Challenge our Thinking – Events Amid COVID-19

publication date: Mar 13, 2020
author/source: Ashlee Livingstone

As I sit here writing this article (with a large glass of wine), the reality of our world is quickly sinking in.

Today alone I’ve had three events postponed and several more “what to do” conversations and I anticipate my colleagues in the fundraising and event industries are facing similar situations.

While the answer to many seems simple - don’t hold your event, we know it’s harder than that. We’ve been working tirelessly on our projects, we have budgets to meet, programs to run and services to deliver.

Yet, we know the health and safety of our clients and their stakeholders is of utmost importance and with the recent announcements from WHO and our local governments, we can’t just wait and see anymore. The time for crisis planning and solutions for upcoming events is now.

At this point we need to be thinking about two things:

1. What steps can we take to slow the spread of the virus?

2. How can we mitigate the economic impact?

I started by working with my clients on drafting key messaging for their stakeholders and understanding what options are available for postponing the event(s).

By simply postponing the event, you are putting the health and safety of your stakeholders first and allowing an opportunity to gather, fundraise and engage once this storm has passed (and it will).

Review your current contracts to understand the financial implications if you cancel outright and then engage your suppliers in the conversation (by this point it will not be a surprise to them to be having this discussion) and this may help to strengthen relationships as you navigate this together. Collaborate with your partners to find alternative dates, push deposits and do business on good faith. This option should allow you to keep your sponsors and guests engaged without much (if any) financial loss as you will deliver the event at a safer time.

Alternatively, should a postponement not be an option, it’s time for us to get creative on how we deliver events. We immediately think events must be done live and in person to be effective, but in this climate we need to challenge this belief.

Consider options for virtual events utilizing live streaming tools, consider online fundraising (auctions, crowd funding, pledge-based support), and partnering with our local media outlets for opportunities to broadcast events in their studios – like the formerly popular telethon days! I personally think some of our event entertainers and MC’s would thrive with this challenge.

Take it one step further and keep the money filtering into the local economy by partnering with local restaurants and deliver meals to your guests with a login code for your live streamed event! An event in a box…. Delivered courtesy of your valued sponsors. Win Win Win.

You can still offer an event with impact AND keep your partners, clients, donors and staff healthy and safe!

2020 has been off to a rough start but we get to determine how we handle this and I for one think I will do it with a bit of optimism and creativity!

Ashlee Livingstone is an Event Revenue Specialist and partner in Our Forté 

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