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Since 2012, Brighter Future Charity’s goal has been to provide those on the autism spectrum with lifelong assistance and aid to foster inclusion in the community. Hosting in-person events, like art fairs, field trips, and community outings, along with social and professional coaching, Brighter Future provides a sense of independence and empowerment to its participants. But for the Los Angeles-based non-profit, the dream has always been to serve those in need beyond the local community.
When COVID-19 hit, the group was forced to halt its in-person gatherings—but there’s a silver lining, thanks to some financial support in the form of a small business grant.
Due to the global pandemic, not only were the organization’s fundraising events put on hold (meaning a lot of its financial support has disappeared), the non-profit was also unable to adequately serve its participants.
“COVID-19 greatly impacted Brighter Future because we rely on social gatherings and events in the public, but when it hit, we were unable to function at the same capacity and provide support to individuals,” says Monique Sandoval, the fundraising and clinical director of Brighter Future. The organization had to quickly make a change to provide the same aid and support to participants and their families, while ensuring everyone is safe.
The team decided to quickly pivot to an online program, allowing them to continue providing social development skills to those on the autism spectrum.
Called Brighter Friendships, the online program allows those on the autism spectrum to continue to develop their social skills in the safety of their own home. Participants check the Brighter Future Instagram page for a daily challenge that provides rewards to those who complete it.
For instance, participants may be asked to post a photo of a friend or loved one they can’t see because of the pandemic and write a few sentences about what friendship means. Then, they jump on a Zoom meeting with Monique and others participating in the challenge to talk about it, provide support, and get guidance. And if permissible, they meet up in person to further discuss the challenges. This change has allowed Brighter Future to go beyond serving the Los Angeles community, as anyone, anywhere can be part of the challenges.
“COVID for us really helped us grow, helping impact more individuals than we were currently able to,” says Monique. “If it weren’t for COVID, I don’t know if we would have pivoted in that direction—maybe one day, but we had to do it a lot sooner than wanted. It has helped us greatly.”
Now, Brighter Future is looking to go international.
To expand its services, though, the charity needed financial assistance.
Unable to rely on its in-person fundraising events to help cover costs, the team needed help for payroll and launching the online platform, Brighter Friendships.
“Lendio had popped up a few times within my network, and so I applied with them immediately,” says Monique. “They were amazing. Any question I had, our representative answered it immediately, and never made me feel like I was asking a dumb question or incompetent in any way.”
She added, “If it weren’t for them, I don’t think we would have received funding, because in the beginning, a lot of nonprofits that applied didn’t get funded.”
Monique applied for a Lendio Small Business Grant in hopes of being awarded extra money for Brighter Future. When she learned her organization won $10,000, she was ecstatic.
“I was with my fiancé at home and they called me to let me know,” says Monique. “I was extremely emotional; I started crying immediately. It was truly something magical.”
The money has allowed Brighter Future to have an in-person social event with participants, which involved heading to the beach for an awesome water balloon fight that was a release for those cooped up at home.
“We were able to film it to create our campaign for our next fundraiser, because we learned that we may not have an in-person fundraiser in the near future. We are looking into doing a virtual fundraiser,” says Monique.
Now, Brighter Future has its eyes on the entire world.
“We learned from the online program how successful we are,” says Monique. “We want to go international and be available to any individual around the world, providing support and inclusion and connecting them to other individuals around the world.”
Andrea Huspeni is a New York City-based freelance journalist, editor, and PR media consultant. Prior to going out on her own, she was the Special Project Director at Entrepreneur.com, where she oversaw staff series and tent-pole projects, along with contributors’ posts.
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