So what does that mean for fundraising professionals like yourself? For much of 2020, it meant transitioning to solely virtual fundraising efforts. But as the vaccine continues to roll out and we’re slowly getting back to a new normal, more and more organizations are looking to reintegrate in-person fundraising events into their overall strategies. Let’s discuss these three best practices to ensure your organization and its guests can reap the benefits of a successful event:
- Incorporate virtual fundraising elements
- Plan for social distancing
- Require attendees to sign liability waivers
Let’s imagine you’re an event coordinator at a mid-sized charity called Supplies4Students that’s raising money to provide underprivileged families in your community with the school supplies they need. You’re planning your annual fundraising auction ahead of the following year’s back-to-school shopping rush, and you and your supporters are looking forward to the big event after your team canceled it in 2020.
How can you make this fundraiser a safe and healthy environment for attendees? Let’s jump in.
1. Incorporate virtual fundraising elements
As you know, virtual events have seen drastically increased demand in the last year due to COVID-19. But even before the global pandemic, these tech-based strategies were becoming more and more popular due to increased reach and accessibility.
If you want to incorporate virtual elements into your nonprofit fundraisers, you have two main options:
- Fully virtual events that take place exclusively online. In the case of your upcoming Supplies4Students fundraiser, your team could house your auction entirely within an event website or bidding app. This way, participants can bid from their mobile devices in the comfort of their own homes. These events might even include a live-streamed segment where participants can virtually bid on big-ticket items in real-time!
- Hybrid events that incorporate both virtual and in-person elements. For a hybrid auction, you might host your fundraiser with options to participate both in-person at the venue or online with a mobile bidding app. This allows your event attendees to support you in a way that they’re comfortable with. For example, your vaccinated supporters could come out for in-person interaction, while those who want to play it safe can still get involved from afar.
Just remember, both virtual and hybrid fundraisers are dependant on powerful, innovative technology solutions. And thanks to the wide availability of affordable nonprofit technology, even smaller and growing organizations can equip their teams with the right tools to do so.
2. Plan for social distancing
Suppose you do choose to host an event with an in-person element, whether entirely or with hybrid components. In that case, it’s essential to plan your fundraiser with social distancing guidelines in mind.
While an in-person auction might not be considered a typical social distancing fundraiser, it is possible to plan and pull off with health and safety protocol in mind. Here are a few tips for doing so:
- Choose a large enough venue that you can spread out chairs and tables, allowing for at least six feet between parties.
- Consider hosting your event outdoors to ensure increased ventilation.
- Limit your attendance numbers and practice contract tracing.
- Request (or require) that attendees wear face coverings for the entirety of the event.
- Opt for hands-free alternatives (for registration, check-in, etc.) whenever possible.
For example, you might choose to host your Supplies4Students charity auction at a large outdoor venue. Guests may be seated at tables of no more than six guests from the same household, with ample space between parties. You encourage attendees to pre-register for the event online and check-in via QR code once they arrive on site.
By minimizing the number of in-person touchpoints between event attendees, volunteers, and staff, you can set your fundraiser up for successful social distancing. And thanks to innovative technology like these, contactless solutions are more accessible to implement than ever before.
The bottom line? Planning social distance-friendly events can help you reach your fundraising goals while also protecting your team and its guests.
3. Require attendees to sign liability waivers
Regardless of the extra precautions you take to keep your guests and team members safe, there’s no removing liability altogether. That’s where the release of liability waivers come in.
Release of liability waivers—also known as hold harmless agreements or liability releases—are legally-binding contracts formed between a guest or activity participant and the organization putting on the event. By signing the agreement, two critical things happen:
- The signer explicitly acknowledges that they understand the risk(s) involved in the event or activity.
- The signer explicitly releases your organization from any potential liabilities should they be harmed in any way.
Taking things one step further is online waiver software. Rather than having a volunteer handing out paper forms, pens, and clipboards to sign their liability waivers (and thus increasing close person-to-person contact), guests can sign online waivers completely hands-free.
According to Fundly’s guide to online waiver software, “Online waivers have further evolved over time to help organizations create more complete and informative waivers, add additional identification precautions, and overall improve the processes for collecting waivers.” And that was before COVID! Now, it’s even more critical that you invest in keeping your guests safe and your organization protected.
Imagine in the worst-case scenario you find out after your Supplies4Students event is over that Sally, an auction attendee, has contracted COVID-19. She believes she was exposed to the virus at your fundraising event, despite your best efforts to mitigate risk. You know your organization is covered because you can quickly pull Sally’s release of liability form where she has absolved you of any liability. You wish Sally the best and know your fundraising dollars are going toward your mission rather than getting caught up in a costly legal battle.
About the Author
Daryl McCarl is the Director of Business Development at Smartwaiver, the leading digital waiver service trusted by thousands of organizations around the world.