends a few Gift Catalogs to registered Markets, but there is now an option to order a much larger quantity of Catalogs for distribution by the Market host to congregants or shoppers. After the Catalogs are received, purchases are made online or over-the-phone, and the Market is credited with the purchases. As gifts are purchased, the cards and gift inserts are mailed directly to shoppers. This new type of Market, called an “Express Market” gives the host complete control and discretion to distribute Catalogs while also limiting interactions and allowing for social distancing.
As a convenience to Markets, AGI also now offers to send out Catalogs directly to a provided list of congregants or shoppers*, who can then purchase gifts online or over-the-phone and receive cards and gift inserts to their homes. As with the Express Market, the registered Market would receive credit for all gifts purchased. Called a “Direct Market,” this new type reduces the handling of Catalogs and permits shoppers to remain entirely at home throughout the process.
Another creative solution to safely host Markets during COVID-19 is a “Drive-Thru Market”. In this new Market type, AGI mails Catalogs to coordinators, who distribute them to congregants or shoppers. Rather than placing orders with AGI, they are placed through the Market coordinator and volunteers, who then pre-package the cards and gift inserts for each purchase. At a set date/time, shoppers drive up to a volunteer table in a parking lot and simply pick up their gifts.
As planning continues for the 2020-21 Alternative Gift Market season, creative ideas continue to be shared. Market coordinators are exploring new avenues and technologies to host Markets, including over Zoom or Facebook Live. Others are still preparing for an in-person Market but are adding safety measures and precautions. As these conversations continue, it is clear that people are still looking to make a difference in their communities and around the world, and AGI volunteers are helping to make that a safe possibility though innovation.
*AGI will not use the names, addresses, or contact information on provided lists for any other purpose.
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