7 Tips For Evaluating Your Fundraising Gala

In today’s environment of accelerated pace of change and the importance for charities to demonstrate their impact the execution of robust evaluative processes has become a strategic imperative. The common idea of ‘what gets measured, gets done’ falls short of the importance of applying learning derived from the evaluation of performance and levels of satisfaction of client and donor.

In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance… you thrive on that.”  – Bill Gates

gala cycle

Embarking on the decision to host a fundraising gala your organization has created additional opportunity to advance the charitable mission beyond raising funds or friends. Great galas serve as entertainment, brand builder, engagement tool and communication vehicle. Reflecting upon all these areas with a ‘learn and apply’ mindset can help you improve your galas or similar events.

Reflect – the execution of the fourth stage [in the closed loop process] is as important as all other stages. I encourage you to read my blogs addressing the first 3 stages: Imagine, Produce and Experience in addition to the tips below.

7 tips for evaluating your fundraising gala:
  1. Appoint an individual to lead a small cross-functional team who will champion your gala evaluation process. By dedicating sufficient resources to the review will help reinforce a culture of continuous improvement and accountability. By having the group meet during the Imagine, Produce and Experience stages as well as post-event encourages the team to take a holistic approach and not lose sight of important data along the way.
  2. Define your evaluation process in a written plan highlighting methodology, budget, target audiences and essential reporting timelines. Often measuring performance or evaluating events falters due to the lack of discipline in the process and this can be avoided by investing time early in the event life cycle.
  3. Define the qualitative and quantitative measures that are important to you and your organization. Preferably, this is agreed upon during the ‘imagining’ stage and executed during the fundraising gala. The benefit of early definition helps to garner the commitment to evaluation during each stage while determining the expectations of the process reporting.
  4. Leverage a variety of integrated digital tools to gather macro and micro data sets. There are a variety of on-line tools to compliment your current analytic reporting practices and when combined can help identify gaps and opportunities for event development. For example, collated website analytic data, on-line ticket sales reports, participant surveys and social media impressions provide a tapestry to your event report.
  5. Dig deep into the unusual questions. Gaining insight to YOY pattern changes in sales performance, donor retention rates, guest no-show rates, engagement of new donors or partners and economic trends in the market can help in future promotion and program execution while providing context to the profit and loss statement. Setting budget and benchmarks for staff and volunteer time can assist you in measuring efficiency and the return on investment (ROI).
  6. Most likely your sponsorship agreements have outlined the reporting requirements as a condition of the partnership. Engaging the sponsors in your evaluative process reinforces the partnership while obtaining a third-party view of your gala. Comparing data sets of all sponsors can help identify trends and opportunities for future sponsor packaging and solidify the value proposition for your partner(s).
  7. Guests, partners and valued supplier focus groups (i.e. key donors, stakeholders, contractors, venue management) are a great source of objective evaluation. Creating an open and transparent environment for gathering the feedback can get at those important nuggets of information and development recommendations. Meeting with these groups within days of your event can help gather feedback still fresh in the minds of these individuals and groups.

I hope these 7 tips will help with your fundraising gala evaluation. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas by replying below with your comments.

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