Even for the most weathered of event planners, unexpected complications can arise and result in a cancelled event. Bad weather, low ticket sales or a sudden illness can force an intricately planned program to come to a halt.
While a cancelled event is disappointing for the staff involved, it can be even harder to figure out the right way to break the news to your registered volunteers who were committed to making it a success.
Volunteers that signed up for an event may include students that were banking on those hours for a class, mandated volunteers, or long-time volunteers who attend your yearly event as part of their tradition. Others maybe just wanted to hang out with their friends and do something fun for the day.
Whatever their reasoning, communicating quickly and clearly after an event is cancelled is critical with volunteers to ensure you don’t lose them for future events and let them know that their efforts and altruism have not gone unnoticed.
Be clear and transparent
It’s frustrating to learn that a plan has fallen through. Communicate the cancelled event in as many ways as you deem appropriate, including emails, social media, text messages and phone calls. Volunteers are going to be curious as to why an event is cancelled – give them a reason and be transparent to avoid further frustration. You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty details, but give your volunteers clarity for their own sakes – and so they can better empathize with you.
Show your appreciation
If this was a volunteer’s first time signing up with your organization, an event cancellation may leave a bad taste. To prevent this from happening, let your volunteer know (through a personalized email or a phone call) why their willingness to help continues to matter. Be grateful and appreciative in your tone. While a volunteer may not have had a chance to actually come out and help with an event yet, it’s the thought that counts. By being appreciative and communicating directly, your volunteer will feel valued and more likely to come back in the future.
Keep them in mind
You now have information for people who are willing to volunteer for your organization – use it! Communicate about other events where you need volunteers and be willing to make those follow-up emails or calls when the time comes. There’s nothing that sends a better message than a personal touch to let that person know you’re thinking of them.
No matter the reason, make sure that your cancelled event is an opportunity to speak directly with your volunteers and convey your appreciation for their dedication and time. You can use your cancellation as a time to reconnect and recruit for future opportunities. Silver lining, baby!