Can't run events, what do we do?

Updated: Mar 14

I just received two charity event cancellations this morning and friends are telling me of cancelled conferences, workshops and planned programmes. With events not running, what can Events and Fundraising teams do to safeguard their programmes and minimise the risks?

First off read current advice from the IoF and the NHS. This is a great blog with lots of practical advice for Event Fundraisers: and this is a fantastic article written by Howard Lake full of life affirming tips and guidance: I really think it is one of the most wonderful things I've read about this whole crazy situation we find ourselves in.

There is a lot of talk of pushing Spring events into the Autumn and it is if I'm honest making me slightly twitchy. I get why it is being done. Income targets still need to be met. However, assuming we are through the worst of the virus by then and patterns of behaviour have returned to normal what does more events in September, October and November mean for the supporters? What does it mean for the events that are always scheduled for the Autumn? What does it mean for the events team who will be working on potentially twice the events? What are the other options?

In my opinion we should use this forced hiatus to review our programmes and maybe consider alternative activity. How else can your supporters show their support for your cause? There are a ton of what-ifs about this current situation and my fear is if we just push planned events in to the Autumn we risk overwhelming the calendar and our supporters and diluting their impact and the overall objectives.

So what can we do instead? As already documented in the IoF blog above you can use this opportunity to build stronger relationships with your supporters. Phone them where possible (a great working at home exercise!), explain your situation, ask for their thoughts about all this (they will certainly have them, because who doesn't?) Talk to them about alternative fundraising if it is appropriate to do. The work of your charity continues, the needs of the beneficiaries are still present.

Consider what the next few weeks (months?) with strict new lockdown measures would look like for your supporters. What would make their time at home more enjoyable, more useful, less worrying? How can you add value to their day?

Envision a time when this is all over. When you look back at this situation, what are you really proud of doing? What made a real difference to your work? What opportunities arose from this time and how did you maximise those opportunities? One of the recommendations I make in my work futureproofing events programmes is to suggest a 2 to 3 year event calendar. One year calendars encourage short term planning , prioritise easier wins and lessen the chances of long term success. A longer term calendar would allow for more testing, insight, feedback, learning and ultimately a more sustainable programme. As risky and disruptive as it sounds to make these unplanned changes, if your hand has been forced, perhaps this is the nudge you needed to do things differently.


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