If you’ve read part one of this series, you have an idea of what circumstances mean you should probably cancel your race. In part two, we’re going to explain what happens after the decision to cancel is made and how to make the best of a bad situation.
Before The Cancellation – How to Protect Yourself
First, let’s talk about ways to protect yourself and your race long before the question of cancelling comes up. There are two main things you should keep in mind from the outset.
- Purchase event insurance. This is the absolute most important. For SpectaSport clients, we recommend purchasing through RaceInsure (we’re not affiliated with RaceInsure and we don’t sell it, but it is a good product!), which is decently affordable and flexible enough for small races. At SpectaSport, our policy is that we charge the full base fee for races that cancel within 4 months of the scheduled race date. If that happens, RaceInsure insurance can be used to cover SpectaSport’s fee, refunds to your participants and any other expenses you may have.
- Have a policy in place. Your race’s terms and conditions should be crystal clear when it comes to your cancellation policy. Runners should know what circumstances will result in cancellation, if there is a rain or postponement date, and up to which date they are entitled to a refund. Run your T&C by both a lawyer and an experienced race management consultant to be sure it makes sense and can hold water. A reasonable policy put front and center so participants can read it before signing up will go a long way toward making participants of a canceled race less angry.
Cancelling A Race, Step-By-Step
- Let your partners know. Tell your sponsors, vendors, insurance company, and other partners as soon as possible. Understand what their cancellation policies entail and determine what you’ll be able to give to participants.
2. Shut down registration. Close registration for the event and stop all promotion. The last thing you want is more sign-ups.
3. Let your participants know. This step should be done as early as possible and on the safe side. Trust us when we say do this step properly, but do not drag it out. An email that clearly explains your cancellation and what it means for participants (e.g. will there be a refund? Will there be a new race date? Can they choose to use their entry fee toward next year’s race?). Here’s a great example of a thorough cancellation letter.
A quality race registration system will allow you to send a quick email to all registered participants with just a couple of clicks. Larger races often also have text messaging services enabled in their registration websites—use it.
4. Use social media. Put the same statement up on your race’s social media pages. Just be prepared to respond to comments, questions and concerns–even harsh ones–with as much transparency as possible. Make sure you do this only after you’ve emailed participants.
5. Have dedicated reps to answer questions. Participants will likely be frustrated about the cancellation and not being able to get ahold of you will exacerbate their frustration. Train some staff to answer common questions and make sure they understand when to escalate a problem to a superior.
6. Find ways to go above and beyond. Establishing some good will after your race is cancelled can only help you come back stronger next year. Making sure people still have the option to get their race shirts, donating food to a local shelter, and offering discounted entries for next year are all great ways to go above and beyond and regain some trust from your participants.
Last-Minute Cancellations & Weather-related Cancellations
Last-minute cancellations can be chaotic. THE most important thing is promptly informing everyone involved. It’s OK to not have all the answers at first. We have had several races cancelled on race day due to excessive snow, lightning or localized flooding. The most urgent thing at first was simply to notify people before they start traveling into the area. Include in all communications that you will be following up with further information, including refunds, within a couple of days, then continue to give updates.
Don’t be greedy! If, for example, a hurricane is forecast to land near your race, DON’T WAIT UNTIL RACE MORNING TO CANCEL! Yes, it’s a big fundraiser for your organization. Yes, you’ve put your heart and soul into this race and you think it’s the most important thing in your life. But that doesn’t mean it’s more important than life and death. Besides, what do you think your chances of getting a permit next year (and years following) if you proceed with a running race that interferes with the duties of government employed emergency preparedness and emergency response personnel? This is why you buy race cancellation insurance.
Partner With a Race Expert – SpectaSport
While our primary service is race timing, we’ve helped our fair share of charity organizations host their first race. It can make all the difference to engage an expert from the beginning. Have questions about our services? Give us a call at 610-306-0574 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.