Canceled Fundraising Event: 5 Steps to Recoup Money

Aug 13, 2020Fundraising

canceled-fundraising-event Fundraising

You can make up for losses due to a canceled fundraising event. Not everyone is hurt financially by the crisis. Certainly, consider individuals and corporate circumstances and ask appropriately.

Now, listen to this from what happened to a student in my course — a donor picked up the tab on a canceled fundraising event in March at the tune of $350,000.

That’s what happened when this donor inquired about how much the annual benefit netted when he heard the event was canceled. 

Indeed, you may have just planted your head in your hands upon hearing this story. “Why can’t this happen to me?” you ask.

Attitude and Behavior of Lost Revenue from Canceled Fundraising Events

Well, it may not happen to you, but it does provide a few lessons learned:

1 – Be open and transparent about how much money is lost from your canceled fundraising event.

2 – Don’t underestimate the power, desire, and capability of loyal supporters.

3 –Ask yourself, “Could I asked one person for their support equal to the net amount received from our annual fundraising event?” 

Yes, you can!

Needless to say, so many nonprofits are spending hours and hours planning and carrying out fundraising events, only to net little revenue. 

But for those critically dependent on funds from their events, you can make up for the losses.

Clearly, if those who believe deeply in your cause know what’s at stake from the canceled fundraising event, they will step up and provide support.  Support could be in one donor or a multitude of donors. Let’s talk about how that can happen.

No question, you have to raise money to cover the income typically received each year from the canceled fundraising event.


5 Steps to Recoup Money from Canceled Fundraising Events

Here’s what you can do:

 Step 1 – Determine Funds Lost 

First, know how much you netted last year (gross profits minus direct expenses) from your annual fundraising event. 

You may be surprised how much is left after you pay for food, valet, venue, and marketing expenses, for example. This calculation does not include the enormous staff and volunteer time required to put on an event. Moreover, check out this article about computing event costs.


Step 2 – Get Clear on Your Message

What have the funds directly supported in the past? Have monies supported the overall mission to cover operating expenses? Also, maybe funds have supported a particular program, scholarship, or campaign. 

In other words, get clear on your message to your donors so you are able to state what will happen if you don’t make up the lost revenue from the canceled event.

Donors want and need to know the consequences to your mission of having canceled the event caused by the virus and economic crisis. No doubt, they don’t know unless you tell them.

Step 3 – Create a Donor List 

Next, create a list of ticket holders or supporters of last year’s event. That includes individuals and corporations. 

At the top of the list should be your most loyal and top supporters. Absolutely, include sponsors on this list.

Consider for this list those who are deeply passionate about your mission or the program the revenue from the event typically funds.


Step 4 – Divide and Conquer 

Depending on the bandwidth of your staff, board, and volunteers, narrow your list to a manageable number. But definitely, cover your top supporters.

Then divide the list and make phone calls. Certainly, send a text or personal email to let the donor know you will be contacting them about seeking their support for the xyz program, a program typically funded by the now-canceled event. 

If you have the capacity, work your way down your entire list of event supporters. 

Also, one key to success is to ask for a gift equal to or greater than the amount the donor made last year. Certainly, know your donors’ circumstances as best as you can. The other key is to make personal calls. Donors are delighted to hear from you. 

If they can give, they will give.


 Step 5 – Steward Your Donors 

Most importantly, you want to always view a donor, particularly a major donor, as a friend for life. 

One of the worst and most frequented mistakes fundraisers make is not making their donors feel valued and appreciated.

Not only do you want to treat all donors with respect and the feeling of gratitude but also be intentional in thanking your top donors for their support. Typically, 90% of your donations come from 10% of your donors.



In summary, you have to make up for lost funds due to canceled events. And you can! 

Don’t wait any longer to get a system in place in contacting your donors and asking for their support. You’ll not receive funds to cover budget shortfalls unless you make your asks. 


Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nov-FB-Ad-Option-1-1 Fundraising

Download FREE Major Gift Fundraising Plan Template to help you map out your fundraising for the year!

Receive weekly insights on major gifts fundraising and announcements of brand-new course offerings.

Be sure to add nancy@nancyrieves.com to your list of approved email senders! We’ll never spam you and rent or sell your information to anyone else, ever!

Most Popular Posts

Share This

Share this post with your friends!