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Charity fundraising event cancellations

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Charity fundraising event cancellations

Event cancellations due to Covid-19? Read about event deposits, contracts and more… 

As we enter into the summer months it is highly likely that a number of charities would have been holding, or hoping to benefit from, a range of fundraising events. From garden parties, to summer balls, cream teas to auctions, there is no doubt a significant number of tickets sold by charities for a range of events that they were intending to hold.

Whilst lockdown restrictions may well be slowly lifting, it seems unlikely that a gathering of large groups will be allowed soon and therefore charities must turn their attention to what they must do with any deposits they have received and contractual obligations that they have entered into. 

Has your charity cancelled events?

If your charity has cancelled an event or is considering cancelling an event soon these are some of the matters that will need to be considered and dealt with. 

1.    First and foremost, ensure that everyone involved in the event is notified of its cancellation. Communication will be key at this time, ensuring that volunteers and donors stay loyal to your charity will require good communication. Using social media, newsletters and email can all be good ways to ensure that people are aware an event has been cancelled;


2.    Deposits, refunds and ticket prices will have to be dealt with. In this regard, money that has been received by the charity from donors to attend events may have to be returned. Charities will need to understand the terms upon which the money was given to the charity. Was the money given to the charity in return for a ticket entitling the holder to attend a summer ball or was the money being given as a simple donation to the charity with no obligation being placed upon the charity to provide anything in return? 

An example may be money given for someone to complete a skydive (conditional funding) or fundraising alongside someone’s intention to complete a skydive or marathon, but without a condition of completion (unconditional funding). In the case of unconditional funding such donations may not need to be returned. 

3.    A charity must give a refund if a donor correctly exercises their right to one. In all other circumstances, if a charity decides that it should refund donations, the decision should be clearly recorded and in accordance with the charity’s policies.  Legal advice or the consent of the Charity Commission should be sought by the trustees if they are in any doubt as to whether a refund should be provided. 

4.    It may be possible to postpone an event that your charity has organised. If this is possible it will be necessary to consider the terms upon which any tickets were sold or donations made. This will determine whether the charity is entitled to simply notify attendees and donors of the new date for the event or if a refund will need to be offered.

5.    It is not only attendees and donors that Charities will need to consider. Contracts will have no doubt been entered into with suppliers and venues for the provisions of services and goods. These contracts will all need to be reviewed to determine the cancellation provisions and what money may be recovered by the charity.

6.    Many charities will hold event insurance when organising events and the terms of these policies will also need to be reviewed to see what potential claim a charity may have against its insurance provider for cancelled events. 


Looking to the future, charities may need to look to virtual events for fundraising, this may be e-sports, online quizzes, or online auctions. All of these online options present their own challenges but may need to be explored by charities.

If you have concerns regarding an event that your charity is due to be hosting please contact Tim Field at Birkett Long for expert charity legal advice on 01206 217366 or email