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year or your money back.

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Help! Should I Refund Tickets to My Canceled Event?

“We had to postpone our indoor mini golf fundraiser due to COVD 19. It was a three day event and we had approximately $15,000 in sponsorships- national sponsors to small local companies- the most successful fundraising drive yet- and that does not included what we would have brought in with raffles and tickets at the door.

We fully hope to have the event….unless social distancing makes this impossible in the future.  No one has asked for their money back, but as the months move on, what should we do?  The event was to be the weekend of  March 27, 28, 29.

The money is raised by the Friends of the Library to support programming and other needs not covered by the library budget.

Should we give back the money and seek a grant instead? Should we just wait……? What are you hearing other places doing?

Thanks- any advice appreciated!”

You are faced with a challenging and very exciting opportunity. My recommendation is to approach this year as an outstanding chance to embrace technology and try new things. (Communicating with donors and event attendees is really easy with Network for Good’s fundraising software). But with or without software, here is what I recommend:

Step 1: Reduce uncertainty in your life and your community and make a decision on whether to reschedule the event. Convene your Board and really think it through. Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  • Can we meet sponsor expectations with fewer attendees?
  • Could we survey last year’s attendees to see if they would be interested in attending this year?
  • Will we provide masks to attendees?
  • Will we insist they wear them while indoors?
  • If food is served, will guests remove masks to eat and replace them with new masks to socialize?

Step 2: Identify a minimum of three ways to raise awareness and support for the Library that do not require an in-person convening of 50 or more. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fun for the entire family – let video gamers lead the way and launch a fundraiser on Twitch
  • Virtual Book Club – on-brand and a great way to raise awareness for the joy of reading. You could organize by age, interests, or preferred meeting time. Manage time and expense by inviting a Board Member or Volunteer to participate in each one. As a bonus, invite authors to join the group’s last meeting. Charge a reasonable fee to join the club or offer it for free with a recommended donation.
  • Create a donor challenge – ask existing donors to help you maintain the same level of support for the library in these unprecedented times.
  • Launch a monthly giving program by focusing on all the wonderful activities that take place because of the library each week.

Step 3: Start a dialogue. Make sure to stay in front of everyone previously invited to the event at least twice a month. Be transparent about how the event was on track to be a record-setting year for the library. Launch an education email and social media series to highlight what previous events have provided for the library and include sponsor testimonials. Talk about the adjustments underway to reopen the library and reduce risk to future visitors. Ask the audience – a million great ideas exist in every community. Add a form to your website for visitors to submit innovative ideas (and promote this form on social media at least once a week).

Please do yourself and everyone who cares about your organization a favor and act fast. Focus exclusively on what you can control. Eliminate uncertainty and adapt to the current situation. As a library enthusiast, I wish you the best in this very important endeavor! Please write back with your success stories!

Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.

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