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  • Joseph Crimmins

Fundraiser Event Safety- Chain of Command

April 2020

We all look forward to a time when we can gather together again at a fundraiser to support our community nonprofits, including the arts and education. For our nonprofits, and for any organization planning a large event, we offer some planning steps you can take now to make your future event as safe as possible.

Chain of Command at a Fundraising Event- Who is in Charge?

Your organization must have a chain of command, both inside your facility, and at a remote

event. This is second nature and indispensable to Police and Fire. They have a boss, a

supervisor on scene who is in charge of making important safety decisions, and making them

immediately. But for the civilian world, this concept is not utilized for event planning. Crisis

events rarely happen at a fundraiser, or at any large event hosted by a nonprofit.

The executive director dictates policy at your office, and is ultimately responsible for making the tough decisions. But is the executive director present at every entity sponsored fundraiser, 5k, walk, banquet or golf event? Not always. And their skill set may be quite different than making life safety decisions, which is another conversation. But someone from your nonprofit must be in charge at the fundraising event, with the authority and confidence to make health/safety decisions immediately. Without a clear chain of command, staff and volunteers scramble to figure out who has the authority to take definitive action on behalf of the organization. Unless it is a matter of safety to the general public, police and fire authorities are not usually going to be on-scene issuing orders at your fundraiser, even if the event is in a public space. You are on your own.

When the possibility of a tornado or a severe storm appears out of nowhere during your large outdoor event, who will assume the responsibility to cancel the live band on stage five minutes before show time? Who will take the responsibility to cancel the 5k minutes before start time? The 5k that took 10 months to plan? Who will take responsibility to tell a volunteer or a paying participant that they are no longer welcome at the event due to their unsavory or harassing behavior?

If you are relying on volunteers, or even employees that have never been placed in a leadership role before, this is a tough ask. Someone has to be in charge. They need to know they are in charge, and everyone else needs to know it as well. There needs to be a pre-event safety checklist, and it should contain the names of staff members or volunteers that have the unquestioned authority to make the tough decisions.

Our nonprofits routinely plan outside events and fundraisers. Have we ever included

event-safety as part of our event planning? Probably not. A clear chain of command will

result in quick and confident action…and it may save someone’s life.

For more information on event safety, contact us for a copy of our presentation entitled Crisis Planning for Your Fundraising Events- Are You Prepared?

Joseph Crimmins



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