The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the routines and plans of everyone over the past year, and Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe is no exception. In addition to complicating tutoring sessions for LVSF clients and volunteers, the pandemic forced LVSF’s Development Committee to think outside the box for fundraising. One of LVSF’s long-standing fundraisers has been its popular Evening with an Author, an exclusive in-person event at a venue like the Lensic Theater or the Scottish Rite facility with a catered meal and an opportunity to be up-and-close with an author.

With pandemic restrictions, hosting an in-person event along traditional lines was out of the question. That left the LVSF Development Committee exploring new on-line options for the event. With the explosion of meetings occurring on the internet using the Zoom app, the natural question was: could Evening with an Author work on Zoom? How would the participants get their meals? How would LVSF handle potential technical challenges that participants encountered? Most importantly, would an online Evening with an Author attract sufficient supporters to cover LVSF’s costs and generate funds to support LVSF programs?

The Development Committee and LVSF staff agreed that the only way to answer these questions was to accept the challenge and try an April 30 online fundraiser. Working in LVSF’s favor was the fact that Evening with an Author’s headliner was Luis Alberto Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and author of the novel Into the Beautiful North. The novel is a tale of an irresistible young Mexican woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the international border. Mr. Urrea was a particularly relevant author for this event because he is most recognized as a “border” writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.” Into the Beautiful North also was a featured book this year for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read, sponsored locally by the Santa Fe Public Library. Evening with an Author was promoted through advertising, flyers sent by email, the LVSF website, a radio interview, and an article in The New Mexican.

The next challenge was the catered meal. For a memorable meal the committee turned to custom caterer Mi Santa. Chef Carmen Rodriguez, who has been selected by Bon Appétit Magazine to participate in the 2021 “Favorite Chef” competition, created a unique menu for the fundraising event to complement “Into the Beautiful North.” Arrangements were made to have the meals delivered to the homes of event participants.

In the end the event came off smoothly with more than 70 people participating. Moderated by Alfredo Lujan, the online discussion featured Mr. Urrea speaking candidly and movingly of his own cross-border experiences, the life of a writer, and of the real people on whom Into the Beautiful North was based.

Special thanks go to the Lannan Foundation and Guadalupe Credit Union for believing in LVSF’s mission and stepping up to be event sponsors. Their support insured that Evening with an Author was a financial success.

Given the event’s positive reviews, online events will remain an option in LVSF’s fundraising toolkit in the future. However, like you, we’re looking forward to resuming in-person fundraising events soon. Thanks to everyone who participated in Evening with an Author.