Evaluating the success of your fundraising event

Evaluating the success of a fundraising event

As with any marketing program, there is not one solid indicator that tells you if your event was a success. Nor is there one stakeholder that determines whether or not the event was “successful”. There are many factors to consider in order to come up with a thorough evaluation of your fundraising event.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to review the goals and objectives you previously established prior to hosting your event to see if you’ve accomplished what you’d hoped.  If you did not outline  measures of success prior to your event, you can still use these guidelines to help you evaluate your event and plan to use these as parameters for establishing fundraising goals and objectives for future events.

Evaluating Goals & Objectives:

  1. Financial Metrics
    Did you raise the amount of funds you hoped for? To answer this question completely, you need a complete understanding of all proceeds and expenses as well as donations raised. Compile all financial details here. How much did you raise through pledge donations? How much money did you bring in from in-kind donations? How much did you make from ticket sales or food and beverage sales? Did you have a raffle or silent auction? Were you able to secure large investments from local businesses from sponsorships?Along with this, summarize event costs and compare these costs to your budget. What were the hard-costs of your event including logistics (i.e. tent rentals, tables, permits, decorations, food, etc.), plus event entertainment, paid labor, promotion costs, and your staff’s time and effort planning the event. Did you stay within budget? Were you able to off-set costs through building partnerships and receiving in-kind donations? If not, consider this for next year.
  2. Event Attendance
    Did you get as many participants as expected, and were they successful in raising pledges? What about overall attendance? With a gala dinner or charity golf tournament where you have registrations, this number can be easily tallied and compared year after year for annual events. But what about a public walk-a-thon event or fundraising carnival? How do you know the exact turnout? The best answer here is to track participant registrations and note the number of sponsors and partners brought on board to support the event. Between these networks, along with your investment in promoting the event, you likely gained a lot of exposure. As far as reporting attendance numbers… take pictures and estimate. It’s great to include a photo of all the people gathering together at your fundraising event to support your cause as part of your event-recap report. You can also set up kiosks where event attendees can sign-up to win prizes or fill out event surveys. Reporting these numbers provides additional information about the type of audience you attracted, as well as getting feedback on your event.
  3. Spread Awareness
    Success is not only about numbers. It’s also about gaining awareness about your cause to help establish supporters and contributors. Estimate how many people you reached through your promotional efforts. How were your promotional materials distributed? Did you have flyers posted on community bulletins? Did you send out email blasts inviting people to your event? Did you run ads in local newspapers or online? What about bus signage and radio announcements? Did you have help from sponsors, volunteer organizations, vendors, etc.? Estimate the total reach your promotional efforts. Make sure to include media outreach. Did you distribute press releases? Did any media attend the event? Did you get any press coverage, radio mentions, listing on event calendars, etc. Make sure to print copies of all promotional materials and press coverage to keep on file and include in your event recap reports.
  4. Was it fun?
    What was the overall perception of the event? Did people have fun? This is an important determinant of event success. If people had fun, they’ll likely come back year after year, and they’ll tell their friends about it, meaning you’ll have an even better turnout in the future. Make sure to interview people to find out what they thought about the event. You do not only want the perspective of event planners. Interview all parties involved in the event including: event attendees, workers and volunteers, vendors, sponsors, key stakeholders, etc. What did they like about the event and what things did not work? How can you improve the event in the future? Don’t forget to find out how they learned about the event, as this could help you determine your most effective promotional methods. After evaluating all of these questions, identify the things that were most successful and what you can improve on. Analysis of your event can help you plan better for the future.
  5. Event Recap Reports
    This may not seem like a critical part of event evaluation. Afterall, the event is over, so you may be wondering why you’d want to spend time creating this report. But this is absolutely one of the most important parts of event evaluation. You want to list detailed information about every step of the planning process, and every happening during the event from set-up through take-down. Include vendor lists, copies of contracts, lists of entertainment and how they were perceived. Include detailed maps outlining where everything was located from sponsor expo areas to stages to beer tents and bathrooms. Include interviews and notes from your post-event meetings. List event sponsors (these will be the first groups you reach out to next year) along with an explanation of benefits provided to sponsors so you can satisfy and improve on them next year. What group did you use to secure volunteers and what was the turnout like? Include photos in your recap reports, quotes from happy sponsors, vendors and event attendees. Include copies of ads, flyers and promotional materials. Be sure to include press clippings to show any press coverage received leading up to and during the event. Create a detailed report outlining the things that were successful and intended improvements for next year. You may not realize it now, but this information will become invaluable as you begin your planning process in the future.