Mayes Wilson & Associates

Is it time to start cancelling fundraising events?

Julie Whelan Capell |

Many of our nonprofit clients are wondering how long to wait before making a decision on cancelling fundraising events scheduled for this fall.

It’s a hard decision, doubly difficult if your annual fundraising budget is riding on a successful event.  Most organizations have cancelled all in-person events through July but are holding out hope for events scheduled for August and later.

Questions to help decide what to do about your fall fundraising events:

* How will event attendees feel about mingling with a large number of people?  If your audience is mostly millenials or Gen-Xers, they might be willing to attend an event once social distancing restrictions are relaxed.  But it is highly unlikely that people over sixty will be interested in large-scale events before a vaccine or other cure becomes widely available.

* If you postpone the event, how will that affect your income? What if the secondary date doesn’t work out? If the event income is essential to your bottom line, it might be too risky to postpone. Switching to one (or more) virtual events on or around the original dates might make more sense financially.

* What is the goal of the event? Is it to raise $XXX?  Connect XXX people to your mission?  Can you achieve these goals without doing the in-person event?

* How much staff time will it take to reschedule the event for a new date, versus switching to a virtual event on the original date?

No matter what you decide to do, be sure to involve your sponsors every step of the way.  Many foundation and corporate sponsors may be willing to be flexible and redirect funds from your event to urgent, virus-related needs, but don’t assume.  Ask, and take the opportunity to tell them how the virus is affecting your organization, negatively (losing revenue) or positively (serving more people).

Every organization has to make the decision to postpone, cancel or pivot to virtual for itself.  Let us know how you’re handling upcoming events, and as always, reach out if you need more help on this or other fundraising questions.