How to Write a Considerate Event Cancellation Email

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|7 min read Fundraising Event

If you are one of the many nonprofit organizations facing the tough decision on whether to cancel your fundraising event, you are not alone. Events play such a critical role in fundraising and relationship building, so having to cancel them can cause countless problems. But sometimes, you’re left with no choice.

As soon as you’ve made the decision to cancel your event, you need to communicate with your attendees. It will be much easier to communicate to all attendees with a singe event cancellation email, rather than having every attendee asking, “is the meeting canceled?” Writing a graceful event cancellation email can be tricky if you’re on a time crunch, so we’ve put together some tips, tricks, and templates to get you started.

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Email marketing during a crisis: Four things to consider

Nonprofit event cancellations can be daunting. Often, knowing where to start is the biggest challenge. Before writing your email, make sure your nonprofit has stopped all ticket sales and promotions. This means:

  • Disabling your ticketing platform
  • Ending all event-related marketing campaigns 
  • Contacting third parties who are involved with ticket sales

This will prevent any anger or confusion from purchasing tickets to a canceled event. Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to stop additional ticket sales, you’re ready to construct your email. Use these 4 tips to guide you as you craft your cancellation email.

Timing is everything

While it is important to develop a comprehensive event cancellation strategy, don’t let it bottleneck your communication with registrants. The longer you wait to inform your ticket holders, the worse the backlash will be once they know about your event cancellation. If you wait until the last minute to inform attendees, you are risking your relationship and will potentially discourage them from registering for future events. Ticket holders should receive an event cancellation notice as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly.

Use an appropriate tone when discussing coronavirus

The coronavirus situation has affected everyone in different ways and you don’t know how different people may react. Some have self-isolated, others have contracted the virus, and many have lost employment. As a result, the crisis can feel very personal and people will react accordingly.

That’s why it’s crucial to use the right tone when cyou contact your audience. Avoid making jokes or making light of the coronavirus outbreak—this will only anger your audience. And avoid using dramatic language that may scare your audience. Your email’s tone and messaging should be apologetic, informative, and empathetic.

Include the reason for cancellation 

When composing your email, be transparent and give the reason(s) for your event cancellation. A sincere apology paired with an honest explanation can go a long way. Instead of questioning your organization and getting upset, your ticket holders will have the opportunity to empathize and know why difficult decisions were made.

Prepare for event cancellation questions

Once your registrants read through your cancellation email, they will likely have many questions. Will you refund the whole ticket amount? How long will it take? Is it an automatic refund or do I need to click something? Can I donate the money instead?

Brainstorm with your team to come up with potential questions. Consider creating a FAQ page on your website so that you can avoid answering the same question individually. As you receive related questions, you can update the FAQ page accordingly. By offering this resource, you can help ease registrant concerns and offload the burden on your nonprofit.

Often, registrants will send you their personal banking information to follow up on the refund. Avoid this by telling registrants to work with their bank or credit card providers directly. Make sure to include this information in your FAQ section.

Three sample event cancellation email templates during coronavirus

Ticket holders are not the only ones who are impacted by event cancellations. Sponsors and volunteers need to be informed as well. You’ll need three separate emails so that you can address each group’s pain points. To help, we crafted three email templates so that you can communicate with your supporters as quickly as possible.

1. Event cancellation email template for registrants 

Dear [registrant’s name],

We feel that it is our responsibility to help flatten the coronavirus curve and keep you safe. In order to do this, we have decided to cancel [insert event name]. While we are still as dedicated as ever to combatting [insert your cause], your safety comes first.

Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. We are looking forward to hosting you in the future, once the global health pandemic passes. 

We will be issuing full refunds in the coming days. If you have any questions, please take a look at our FAQ page [include hyperlink]. It will contain the most up to date information as we go through this process together. 

Thank you for understanding during these difficult times. We’d like to thank each and every one of you for supporting [your organization’s name] through it all. Together, we’ve been able to [insert an accomplishment, i.e. Feed over 300,000 individuals in the Seattle community]. If you’d like, you can donate your ticket refund so that we can continue making a difference during the coronavirus crisis. If not, we understand. In the meantime, please stay safe. 

[CTA: Donate my ticket] 


[your name and title]

2. Event cancellation template for sponsors 

Dear [insert name],

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, we are sorry to inform you that [insert event name] has been canceled. While we are still as dedicated as ever to combatting [insert your cause], the safety of our attendees come first. 

Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. We are looking forward to working with you in the future, once this pandemic passes. 

Thank you for understanding during these difficult times. We will be issuing refunds in the coming days, as outlined by our [refund policy: hyperlink here]. If you have any questions, please contact [insert point of contact’s email]

We look forward to continuing our mission and hope to partner with you in the future. In the meantime, please stay safe.


[your name and title]

3. Event cancellation template for event volunteers 

Dear [insert name],

We feel that it is our responsibility to help flatten the coronavirus curve and keep you safe. In order to do this, we have decided to cancel [insert event name]. While we are still as dedicated as ever to combatting [insert your cause], your safety comes first.

We want to thank everyone who has been involved with the planning process and apologize for not being able to see it come to life. We appreciate all of the hard work and time you’ve put into [insert event name]. Your dedication to our shared cause inspires us to be the best version of ourselves as we work through these difficult times. 

Even though we had to cancel this particular event, there will be more to come. And we hope to see you there. In the meantime, thank you for all that you’ve done and please stay safe. 


[your name and title]

Host a virtual fundraiser instead

Live events play a huge role in nonprofit fundraising and typically generate the bulk of yearly revenue. If your nonprofit is struggling, there are several avenues for coronavirus financial support during the coronavirus outbreak.

By starting a virtual fundraiser, your nonprofit organization will be able to cover costs and continue operations. Or, you can dedicate those funds to a coronavirus relief fund for your employees. Once you decide, you can get started in a matter of minutes. We make it easy for you to tell your story, with branded campaigns for any occasion. Get started and launch your new virtual fundraiser today and you won’t have to cancel another event. Contact us for any help starting your fundraiser.


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