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According to Massive, the pandemic is estimated to have cost charities around £400m in lost income from the biggest mass participation events, such as the London Marathon and Great North Run. As life begins to open up, we are all looking to the removal of restrictions on in-person events with excitement and expectation.

Nevertheless, what in-memory teams have achieved over the past 12 months shouldn’t be forgotten, and here at Legacy Foresight we believe fundraisers should continue to embrace the power of virtual.

In-memory fundraisers should be celebrating their achievements and tenacity. The majority have successfully innovated, developing smartly re-imagined virtual events, which have gone some way to make up for estimated shortfalls. Our clients have told us that some virtual in-memory events have exceeded fundraising targets, further opening up our thinking about these virtual offerings’ opportunities.

Our research has indicated that the profile of in-memory fundraising has raised during the pandemic, and it has become more valued within many charities. Performing more strongly, exceeding many fundraisers’ expectations, with teams continuing to build strong and highly valued relationships with their in-memory supporters.

We know that people who have lost a loved one look to events as an opportunity to connect. Those that lost a loved one during the early days of the pandemic were often unable to find meaningful connections. The cancellation of physical events during the pandemic likely added to the sense of loss for many.

Virtual events have gone some way to fill this gap, bringing people together through shared experiences and creating a sense of community when physical togetherness has been impossible. At the same time, they have also provided a sense of focus.

There’s another vital facet of in-memory events, and that’s story-sharing. The charities and hospices we work with have stressed how important the role of events can be. They give people a platform to have conversations about the person they’ve lost, sharing memories and anecdotes about their loved one while doing something positive. It’s been heartening to see what’s happened to these types of events over the period. Even in virtual format, these have been highly valued by supporters.

CiOF Guidance

It was great to see the recently released CiOF and Fundraising Regulator guidance for charities on how safely to restart events and community fundraising, something that we are sure in-memory teams will be working through with events colleagues.

  1. The CIoF guide talks about running events safely and being mindful of how supporters are feeling. Some will be desperate to get back out to attend challenge events or visit a hospice or animal shelter. Still, not everyone will be ready for face to face at the same point. Don’t make assumptions; ask supporters what they want and plan events around their needs.
  2. The guidance talks about social distancing and event capacity. Remember, this capacity can be extended with virtual elements, engaging a wider pool of supporters and enabling more inclusion. Don’t reinstate barriers of geography, venue capacity or ability to be present on a particular date if it means fewer of your supporters can take part.
  3. The CIoF guide also advises fundraisers to check the restrictions in their area and be aware of any changes. With events meaning so much to in-memory supporters, last-minute cancellations can be devastating. We recommend having a Plan B, including digital elements that can be ramped up if in-person elements are forced to be scaled back.
  4. Think about those newly engaged virtual supporters who wouldn’t usually have been able to attend or participate in events but have been able to over the past year. Don’t lose the connection with them now; keep building in ways for them to meaningfully connect and engage.
  5. Finally, learn from the successes of your own and others’ virtual offerings and incorporate that learning into events strategies moving forwards. We would highly recommend thinking creatively about incorporating a virtual element into all future events.