Every event planner has had their doomsday moment. Maybe a vendor doesn’t show up or the ceiling in the venue springs a leak. Or maybe you were hit with a few requests to register after the cut-off, which leaves you scrambling to find additional seats and placing last-minute calls to the caterer. As mere mortals, we will probably never run any kind of event without at least one or two minor problems… but we can take steps to avoid some of the most common hurdles.
Here are some problems that often crop up during spring fundraising season, plus some ideas on how to avoid them!
1. Inclement weather
Spring is a weird season. Winter is fading and warmer weather prevailing, but it’s not a smooth transition! Tempting as it may be to host an all-outdoor event, you should always have a backup plan in case of rain or snow. There are some different ways to handle this particular challenge:
- Find a multi-purpose event space. Look for a place that can provide both indoor and outdoor facilities for your event. This solution depends heavily on what kind of event you’re planning: a charity softball tournament, for example, would need to stay outside!
- Book a backup date. Ask the facilities manager if you can reserve an additional day in case weather won’t permit your event to go off without some serious discomfort. This won’t be possible for larger, more popular event spaces, but it may work with smaller, lower-traffic venues. It doesn’t hurt to ask! You may be asked to pay an additional fee to reserve a secondary date, so you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of doing so.
- Rent a tent. Aside from the fact that “rent a tent” is fun to say, having a partially-indoor area available during an outdoor event is reassuring. If you’re in an area with unpredictable weather patterns (we’re in Florida, so we’re super familiar with unpredictable weather), it’s nice to have the option to duck into a tent to wait out a brief shower. Tents are also useful in the event of a cold snap! Having a tent equipped with portable heaters is a comfort for people participating in outdoor activities.
- Offer parking and shuttle services. Indoor events can still be a drag if you have to walk a long way through rain or snow to get inside. Avoid soaked shoes and bedraggled attendees by offering valet parking or a shuttle service to make getting into your event less of a hassle. Something as simple as a shuttle that can move people quickly between their cars and the venue can make a big positive impression on your attendees.
You know better than anyone what kind of weather challenges you’ll face during your spring fundraising season. Anticipating situations and having a plan to address them will prevent a last-minute scramble if inclement weather does become a problem!
2. Last-Minute Surprises
You’re setting up your tables for the weekend softball tournament. They’re lovely! And then a delightful spring breeze kicks up… and your tablecloths are flapping in the wind. You need to tape down the corners. Wait… where is the tape??
The tape is back at the office, so you’ve got to run back and get it. While you’re there, someone calls you to ask if you could please pick up the printed registration sheets because they forgot to grab them on the way out. By the time you’ve finally left the office, you’re running 20 minutes behind and will spend the rest of the day frantically trying to catch up.
There are a couple of steps you can take to avoid this type of situation. One, assign a team member to manage specific parts of your event and make them responsible for handling the details. Two, get all your task-managers together and go through a “dry run” of the day of the event.
During your dry run, try to come up with as many worst-case scenarios are possible. What will the person in charge of tables do if there’s a wind? How will your team respond if one of the trophies falls over and breaks? Who will make a supply run if the concessions stand runs out of soda? What’s the plan if a player thought they registered but isn’t on the roster?
This exercise will help you anticipate problems and have a response plan in place. You won’t be able to anticipate every potential set-back, of course. But mentally going over your event from start to finish and proactively preparing for issues will help your event go more smoothly.
3. Participant Miscommunications
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Regular communication prior to your event is going to be one of the most important pieces of pulling off a successful event.
One of our staffers remembers a 5k she attended that needed a little extra help in the communication department. “You were supposed to pick up your t-shirt and bib number way before the race at an odd location,” she remembered. “But they didn’t do a great job of communicating when you were supposed to pick up your packet. A LOT of participants didn’t pick up their numbers, and they were really confused when they got to the event.”
To their credit, the organization had communicated that participants needed to pick up their shirts and numbers at a particular time and place. But the announcement was buried in a long email, and not everybody picked up on the information.
There are a couple lessons to be learned here! One, not everyone reads emails. I’m going to share this secret with you: I do a lot of email marketing, and the #1 concern in email marketing is making sure that people read your email. And, no matter what you do, you will always have people who glance through your emails but never really read them.
If you make an announcement through email, send several emails over a span of time reiterating your message. For example, the previously-mentioned race organizers might want to send an email series that looks something like this:
- (1 week before) Important Race Details!
- (3 days before) Don’t Forget: Pick Up Your Race Packet!
- (1 day before) Tomorrow is Race Packet Day!
- (Day of) Race Packet Pickup is Today from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.!
- (Day after) Forget to Grab Your Packet? Call us!
- (Day of event) No Bib? You’re the Worst, We Talked about This
They wouldn’t send the sixth email, obviously, but that’s not the point. The point is that your participants are busy people who will probably miss small details. If you want to communicate effectively with your supporters, you’ll need to repeat yourself and send multiple messages.
Effective communication should also take place over several different channels. Don’t just send emails: make posts on your social channels, too. Your participant might miss an announcement, but they may see your post on Facebook. You never know!
No event will ever go off without a hitch. But there are lots of steps you can take to avoid the most common obstacles! Work on anticipating potential problems, then put together contingency plans. Have a game-plan in mind for bad weather. And communicate with your participants way more than you think is entirely necessary. It might take a little extra time and effort up front, but your event will be much less stressful overall!