If yours is like most not-for-profit organizations, you depend on a big annual event to raise significant funds or attract new members and supporters. Every facet of your event must be perfect if you’re to reach your goals. But as any experienced event planner can tell you, almost no benefit, gala, meeting or conference goes off without at least a small hitch. And if you’re not prepared for the worst, a big hitch could ruin your fundraiser.
Making a plan
A crisis management plan can help you cope with major issues if they arise. Your plan should address:
Risk exposure. Review all potential exposures for the event, attendees and (if applicable) exhibitors. Plan for a range of occurrences, including severe weather, travel restrictions, natural disasters, fire, theft and terrorist attacks. Even if a possibility is remote, it’s still possible.
Insurance coverage. Go over your insurance policies and determine whether you have adequate coverage for special events. If you’ll be auctioning donated items, for example, you may need to cover them against theft. Also review contracts with vendors, hotels, facilities and performers for possible liabilities and ask vendors to provide proof of insurance with liability coverage amounts.
Travel. If you’ll have out-of-town attendees, encourage them to make plans through a preferred travel agency or website. Be sure to include emergency contact numbers on all itineraries and confirmations so that delayed individuals can get in touch with you easily.
Special accommodations. Determine whether your attendees have any special needs or vulnerabilities, such as language barriers, physical disabilities or food allergies. You may need to work with your vendors and facilities to provide special attention, assistance or security for these individuals.
Communications. Ensure that you’ll be able to contact employees and vendors on short notice by maintaining a list of email addresses and phone numbers.
Preparation is critical, but no amount of planning can prevent, for example, a natural disaster from causing the cancellation of your event at the last minute. With that in mind, consider diversifying your revenue-generating activities. Hold two smaller galas instead of one big event or conduct your membership drive online over a period of days or weeks. As much as it requires solid, analytical planning, event risk management also benefits from creative solutions.