Prepare for special event risks

November 16, 2015       The NonProfit Times      

More than three-quarters (79%) of organizations depend on special events for fundraising, according to Melissa Engel, vice president and product team leader for the United States Liability Insurance Group’s nonprofit package.

During her workshop, “Anything Goes: Liability Risk from Fundraising and Online Giving,” at the 2015 Risk Summit, Engel discussed common types of events and how organizations’ leaders can better prepare for associated risks.

Walks, runs, galas and auctions rank among the most popular kinds of special events, according to Engel. Easy, low-liability event options include “-athons” such as dances, non-sports competitions such as art and baking and fun runs.

Fundraisers such as concerts and sporting events are capable of drawing more money, Engel said, but are associated with more risk. Venue capacity, liquor, pyrotechnics and crowd control can all be factors with such events. In general, any event that involves alcohol, water or mechanical equipment carries addition risk, she said.

Even seemingly innocuous events such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can come with risk, Engel said. Throughout the campaign, there were incidents of participants being hit in the head with buckets or slipping and falling, according to Engel, with one teenager in Scotland even dying while participating after jumping into a quarry. Though not created by the ALS Association, organizations face potential liability as a third party for unaffiliated events that benefit them, Engel said.

Similarly, an organization can be liable for over serving a guest who goes on to cause a traffic accident even if a member of the organization wasn’t the one pouring the drinks, Engel said. With the potential of losing money while trying to raise funds a real danger for organizations, Engel provided the following tips to provide some protection:

Consider obtaining special-event insurance, which can be purchased annually or for a single event. Single-event plans do not cover liabilities associated with preparing for the event, Engel said.

* Have participants of events sign waivers.

* Bring on a risk manager to evaluate courses for events such as runs.

* Make sure that volunteers at events are well trained.

* React immediately to any issue that may occur.