Fundraising & data peeps! This is where our worlds collide.
Your fundraiser is one of the most pivotal events of the year. Yes it’s an experience, a way to bring supporters in and tell the story of why we do this work.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful AF. Plus, we’ve got those deliverables to worry about.
What I love about fundraisers is how the back-end stuff often tells its own story. There are valuable lessons for us all – devo, EDs, marketing & data wizards – on what drives supporters & how best to make these events replicable. We just need the right metrics.
So! Here are 9 qualitative & quantitative ways to gauge the success of your next fundraiser/gala.
9 Metrics for Measuring Your Nonprofit Gala’s Success
1. RSVP’s vs Attendance.
Your RSVP count is a good indicator of reach. But how do your RSVP numbers compare to your day-of attendee count? Hopefully they’re close to the same, because that 1) demonstrates a level of commitment by guests to your event, and 2) can reduce costs, if you can avoid shelling out on unnecessary food and space.
Of course, this metric becomes more useful when you compare these numbers to previous years.
One way to bring RSVP & Attendance numbers closes is to reduce your no-show count. No-shows are the people who RSVP to your event, but ghost without letting a soul know.
Of course it’s not a great feeling when the RSVP’s bail! But your cancellation count – the number of people who tell you in advance that they won’t show – is a worthwhile metric.
Why? Not only is the heads up important for planning, but it’s a testament to your reach. Since most people won’t think to change their RSVP unless prompted, cancellations can be an indicator that your reminder emails and committee prodding actually work.
And surprise: the higher your cancellations, the lower your no-shows!
3. New Gifts
How many gifts from this event are by brand new donors to the org? In some ways, this metric is what your event was about in the first place. Sure large gifts are important, but so is bringing more supporters into the fold.
What does it mean if you don’t have that many new gifts? Well, it could mean one of two things: either your new attendees weren’t compelled to give for whatever reason, or you didn’t have enough new potential donors in the room!
4. Change in Gift Amounts (%)
New donors aren’t the only ones who need metrics love. Of the people who have given in the past, did those donors give more at this event? Did they give less? With some fancy Excel maneuvering, see if you can identify any trends in the percentage change between what your donors gave at this year’s event and the year prior.
Increases are obviously a great thing. But even if you notice a decrease, don’t panic! It may not necessarily reflect on your event, but on other external or economic factors. It’s just up to you to do some investigating.
5. Average & Median Gift Amounts
Average gift can be a strong indicator of the capacity of your attendees, but use it with caution. If you have a bunch of gifts that are within the same range, with one super high or super low outlier, those averages can be misleading! That’s why I recommend using the median gift as well, plus a dose of human judgment, to determine what your team is working with when it comes to your audience’s capacity.
You can compare this data to previous years and/or against your fundraising goals. If you’re not hitting those targets, is it because you’re not getting the right level of prospects in the room?
*Tip*: DonorSearch has some great options if you want to get into the nitty gritty of fundraising metrics: things like cost per dollar raised (CDR) and donor retention rates.
6. Subscriptions & Interest
Do you have a way for attendees to subscribe to your org’s newsletter, or indicate their interest in volunteering or corporate sponsorship? If so, then counting those signups can be one way to gauge the success of your programming.
Of course, this assumes you’ve provided an easy & acceptable way for your audience to make those preferences known.
7. Staff Touch-points
Now, I don’t believe in micro-managing staff. But the quantity & quality of staff interactions at your fundraiser may be a worthwhile measure for your org. And here’s why.
Let’s say your development manager leaves the event having met 4 prospective major donors. With the right stewarding, that could mean $20K-100K in future revenue! Imagine if that manager also convinced those prospects to agree to a meeting? That‘s exactly the kind of relationship-building that makes these events lucrative.
8. Committee Effectiveness
Event committees have 1 job: bringing guests who are willing to support your org. Assuming devo has a strong hand in managing the committee, consider their effectiveness as something to be measured. Is each person filling all their slots, and how are the overall gifts/ engagement looking for each member?
Now, this isn’t to say that you should do away with those members who aren’t rising to the occasion! You’ll just want to make sure you’re fully engaging those standout ones, and offering guidance to others who may be struggling with the role.
9. Committee Input
If an event committee doesn’t believe that an event was successful, did the event even happen? 🌳
Yea yea, we know it happened! But there’s something to this. Even if your event runs without a hitch, if your committee doesn’t feel inspired or has lots of negative feedback to share, that speaks to the overall experience. So it’s an important perspective to collect, especially since you may not get the chance to hear it from anyone else.
And of course, if they’re excited and awe-struck by the event, that’s a huge win.
One more thing….
Keep in mind these metrics aren’t something you can easily cobble together last minute! That’s why it’s important to get your ducks in a row while you’re still in the event planning phase. Set your goals, make sure you have the right tools in place, and connect with your ops/data person to ensure you’re collecting the right data points.