Does Your School Fundraising Event Need A COVID Waiver?

by Daryl McCarl, Director of Business Development at Smartwaiver

Fundraising events are important to schools for many reasons—like raising enough money to throw junior prom, ensuring the orchestra gets to go on an annual trip, or being able to afford the booking fee for a special assembly speaker. 

Plus, school fundraising events don’t just provide much-needed funding. They also help strengthen community within your school as parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members come together to work toward a common goal. 

As you well know, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how fundraising is done. You’ve learned how to adapt through 2020, and now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your fundraising efforts in 2021. Now that in-person events are largely feasible again, you can start tapping back into the immense engagement benefits of face-to-face interaction. 

But here’s the questionhow do you balance the need to get your community together and the need to keep everyone (and your school) safe while COVID-19 remains a concern? 

Answer: It’s time to consider requiring a COVID-19 waiver for your event’s participants.  

Here at Smartwaiver, we know the importance of protecting you and your event attendees with a waiver. In this article, we’ll use our expertise to discuss four reasons you should create a waiver for your school’s next live event:

  1. There’s no way to remove inherent risks.
  2. They require participants to acknowledge specific risks.
  3. They protect your school from a costly legal battle.
  4. Creating a digital COVID waiver can be simple.

As things are beginning to return to some semblance of normalcy, you don’t need to cancel any upcoming school fundraisers you have on the calendar. Instead, simply take a few extra steps to ensure your school is protected from liability and that your attendees will be safe as well. That’s where waivers come in. 

Let’s go! 

1. There’s no way to remove inherent risks.

If you’ve hosted a school fundraising event before, you know it’s practically impossible to know exactly how the event will go. Students may or may not sell the amount of candy bars or discount cards you thought they would. A thunderstorm might force you to move your walk-a-thon into the gym or get bumped to another day. 

The thing is, despite careful planning, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to school fundraisers. That’s even more true now that schools are beginning to once again host live events—the reality of living through the tail-end of the pandemic is that there are just inherent risks involved with gathering together. 

As you plan your event, you can do a lot to minimize risk, like reviewing CDC tips for keeping yourself and others safe at events. You might also provide sanitation stations, require face masks, or hold your event outside. But at the end of the day, there is still some risk that you or your attendees could contract the virus. 

But you need to raise money, so the show must go on. And it can with the help of a waiver.

2. They require participants to acknowledge specific risks.

Waivers don’t just help protect your school from liability should someone contract the virus from your event. They also benefit your attendees! 

When a potential attendee has to sign a waiver before attending an event, it creates an opportunity for them to stop and consider the risks of attending that event. For example, COVID-specific liability waivers will mention the inherent risk of exposure to the virus. 

By signing a waiver, your attendees are acknowledging that they understand there is some risk in attending your event, but that they’re willing to relinquish their right to sue for damages (like contracting COVID-19) that result from the event. Plus, it allows at-risk members of your community to consider whether or not the event is safe for them. 

In other words, a waiver allows your attendees to attend an event with their eyes wide open. 

And because waivers can be made easy to fill out, your attendees will be grateful you’ve accounted for any risks they might encounter at the event–you’re showing them that you’re thinking about their safety!

This will help build your relationship with your school community in a few different ways: 

  • People will be more likely to attend your event knowing that you’re taking the necessary precautions and warning them about risks they might encounter. 
  • Looking out for your participants will bolster your reputation with them, which in turn will make them more excited to participate and/or to give. 
  • By establishing yourself as a school that cares about its community, you’ll increase loyalty with parents and students, etc. That means more volunteers, event attendees, and fundraiser participants in the future!  

It’s simple: a waiver protects you and your community. Isn’t that a great way to build trust within your school? 

3. They protect your school from a costly legal battle.

No matter the exact fundraising ideas and events you roll out, the main purpose of school fundraising is to raise money for your school. The last thing you want to do is risk losing all your hard-earned donation dollars to fund a costly legal battle!  

That’s one risk you can minimize. However, you will need a waiver with specific language that protects your school from liability for COVID-19 exposure claims. 

In your waiver, you’ll need to clearly inform potential attendees about the risks of attending the event and confirm that they understand those risks. We recommend having an attorney provide the language specific to COVID-19, as there is little legal precedent surrounding this new disease. The language needs to be as clear and unambiguous as possible so the chances that the courts will enforce the waiver will be better.  

You’ll also want to make sure that attendees sign the waiver before entering the event. There are a couple easy ways to do this to make sure all your attendees are covered: 

  • Offer online event sign-up or registration paired with a waiver. Make it more likely that your attendees will follow-through with signing your waiver (and that they will sign it prior to the event) by adding it to the sign-up process. Make it easy for them by combining the two tasks. 
  • Set up an intuitive online waiver kiosk at your school (or other venue) on the day of the big event. This way, even attendees who forgot to sign a waiver when they registered for the event still have a chance both to attend the event and get a rundown of the risk they’re taking on.

Remember to think of a waiver as protection for you and your attendees. It doesn’t have to be a hassle. It can be a document that helps you to be more transparent and ready for any issues that might arise the day of the event. 

4. Creating a digital COVID waiver can be simple.

By now you know that having your event attendees sign a COVID-19 waiver is a good idea. There’s just one more hurdle—actually creating the waiver. 

But it doesn’t have to be hard. All sorts of nonprofit and fundraising operations are going paperless, and your release of liability waivers can, too! Digitizing your waiver can eliminate three common (and headache-inducing) waiver issues

  • Chasing attendees around with waivers on clipboards at your event
  • Collecting paper waivers only to find attendees have left out crucial information
  • Storing hundreds of waivers in space-filling filing cabinets 

Instead of creating more stress for yourself as you coordinate your event, take the easy road with an online waiver. The best waiver software helps speed up the process of signing guests up and signing them in on the day of, keeps all needed information in an accessible database, and makes your fundraising efforts more environmentally friendly by cutting your use of paper.

What do you need to get started? You’ll want to consider what you need in an online waiver app. Here’s a list of online waiver apps from DonorSearch that provides an overview of some top digital waiver solutions that can help.


Procuring donations during a pandemic can surely be difficult—but with the right strategies, it doesn’t have to be unattainable. Just be sure to plan for the logistics ahead of time to ensure your team of volunteers and supporters stays as safe and as healthy as possible.

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