Do You Employ ROI in Your Special Events?
I do not know about you, but where I work, it is special event season. From October 1 to January 1, for example, The Salvation Army Indiana Division sponsors a Coats for Kids program where several thousand children receive new or gently used coats. Walmart is partnering with our organization to host a toy donation drive for children. A 25th Radiothon will be held to generate $250,000 that benefits hundreds of those in need in our community. An Angel Tree Program will be held that provides more than 7,500 needy children with a Christmas morning.
Also, a Kettle Bell Ringing program begins and ends that involves hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars in donations, primarily with change and $1 dollar bills. It is a crazy time that consists of many moving parts. Much study and planning are utilized to maximize various factors for success. These special events have been going on for years. The question for us and your organization is: Do you truly examine event results and plan for greater success each succeeding year?
Network for Good states that nonprofit fundraising events are a great way to cultivate support and attract new donors. Before you jump in and create a magical event, consider if you even need to have an event, who your audience is, what you want them to do and is an event the best solution?
Once you determine to proceed with an event, set a goal that makes sense, choose the right type of event, secure corporate sponsors, design a dynamic experience for your supporters, promote your event, assess your results and cultivate your relationships.
According to Volunteer Hub, the return on investment, or ROI, explains what you are getting in return for your efforts or investment. When the investment is money, an ROI is easy to calculate. When the investment is time and resources, it can be more difficult to quantify. When making decisions on ROI, it is very important to think about opportunity costs. Some costs are obvious and others are not as obvious.
You need to examine your human resources to see if they are doing a lot of non-revenue producing activities in the name of saving a buck. Is your special events plan saving you money or costing you opportunity? In the nonprofit arena, staff, donors, administration, board members, volunteers and community members expect spending/saving decisions to be well thought out and financially sound.
Eventbrite explains that when the event is over, you are happy. But personal satisfaction is not a true measure of success.
Here are five steps to accurately measure your event’s ROI:
- Learn how to calculate event ROI. Subtract the cost of your event from the total sales revenue, and then divide by total cost of the event. The result is expressed as a percentage, which you multiply by 100.
- Identify the primary goal for your event, which is the most important. The primary goal could be to raise funds with a secondary goal of increasing awareness for the cause.
- Set measurable objectives related to your goal that include steps toward attainment.
- Gather data and track your progress by using event technology and leverage tools.
- Analyze and understand results by examining data and ROI. When looking at your event expenditures, don’t forget to include the man hours you and your team and others put into it to obtain a true cost.
The Balance notes that many organizations are now recognizing the value of building relationships with their key constituents through a variety of events. Measurement of program success will vary from organization to organization. Events success should be viewed from both the ROI and participant levels. Create a process of discovery that involves all key stakeholders, establish a pre-event survey, hold pre-event meetings with a meeting design in mind, host the event and have post-event surveys and evaluations. Develop qualitative and quantitative measures.
EventGeek encourages event planners to create an event strategy, determine your event goals, create items to measure, determine how you will measure items, set up a base ROI measurement tool, hold the event and follow through with analysis of results. Make sure you have post-event surveys and gather statistical information. Seek to determine your actual ROI. Advertising, content, social — these all have goals, metrics, benchmarks and a clear role to play in the overall marketing strategy. They are also repeatable, measurable and optimizable. Event marketing should and can be the same.
When looking at an event’s ROI, look at this cheat sheet from EventBank. Do you determine if your event was successful by the number of attendees, sales generated, connections made and awareness generated? Or do you bring up the concept of ROI? Before calculating ROI, you need to have a clear picture of the purpose and goals of the special event. Ideally, there should be one primary objective and one secondary objective. You need to continue to reduce expenses over time and increase revenue.
Do you employ ROI in your special events? Sadly, many organizations hold the same events each year and celebrate their gross revenue, while neglecting their actual net revenue. Special event success should be determined by financial and non-financial pre-determined factors.
Make sure you determine through a thorough planning process the primary and secondary goals you wish to attain. When the event is over, talk to every key participant and examine positive plus negative attributes. Ask yourself if you really want to hold the event next year. And if so, take steps to improve your product. Leave no stone unturned. Take nothing for granted and create a checklist to see if you achieved total success. Always look at best of class to pick up tips for improvement. Little things may make your event truly successful and memorable.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.