Evaluating a Gala or Fundraising Event

Gala TableEach week, we write articles on topics that we think would interest the readers of this blog. This week, I would like to highlight someone else’s article. Someone I have never met. However, when I read the article dated July 16, 2016 in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, it was obvious that the writer offered something that is aligned with our goal to help you have a better understanding of fundraising and development. With a specialty in event planning, the author, Harry A. Freedman, focuses on evaluating a gala or fundraising event.

Galas can raise money, attract new donors and excite current donors, but they also tax volunteers who can be deployed in other areas, absorb staff time and cost a lot to create. It is the push-pull that any experienced fundraiser, nonprofit staff member or volunteer understands.

That is why I would recommend that you read the article, After the Ball: How to Evaluate the Success of Your Fundraising Event, and that you download the invaluable Event Evaluation Worksheet.

Now it’s true that you need a subscription, but if you have an annual gala (or you are considering one), find a way to read the full piece and get the download.

The worksheet, which comes as a Word document, currently has sections that include:

  • Attendance and Results
  • Timing
  • Committees
  • Location
  • Budget
  • Promotion
  • Registration
  • Food and Drink
  • Entertainment
  • Management and Staffing

The fact that it is a Word document is important because it means you can make, and he encourages, agency-specific changes. I would suggest that you add a Fundraising section that includes the following questions:

  • Did you know the name and contact information of everyone who was in attendance?
  • Was there an opportunity for people who were less familiar with your organization to request more information?
  • Was there a mechanism to donate at the auction? Was it in the form of a silent or live auction? Were there volunteers who were ready and able to take credit card donations at the event? Did donors find it easy to use?
  • If an auction was involved, did it overtax staff or volunteers? (One way to find out is to ask if they would be willing to help in the same way next year)
  • How did your goal and your net compare to each of the past 5 years of the event?
  • Were in-kind donors and volunteers thanked in an appropriate way at the event?
  • Were in-kind donors, volunteers and donors thanked within 48 hours of the event?
  • Do you have a follow up plan for those in attendance who did not give but may want to give post-event?
  • Do you have a follow up plan for those who are not ready to donate but may become donors in the future?

Summer may be event-free, but it can also be a perfect time to prepare for your next event. If you consider how you will answer all of these questions before the event you will, in all likelihood, help make the event more successful in every aspect. And have an better post-event evaluation.