May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

When Should You Cancel (or Postpone) Your Special Event?

There comes a time in virtually every fundraiser’s life when he or she is faced with a crisis that threatens staging the nonprofit’s special event. At such times, the dilemma may revolve around canceling or postponing a special event that may have been months or even a year in the planning.

For the purposes of public disclosure, I never canceled or postponed a major event, but came awfully close.

Let me state from the outset that I faced two such crises. Remaining calm, cool and collected was what got me through both, but it’s always easy to say so in retrospect. Serious heart palpitations, sleeplessness and profuse sweat under the brow were probably more what I experienced than I care to admit. Let’s go back in time and relive these nightmares.

I worked for one organization for whom I ran the annual golf outing. Our tournaments were always sold out and we generated significant revenue from these events. At first, we sold 144 player slots that encompassed one golf course. Subsequently, the tournament became so wildly popular that we had to use two golf courses to accommodate the many players who signed up. It was a great fundraiser as well as a wonderful public relations and marketing tool.

These events usually occurred on a Monday since most of the country clubs consider it an “off day,” when their memberships do not golf on their course, which opens up the club to nonprofits and others who rent the course for the day. By the way, no one went hungry at these golfing events because the day started with a lavish breakfast, followed by sumptuous barbeques on the course at three converging holes. After the players came in, they repasted over an exquisite cocktail hour with pass-arounds, carving stations and hot chafing dishes. All of this ended with a grand awards banquet that featured the finest steaks and other gourmet dishes. Hungry you were not.

The golf event I ran was at a beautiful club in Westchester County. I remember driving on the Merritt Parkway at 7 a.m. that day looking out at a blue sky and a radiant sun. What occurred the preceding week is what rocked my world that morning. The club manager called me and asks the following question: “Norm, would you mind if we postponed the golf tournament until next Monday?”

I am thinking: “OMG, OMG, OMG!!!”

Instead I responded, “What seems to be the problem?”

The manager then tells me, “Well, Norm, as you know, we have had serious rain during the past week, and the seventh hole, among others, is under water. Our drainage system is overwhelmed. My groundskeeper informs me that no one can play under these conditions.”

I am thinking: “OMG, OMG, OMG!!!”

Instead I responded, “Frank, I am only a few minutes away. Why don’t we assess the situation when I get there?” He reluctantly agreed, but also said it was unlikely play would take place.

“OMG, OMG, OMG!!!”

I immediately contacted the executive vice president and president of my organization. The club manager contacted his board president as well. Time was short and a decision had to be made promptly. Keep in mind that I had folks flying in from out-of-state, as well as others coming from Long Island, Brooklyn and other parts unknown, and there was no way they, or their guests, could be contacted in time. Did I tell you about the heart palpitations?

As long as safety was assured, my executive vice president and board president did not want to cancel or postpone the event that was months in the planning. Their board president was reluctant to approve moving forward. When I arrived, we met with the groundskeeper, manager and had the other parties on a tense conference call.

To make a long story short, we agreed to a compromise. Instead of using golf carts around the course, all players had to walk the course with the exception of anyone with a heart condition, physical challenges or the like. They could use carts on the concrete covered areas but nowhere else. Well, at least everyone got their exercise on that sweltering summer day.

Space limits my telling you this month about the second crisis. I will save it for next month. At that time, I also will offer some practical solutions. Stay tuned.

By Norman B. Gildin

Norman B. Gildin has fundraised for nonprofits for more than three decades and has raised upwards of $92 million in the process. He is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization. He can be reached at [email protected].

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