Evaluating Event Success

The event is over and the guests have gone home. While you may be eager to put your planning documents and files away and move on, right after the event is the time to evaluate your success and discuss opportunities for future event improvement. A thorough post-event evaluation ensures you will capture the important details your organization needs to improve its fundraising. It can also jumpstart preparations for your next event.

Act Soon After Your Event
Memories of event details fade quickly in light of current issues and responsibilities, and staff and volunteers may change from year to year. Don’t wait too long to conduct an event download. If possible, hold the meeting the week after the even so you can have your analysis and action plan completed within the month following your event.

Prepare Financial Reports
Achieving your fundraising goals is key to event success and you will want to know as soon as possible if you met your goals. If you are using event software, a variety of reports are available to report on event expenses and revenue, and to what initiative the revenue can be attributed. 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 to evaluate your fundraising success by answering 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 your revenue come from (sponsorships, ticket sales, silent auction, live auction, special appeal, etc.)?

Meet With Your Core Team
Invite your staff, event committee, and most involved volunteers to a download meeting. Make sure you set aside enough time for discussion. Create an agenda prior to the meeting and set a productive tone where candid feedback is encouraged. Cover every aspect of the event, being careful to note which topics hit nerves in a positive or negative way so you can keep the meeting upbeat.

Topics to discuss:
  • Venue
  • Entertainment
  • Food and beverages
  • Timeline for communications, invitations, etc.
  • Invitations and other printed materials
  • Auction segments (silent, live, fund-a-cause, and item evaluation)
  • Table arrangements
  • Volunteer assignments
  • Registration
  • Check-out and cashiering
  • General event flow and timing
  • Opportunities for improvements
  • Successes and failures at the event

Generating Solutions with the Event Team
At the meeting, start taking the steps necessary to improving next year’s event. For every major stumbling block, brainstorm with the team, then delegate someone to use that input 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 they can be refined by the group if necessary. The results can be passed along to next year’s planning committee.

Example 1 – your biggest stumbling block was lack of corporate sponsors. Possible solutions could be:
  • 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 two 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

The list of stumbling blocks and possible solutions will be a valuable resource for next year’s planning team. You or next year’s planning committee can review the list, decide which solutions are possible, and prioritize improvements for the event.

Example 2 – your expenses exceeded your 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.
  • Possible 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.

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 you talk to the same questions so you can compare ‘applies to apples’.

Possible questions:
  • What do you like best about our event?
  • What did you like least?
  • What five auction item did you think were the most appealing and why?
  • What 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 beverage?
  • Did you think the entertainment was appropriate for the event?

You can also do a short survey by email. Online tools such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang allow you to reach out to as many or as few attendees as needed.

Finalize the evaluation
To complete the evaluation 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

Organize them within the event files or binder you will be archiving. These will be important files to consider while 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. Be sure to back up any electronic files (including your software database) to a disk or flash drive and pass them along as well.

Event evaluation can be challenging but is essential to next year’s 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.