By Heather Fraley
On Monday, March 16th, RMEF halted banquets in accordance with CDC guidelines. In the final weekend before the closure (March 14th) RMEF held 20 of the 32 big game banquets originally scheduled. Committees holding their events that weekend faced some unique challenges. They had to overcome low attendance and implement the best health and safety measures to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus.
For the 20 events, total attendance was 3,875 people, 450 people less than the previous year. Normally this would mean a precipitous drop in revenue. However, those 20 banquets defied the odds to net $763,000 for the RMEF mission. This was just slightly down from the previous year, proving that the most dedicated RMEF followers still showed up.
The Central New York Chapter in Syracuse, New York, was one of the last Chapters to hold their banquet as scheduled on March 14th. They overcame low attendance to raise $40,000 in net revenue for RMEF. At 150 people in attendance, they had a full 100 people less than they expected before COVID-19 hit, but those who showed up were very engaged.
“Everybody had fun,” says regional director Tim Foster. “They knew we were headed towards lockdown, and people just had the time of their lives. We had a much smaller crowd, but we ended up making more money than some of my 250 person banquets made. You can do the math; that’s a whole lot of net per person that walked through the door.”
They were also very aware of attendees’ safety. “We were not in any violation; we were still capable of doing it, and we took measures,” says Foster. There are things you can do to be more responsible.”
They issued a pen to everyone that came through the door, so no one would have to share writing utensils. They put hand sanitizer and wipes at every raffle station and at each table. They set the banquet for more people than they sold tickets to, giving people extra space to maintain social distance. They encouraged people not to shake hands or hug and to be respectful of other people’s space.
The previous year they made more money because 100 more people attended. But this year’s response under the circumstances was amazing. “I had people from multiple chapters who came to support that event to be there and support the committee knowing that we would be down in volunteers and in attendance,” says Foster. “People really stepped up. They spent money. People really got into participating.”