Blue Jackets Foundation has contingency plan for community grants
The NHL lockout has a bigger effect on Columbus than just lost business for retail and restaurant operations.
Community nonprofits, which rely on grants from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation for their outreach programs, could lose out, too, if the lockout isn’t resolved quickly. The Foundation, who has two major fundraisers each year in the annual Golf Classic and the Blue Jackets Black Tie Style Show, relies heavily on in-game fundraising throughout the season to meet community needs.
No games. No fundraising.
“For the short term, we’re still operating,” said CBJ Foundation Executive Director Jen Bowden, adding they were able to raise $135,000 at the annual Golf Classic just before the lockout. “But we’re planning for both circumstances. If (the lockout) gets resolved quickly, how do we snap back and get back to our in-game fundraising? In the event that the lockout doesn’t get resolved quickly, what are the things we can cut back on?”
The board, said Bowden, has prepared itself for a rainy day like this by creating an endowment fund that they’ve put money in every year since its inception in the spring of 2000.
“It’s a pool of money we can always call on or tap into to meet the needs of the community,” she said. “It’s exactly for times like these.”
But losing out on in-game fundraising could become a concern further down the road when it’s time to award grants. The Foundation has awarded over $4 million in grants since 2000 to various community organizations. Last year, over 40 organizations received money from the Foundation to bolster their bottom lines.
“Our contingency plan right now is: we’re hopeful; because nothing has been canceled yet,” said Bowden, referring to regular season games. The NHL did cancel pre-season games through Sept. 30 earlier this week. They could start canceling into October if a new contract isn’t agreed upon by next week. That, said Bowden, is on the Foundation’s radar. Their first signature in-game fundraiser, Hockey Fights Cancer night, is scheduled for Oct. 26. It raised $25,000 last year for the Foundation.
“We met with one of our partners in that event, Ohio Health (Wednesday). They’re having the opening of their cancer hospital at the beginning of November. So we’re looking at ‘How can we be involved?’” said Bowden, adding the board is trying to come up with creative ways of fundraising off the ice to replace the Hockey Fights Cancer night. “There may be opportunities for CBJ staff to come out. We may be able to tie in with Nationwide Hospital and have the coaches come out and interact with kids on the cancer floor; it’s going to be a series of smaller events.”
The bright lining in all this, said Bowden, is that she knows if it comes down to it, she and her team can rely on the Columbus fan base to come together and help raise awareness and money for Central Ohio nonprofits.
“Groups like the Jacket Backers and Arch City Army are so, so supportive of everything we do. They’ve been awesome partners in helping us raise money,” said Bowden. “Once we start to get a better understanding of what this is going to look like, they would be natural partners for us. They’re a solid community that knows the work that we do.”
It’s a love and passion to support this club and its’ Foundation that makes Columbus’ hockey fan base so unique, said Bowden.
“Not only does the fan base support the Foundation, but the whole organization. We recognize that,” said Bowden. “I don’t know if it’s because this is the Midwest or Columbus but I can’t say enough about the fans and particularly the really dedicated ones. No matter what, they keep that spirit of what Mr. Mac’s vision was. Fortunate for us they’re still connected to that.”
Mr. Mac—the late John H. McConnell, who passed away April 25, 2008, was responsible for bringing the Columbus Blue Jackets to Columbus. His hope was that this club would lead the community by giving back to it, said Bowden. McConnell was responsible for establishing the Foundation as the philanthropic arm of the organization. He wanted the club to be an example of what good can come when people unite under one purpose: to make life better for those in need.
“It was Mr. Mac’s vision to do good in this community,” said Bowden. “We are 100 percent committed to making sure that happens; work stoppage or not.”
Bowden said for now, the Foundation is taking it one step at a time. Grants aren’t awarded till late in the season and she’s hoping for a resolution by then; but the board isn’t taking any chances, knowing they are relied upon by community organizations.
“We’re trying to be proactive in this,” said Bowden, who keeps open lines of communication with the public and the nonprofits. “We have plans in place.”
Fans who want to show their support can go online to bluejacketsfoundation.org and donate to the Foundation. The Foundation is also working on the possibility of bringing together the Columbus fan base on a large scale volunteer effort, wearing their jerseys, and showing solidarity to honor the community.
“We’re still hopeful this is going to get resolved quickly,” said Bowden. “We’re there for the community. We’ve prepared for the unexpected.”