Nonprofit event planners are used to working through last-minute snafus like freak weather events and catering failures, but an epidemic on its way to pandemic status? That’s likely a new one for you.

I’m participating in two upcoming conferences this spring that are doing a good job of informing attendees about their plans. Bravo to the nonprofit communicators behind this messaging!

The Nonprofit Technology Conference is March 24-26 in Baltimore, MD.

Here’s their Statement on the Coronavirus. And here’s a portion of their email to attendees:

The Create Good Conference is April 22-24 in Durham, NC.

Here’s their Coronavirus Response Page. And here’s a portion of the email to attendees:

So what should YOU say about your upcoming events?

I recommend that you learn from these two examples . . .

  • Be clear that you are paying attention to official recommendations and acknowledge that your plans are subject to change based on those recommendations.
  • Explain how you will communicate any updates to attendees.
  • Explain what you will do to make the event as safe as possible, should it go on as planned. I love the idea of a special greeting that Create Good organizers are working on:
  • Share contingency plans to the extent that you know what they are. Again, Create Good organizers are being very transparent about doing either the in-person event or an online event, but not being able to do both.
  • Understand that people have to make their own decisions too, and try not to penalize them for that. If you cancel, your nonprofit may be out of a lot of money. We understand. But do your best to be sympathetic to the concerns of your attendees and to extend refund dates and eliminate or reduce cancellation penalties where you can if at all possible. That includes working with your recommended vendors, like hotels.

If your organization is struggling to make a decision, know that you are not alone. The uncertainty in situations like this is often the worst part. Hang in there, and do the best you can to communicate clearly and authentically with your attendees.