Ever wonder if your fundraising event is really working for you?
Is it worth all the effort?
Are we maximizing our results?
Are we trying to accomplish too many goals in one event?
These are questions you can answer by taking a holistic approach to analyzing your event. Events are resource heavy, so you better make sure they are reward heavy too.
1. Commit to Rigorous Analysis
Analyzing your event is critical to ensuring wise use of resources, maximizing the benefit to your organization, and knowing where you can improve. Budget time and energy for thorough analysis. To fully understand if your event is really working for you, you must go beyond the typical event debrief and net profit calculation. Part of the analysis is looking at new donors, new gifts, bidding engagement for auctions, average gift of new donors – you get the idea. There is almost no end to the data that you can analyze. Let your event objectives be a guide to your analysis. Is the event your primary form of donor engagement? Then dig deep into repeat attendees, repeat donors, and levels of engagement.
2. Take a Holistic Approach
Events costs and benefits are multidimensional. It takes looking at every aspect of the event to get a clear picture of the impact on your organization. Is your event causing donor, board member, volunteer or staff fatigue? Does your event engage potential and current donors in your cause? Is it effective at building community awareness of your organization? Is it mission-aligned? It is not just a simple calculation of revenue over direct expenses. Take a deep dive into ALL of the resources it takes to put on the event and ALL of the benefits you receive.
3. Calculate the True Cost
Rarely is staff time included in the expenses when net profits are calculated for an event. However, this is a critical expense to look at, at least for your internal analysis. If your event raises $50,000 and your direct event expenses are $6,000, yet your Development Director spends three solid months on the planning and execution (time when she or he could be cultivating major donors for a far greater pay off), your profit is NOT $44,000. If we take a conservative annual salary for a Development Director at $65,000 a year, just the salary cost for the event is $16,250, and that is assuming she or he is the only position spending their time on the event. To make strategic decisions around your events, it is vital you are looking at your true costs.
4. Assess the Benefits Beyond $
If raising funds was the sole purpose of an event, organizations could likely spend less effort and raise more money cultivating and asking for major gifts. Events have to net you great results to make any sense from a resource standpoint. Events can be fantastic at donor education and engagement, awareness building, attracting new supporters and cultivating a sense of community. Do people leave your event committed or recommitted to your cause, fired up to get more engaged, and poised to be advocates for you in the community? Do volunteers love working your event and make an annual tradition? Are you getting high social media engagement prior to, at and after the event? Again, let your objectives drive your investigation into how your event is really working for you.
5. Know When to Pull the Plug
Part of being strategic is knowing when to pull the plug on an event. This could mean that you start from scratch, designing an event to get the results you really need or deciding that your time is better spent on other revenue strategies. “Because we always have” is NOT a valid reason for continuing to do an event that isn’t netting the results you need. It could be that with a few strategic shifts, the same event can meet your objectives in a much more powerful way. If you don’t know what your event objectives are, it is time to take a step back and define the primary purpose of your event and your desired outcomes. Every event detail and decision should stem from your objectives. If you are facing scrapping your current event and starting over, that is a HUGE opportunity. Get strategic, get creative and have fun with it!
Be Sure Use the Information to Improve Your Results
It may go without saying, but I am spelling it out anyways. TAKE ACTION! All of this analysis is worthless unless it leads to concrete action. Understand what you are doing well, what needs to be improved and what needs to be dropped altogether. Create a plan of action to improve the different components of your event to better meet your objectives. It’s like a powerful puzzle – how can you get all the pieces to fit together for your ultimate outcomes. Volunteers and board members love this stuff. Engage your supporters in making your events as fantastic and effective as possible.
Bonus Tip #1 – Maximize Your Results with Post-Event Follow-up
Fundraising events should never be viewed as a stand-alone fundraising strategy. If you aren’t following up with donors after the event (especially new donors), you are missing HUGE opportunities to cultivate donors, including potential major donors. Before the event even happens, plan and schedule your follow-up actions to start building lasting relationships!
Bonus Tip #2 – Increase New Donor Engagement with Personal Outreach
Once registration begins, start flagging new attendees. The week leading up to the event, send personalized emails to all new attendees telling them how excited you are that they are attending at that you hope to connect with them at the event. If you use an email system, you can accomplish this level of personalization in an automated email, so the work is light on you, but the impact is high for the guest. Some event software includes this functionality as well, so check out your software’s capabilities.