Planning a Covid-safe summer event

If you're hoping to hold a PTA fundraising event this summer, Carol Rogerson looks at what might be possible as restrictions ease

By now, PTAs are usually knee-deep in bunting, immersed in ice-cream and dreaming of bouncy castles, but with Covid still causing uncertainty over what’s possible, planning isn’t straightforward this term. There are options, however, for fundraising events, no matter what the summer brings.

‘Children and their families have missed out on so much,’ says Jane Curtis, founder of The Charity Event Specialists, a membership platform for charity event organisers. ‘There’s definitely a place for an event to reconnect the community and celebrate the end of a tough school year in an informal way. For PTAs, it’s also a way to recoup lost income. Some families are struggling through hard times, but the PTA can still make a strong case for support and ask those who can afford it to donate. At the moment, I can’t think of a cause closer to home than children’s education.’

What’s the plan?

In February, the government published its four-step roadmap for easing restrictions in England. Leaving several weeks in between each of the four steps, it has said the decision to go ahead with each stage will be based on data, and that it will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control, prioritising outdoor activities where there’s less risk of transmission.

The easing of restrictions on 29 March marked an important milestone as households were allowed to meet outdoors once more. At step two (not before 12 April), the government’s Reopening businesses and venues guidance states that events organised by a charity will be allowed, subject to specific conditions including that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits.

When we reach step three, charities may hold both indoor and outdoor events, again subject to specific conditions and groups not mixing. Informally, up to 30 people may gather outdoors and the rule of six or two households applies indoors. The earliest this could happen is 17 May. At step four, it is hoped that all restrictions on social contact will be lifted. ‘Exactly what happens at step four is subject to the outcome of something called the Events Research Programme, alongside a review of social distancing measures,’ says Curtis.

‘Starting in April, the programme will see various settings and group sizes tested to see how the virus is passed around. It will be a few weeks before the results are apparent. I would hope to see that information by the end of May.’ PTAs should also follow guidance from the Fundraising Regulator:

  1. Keep up to date with announcements: Apply any new requirements and limitations to your fundraising activities.
  2. Carry out risk-assessments: Each type of fundraising has its own risks. Evaluate the risks to make sure your activity is safe for participants and volunteers. Review regularly.
  3. Make reasoned and informed decisions: Evaluate all decisions and weigh up the risks and benefits of any planned activities.
  4. Protect the public: put measures in place to protect the public, fundraisers, staff and volunteers. Consider what changing government guidance means for staff and volunteer safety, whether it is putting in place social distancing measures, increased sanitation or other measures.

Talk to stakeholders

Even though the PTA is a separate entity, you’ll need the backing of the school. Talk to them about what might be possible, bearing the guidelines in mind. Then canvas regular PTA volunteers and parents and carers. ‘Don’t assume anything,’ says Curtis. ‘We all have an opinion, but opinions do change. By the end of May, people may feel more comfortable doing something they aren’t happy with now – or it could go the other way. Ask stakeholders what they would need to see happen to feel relaxed about the event you’re suggesting.’

It’s easy to get bogged down in the dates, but the roadmap is only a guideline, with no guarantees. The risk of larger events not being allowed or being cancelled at short notice still remains high. Even as restrictions are lifted, it will still be essential for people to remember good habits such as washing hands, opening windows and getting tested at the first sign of any symptoms.

Refunds and cancellations

The last thing you want is to have to cancel your event, but with so much uncertainty, it could happen. Supply clear information about any contingency plans and tell everyone your refund policy.

Rain stops play

The usual wet weather plans, such as moving an outdoor event inside, may not be permitted this year. Keep another date in reserve instead.

Tell your story

There’s been an emphasis on community outreach this year and you may not yet have a wishlist from the school. But now is a good time to remind supporters of what you do and why you’re there. Could the chair record a speech and upload to YouTube, or write a few paragraphs in the school newsletter describing not only what the PTA has purchased but the effect it has had on the children? Ask if the teachers or the children themselves could contribute. For more advice on how to tell your story, see our feature.