How to Evaluate Event Success
The event is over and guests have gone home. For the sake of your volunteers, donors, organization, and board, it’s time to evaluate your success and discuss opportunities for future event improvement. A solid process of evaluating event success ensures you’ll capture the important details your organization needs to improve its fundraising. It will also jumpstart preparations for next year’s event!
Keep Your Audience Engaged
First, connect back with your audience by sharing memories. Immediately after your event, upload pictures to a photo album on Google+ Photos or Facebook and share it with your guests. It will remind them of the highlights of the evening and they’ll be looking forward to next year’s event. Another option, if you don’t’ have your guests or donors on Google+ or Facebook, is to insert the album URL into your post-email.
Capture it Quick
Gather event details and impressions while they are fresh in peoples’ minds. Memories fade quickly as people get busy. Staff and volunteers may change from year to year. Don’t wait too long to conduct an event evaluation. If possible, hold the meeting the week after the event so you can have your analysis and action plan completed within a month. If people can’t meet in person, grab some testimonials and feedback on a Google Hangout or over the phone.
Prepare Financial Reports
Achieving your fundraising goals is key to event success and you’ll want to know as soon as possible if you met your goals. If you have Greater Giving Event Software, use the available reports to calculate event expenses and revenue, as well as which initiatives generated the most revenue. If you’re not using software, you may need to put your expenses and revenue numbers into a spreadsheet.
Your financial reports will help you answer these questions:
- Did we achieve/surpass our fundraising goal?
- Did our expenses stay within budget?
- What is our net revenue?
- How does the revenue from this event compare to last year’s revenue?
- Where did our revenue come from (sponsorships, ticket sales, silent auction, live auction, special appeal, etc.)?
- Did we meet our attendance goals for the event?
Meet With Your Core Team
Invite your staff, event committee, your most involved volunteers, and next year’s event coordinator (if known) to a review meeting. Make sure to set aside enough time for discussion. Create an agenda prior to the meeting and set a positive tone by starting with what worked. Really listen to the feedback and make sure everyone understands that what’s being evaluated is the event itself, not the people involved. Cover every aspect of the event.
Topics to discuss:
- Event experience:
- Did guests and volunteers have fun?
- What would have made it better?
- Do attendees have a better understanding/commitment to our mission?
- Event attendance:
- How many people attended?
- How many are repeat participants from previous years?
- How many are new attendees?
- Did our guests feel pampered there?
- Was there enough space?
- Were the facilities convenient and easy to use (electrical outlets, leaderboards, P.A. system)?
- How did the audience respond?
- Was the entertainment group easy to work with?
- Food and beverages
- Was the food delicious?
- How was the service?
- Communication and Promotion
- Did we have an effective timeline for communications (invitations, emails, press releases, etc.)?
- How did we reach people and how many did we reach? (advertising, word-of-mouth, social media, direct mail, posters, media coverage)
- How did we handle the logistics of getting out Invitations and other printed materials?
- How effective were our social media and email campaigns (opens, clicks, completion rates)? Why?
- Which tactics worked best? Which were least effective? Why?
- Auction segments (silent, live, fund-a-cause, and item evaluation)
- Which segments were most profitable?
- Table arrangements
- Were they attractive or distracting?
- Were they worth the cost?
- Volunteer assignments
- Did we match the right people with the right jobs?
- Were there any gaps we needed to fill?
- Was it quick and easy for our guests to get in and get settled?
- Did we have all the materials we needed?
- Check-out and cashiering
- Were guests able to complete their transactions efficiently?
- Were they able to pick up their auction items quickly?
- General event flow and timing
- Opportunities for improvements
- Successes and failures at the event
Generate Solutions with Your Event Team
At the meeting, start taking steps to improve next year’s event. For every major stumbling block, brainstorm ideas with your team. Then delegate someone to generate a list of possible solutions. Ask that person to research the issue, review the brainstorming ideas, and develop a plan of action. Hold a follow-up meeting with the same invitees, asking each participant to present their plan so it can be refined by the group if necessary. Make sure to pass the results on to next year’s planning committee.
Example 1: Lack of corporate sponsors. Possible solutions include:
- Start the sponsor recruitment process earlier in the planning cycle.
- Generate a longer list of possible sponsors.
- Mail corporate request packets earlier in the year.
- Create a volunteer team to focus on acquiring sponsors.
- Make the corporate request letter into a more compelling “sponsor request packet” by including a testimonial and/or recent newsletter.
- Create sponsor request packets for event volunteers and ask them to take them to businesses they frequent.
- Ask Board members to co-sign request letters and assist with follow-up phone calls.
- Offer additional tickets or signage to sponsors.
Example 2: Expenses exceeded projection. How can you reduce expenses?
- Were there any items at the event that guests could have done without? Perhaps those large, elaborate centerpieces got in the way of good conversation and made it hard for guests to see the auctioneer. Save some money next year by using smaller centerpieces.
- Find sponsors to donate items or services that allow you to cut expenses.
- Did you charge an adequate ticket price? Keep your audience in mind—can they afford a higher-priced ticket? Adding $10 to each ticket may be enough of a revenue boost to allow you to hit your net revenue number.
The list of stumbling blocks and possible solutions will be a valuable resource for next year’s planning team. Next year, review the list, decide which solutions are possible, and prioritize improvements.
Reach Out to Guests and Sponsors
Not sure you want to go through every detail with your top donors? Try calling a few and conducting an informal interview. Have the questions prepared in advance and ask everyone the same questions so you can compare ‘apples to apples’.
- What did you like best about our event?
- What did you like least?
- Which five auction item did you think were the most appealing and why?
- Which items would you like to see in the auction next year?
- Was the event too short, too long, or just right?
- How would you rate the food and beverages?
- Did you think the entertainment was appropriate for the event?
- How did you find out about the event?
- Is this your first time at our event or have you attended before?
You can also do a short survey by email. Online tools: Survey Monkey or Zoomerang.
Finalize Evaluating Event Success
To complete the evaluating event success process, make files or binder sections for the materials you have created, including:
- Financial report
- Evaluation meeting minutes
- List of stumbling blocks and possible solutions
- Interview notes
- A copy of the survey to guests and a summary of responses you received
The more detailed and thorough your evaluation is, the easier it will be to organize next year’s event. You might also want to consider including the following:
- Vendor lists
- Copies of contracts
- Contact information for your entertainment
- Detailed maps outlining where everything was located from sponsor expo areas to stages to beer tents and bathrooms
- List of event sponsors and an explanation of benefits provided
- Quotes from happy sponsors, vendors and event attendees
- Copies of ads, flyers and promotional materials
- Press clippings of any press coverage leading up to and during the event
Dropbox anybody? Organize all this information in the event files or binder you will be archiving. Review these files when making initial plans for next year’s event. If you will not be managing next year’s event, set a date and time to talk to the person who will and pass along the files. Create a copy of any electronic files (including your software database) and pass that along as well.
Evaluating event success can be challenging but is essential to success. Using this process will give your next event a valuable boost.
Download Greater Giving’s complimentary Auction Planner for a list of items to complete after your event, as well as a timeline of when to start next year’s event and with what tasks.