Last update on 03/18/2020
The spread of coronavirus is forcing nonprofits to cancel their core peer-to-peer fundraising events everywhere. Nonprofit executives and event organizers must weigh the cost of how this will impact their fundraising and how it will impact your mission. Further, organizations must brace for the oncoming ripple effect from the economy. With the stock market in flux - it makes donations uncertain in 2020 as well. While it’s important to consider worst-case scenarios, this situation may provide a catalyst for change and help mitigate risk, while turning a potential loss into a fundraising win.
You need to have a strategy to deal with coronavirus or any future public health concern. Most organizations likely don't have crisis plan lying around, so now is the time to develop the framework for this and future events.
All nonprofits should plan on investing in ways to future-proof your organization from revenue and engagement loss. Here are they key things we recommend:
Involve your participants in the solution.
Do not miss your opportunity to communicate how your cause may be impacted and what they can do to help. Your event day attendance and donation likely will not go unscathed no matter what. Reach out to your participants with a sense of urgency and tell them they are pivotal to help close the gap with urgency. Make sure this key message is sent to all of your participants and teams and tell them the steps they can do to help mitigate a loss.
Virtualize your most popular events.
Make this the year your organization dives into leveraging streaming technology that is connected to fundraising. Virtual events have often been an afterthought in the peer-to-peer fundraising world, but current events are bringing it to the forefront. St. Jude just announced they will “transform the St. Jude PLAY LIVE Summit into a digital experience”. If used well, streaming technology can provide a hedge for the risks of cancelling and provide incremental revenue opportunities in years ahead. Take time to discuss with your team what streaming needs to look like to represent your organization. Think about what is compelling to your community and build on that. Aim to achieve is keeping your community connected as best as you can. There are endless possibilities of how your virtual fundraising could take shape. It could be a modern day “telethon” your nonprofit hosts, you could let your participants showcase their talents through live streams or charity streaming, or it could even be a virtual recreation of your walk or ride.
We put together a new resource, breaking down the 6 methods to shift your cancelled fundraising event into a virtual event. Read here.
Optimize your digital donation methods.
If donations follow the trend of the stock market, nonprofits need to make every opportunity for a donation count, and do it everywhere. More payments are made on our phones now than on desktop computers, and digital payment methods like PayPal®, Apple Pay™, Amazon Pay™ and Venmo are on the rise. By offering convenient payment methods you can increase the rate of likelihood of completed transactions and capture more donations with a smooth transaction experience. Read more on how to increase online donations for your nonprofit.
Think about other donation campaign opportunities.
You may need to offset the loss you may experience this year from the coronavirus and it likely won't involve creating another event. Look to setting up a themed donation campaign or giving day on a key awareness day relating to your cause and don’t forget to lean in on GivingTuesday. Think about avenues that will spur giving through social media. For instance, if your nonprofit promotes mental health utilize “Mental Health Awareness Month” in October. Create a giving campaign in this period and make the ask for donations and awareness there over pushing attendance at your event.
Leverage Facebook Fundraisers with your event participants.
Facebook has proven to be a powerful fundraising tool and your fundraising platform needs to be integrated with it to make the most of your event day participants. If your event is cancelled you can extend the fundraising cut off date and they can keep the conversation going on this channel. The participants social connections who are auto prompted to support the fundraiser. Read more on how the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is increasing donations with Facebook Fundraisers.
Once you've determined your path, now your team must spring into action. Here are our recommendations to remember to execute moving forward.
When canceling/rescheduling an event remember:
Be authentic and communicate (preferably over video) with your community about the new plan.
Communicate that while the event is not going forward, your organization is still committed to the cause. Leadership must reassure their community work must continue and the community's help is still vital.
- Provide details on why this decision is in the best interest of your community. This may be where mentioning demographic risks come into play.
- Be prepared for disappointed participants and teams. Look for creative ways to recognize their efforts and passion and keep them engaged. Give special recognition in the form of virtual badges, or possibly partner with companies or celebrities to reward them via entertainment. Do something out-of-the-box and try to make it happen on the day of the canceled event.
- Be ready to invite them to participate virtually and to shine a spotlight on them.
- If you are rescheduling, be ready for participants to drop out because of conflicts, so have a virtual participant option ready to go for them.
- Train regional staff and volunteers on the basics of the technology you are using for your virtual event.
- Beef up your social media and virtual presence to try to capture as many digital donations as possible.
One final thought we wish to leave you with, as we hope the coronavirus spread dissolves along with the winter flu season, we want to emphasize again the paramount importance of preserving the health of your community today and always. Now is not the time to panic. Just as the Center of Disease Control and many health professionals are, we need to be aware, cautious, and make a plan to mitigate any potential disruptions to your events.
Read the updated guidelines for large gatherings from the CDC here.
We are keeping an eye on this situation and are continuing our survey as events progress. If you would like to participate and tell us your concerns and plans about responding to the Coronavirus outbreak you can take the survey here.