Events Strategy: Maintaining Momentum in Uncertain Times – Bulletin 4
As we see the world responding to the COVID-19 situation, we know that there is a significant amount of uncertainty, and even fear, about what it all means and what we as organizations and professionals should be doing in our response. To help organizations answer those questions, KCI has created a Bulletin Series to provide timely advice about how you should navigate this situation as it evolves while continuing to maintain momentum in your fundraising programs and activities.
PIVOTING YOUR EVENTS STRATEGY
Much advice has already been shared about how to manage events at the moment, so here we will summarize key points and provide links to help you think about the best way to respond to your particular circumstances, both related to your upcoming events as well as your events strategy over the next six to 18 months.
- No one solution. In light of the current situation, there is no one blanket solution to what is the best way to pivot and adapt your events and your events strategy. The right solution will depend on a variety of factors, including the timing, purpose and revenue generation models of the events.
- Unbundle the objectives of your event. When determining the best response, it’s important to think about the event’s objectives separately. For instance, if it is a fundraising event, unbundle the fundraising aspect from the engagement aspect as this will help you to determine if there are distinct responses to meet each objective rather than the blunt ‘cancel, reschedule or make virtual’ solutions.
- Event type is an important factor. Some fundraising events lend themselves to moving to a virtual platform, while others less so and will require a different solution. Upcoming events that are cultivation and stewardship focused should also be viewed differently than fundraising events. In some cases, these types of events could make more sense right now as people are looking for opportunities to connect. But in others, the timing may be inappropriate and it’s important not to appear ‘tone deaf’ by undertaking something that feels frivolous or out of step. Filter all of your activities through the lens of “How will this be perceived at a time like this?”.
- Ask your key stakeholders what they think. Perhaps the most important piece of advice related to determining how to respond is to involve your key stakeholders in the conversation and decision. Get their perspective on what they think is appropriate before moving forward with a solid plan.
RETAINING AND REPLACING REVENUE
- Focus on net revenues. When it comes to event revenue, not all revenue is created equal. When thinking about retaining or replacing revenues from a fundraising event, focus on net revenues rather than gross. It is the net revenue from an event that is most critical for an organization to replace.
- Don’t assume revenue is gone. Depending on how your event generates revenue, think about ways that you can keep or generate as much as you still can. If it generates revenue through sponsorships or major donations, speak to sponsors and donors about maintaining their gift, offering to shift it to a tax receipted donation if they prefer. We are hearing from many organizations that they are having good success in these types of conversations. Or if you have big third party events, treat those who plan those events as major donors and reach out to discuss what can be done.
- Take a holistic view of the possible solutions. Don’t limit your thinking to just an event lens. Rather, think about ways you can use this as an opportunity to diversify your fundraising streams and replace lost event revenues in different ways. Make your case to one-time donors and ask them to become monthly donors. Tell them you need ongoing support considering the circumstances. Or seek to convert event fundraisers to donors. Reach out to your event fundraisers (i.e. walkers, runners who raise money for your charity) and ask them to make a personal gift if they can. Make your case about why you need their support and turn this into a donor acquisition opportunity.
- Reschedule later events to now. Another solution to replace short term lost revenue is to think of ways to get as much revenue as possible in the door as soon as you can. One could be moving up the execution of future events, particularly if they lend themselves to a virtual format, to an earlier execution date.
- Shift event to virtual. If the event generates revenue thru the event’s execution (e.g. an auction) or if it lends itself to a virtual version (e.g. a virtual walk or run), take the event virtual. If you’re trying to replace your event with something that can be done virtually, it doesn’t need to be a replication of what was initially planned. Think of something that would work on a virtual platform, and that is on brand for your organization. More on virtual events is shared below.
EXAMPLES OF WAYS YOU CAN VIRTUALIZE EVENTS
- Virtual Conference or Organization Hosted Livestream. Have the speaker you had booked deliver your messaging through a virtual conference. This way you can still have that real-time, authentic presentation. Software can even facilitate real-time donations during a conference. Instead of offering a meal, perhaps you could include a musical performance, a stand-up comedian, or a group game you could play online such as trivia.
- Virtual Walks/Bikes/Runs/Etc. Host your exercise-related event on a virtual platform rather than in person. Encourage participants to do their fundraising as normal. You can encourage them to complete fun challenges at home when they hit fundraising milestones (For example: getting on the treadmill, walking/running in their neighbourhood, doing burpees, climbing stairs, etc.) and get them to post selfies and share their activity in their social media networks. For the ‘live’ event, host a video conference or somewhere that participants can congregate live while they do some sort of at-home challenge live. Some examples of this include:
This practical ‘how to’ from Canada Helps on making your event virtual also offers some great advice.
And we will end all of our bulletins with these overall reminders…
- Prepare and respond…but don’t panic. Do what you can do. Much will be out of our control, so important to focus thought, effort and energy on what we can influence.
- Stay focused, positive and confident. Convey stability, confidence and capability in all your activities and communications, both internally and externally.
- No singular strategy. While steered by guidelines and best practice, the best strategies will be customized to individual institutions and their constituencies.
- We’ve been here before. Apply the learnings from previous emergencies and disasters. We’ve made it through times of crisis before and we will make it through.
- Don’t shut everything down. Maintain the course while making prudent adjustments to strategy and budget. We know from previous experience that those who do will emerge more strongly.
- Communicate. While not inundating stakeholders with unnecessary communication, now is not the time to go silent. Keep your constituents, both internal and external, engaged and informed.
We look forward to supporting you through these next few weeks and months, and our next bulletin will focus on scenario planning.