By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
Some events can draw crowds for decades while others fall flat after a year or two. It can be tricky to forecast what makes certain gatherings an instant success, but it shouldn’t be difficult to measure an event’s effectiveness over time.
“Events are often passed down for years, from one set of staff or board members to another, and no one actually stops to think about what the event should be achieving,” says founder and president of Big Buzz Idea Group Melissa Lagowski. “To properly evaluate an event, you must first determine why it is being held.”
Since starting Big Buzz Idea Group in 2004, Lagowski’s team has produced an average of 30 events annually. She’s seen fundraisers and friendraisers and everything in between through various phases, and has guided nonprofits in concluding whether it makes sense to refresh, reinvent or retire these efforts. “In our experience, when you start thinking about needing to change an event, it has often run its course,” she adds. “The reality is that if you are going to do the same things you have already done, you are likely to get the same results.”
Organizations must be able to evaluate their events with emotional ties and biases aside. Here, Melissa shares a few tips that organizations can use to decide the next steps for measuring the effectiveness of any event:
Set goals first. Set three or four goals at the top of your planning “This enables organizations to easily measure the outcome of their event against their intended goals,” she says. “If you aimed to raise $100,000, have 300 attendees and secure 10 new development contacts, then you can quickly see how close you came to meeting those numbers and decide whether the event is a good use of your organization’s resources. If you met less than 50 percent of your goals, then it is probably time to retire your event and work toward creating something new.”
Review Is attendance declining? This may be a sign that people crave new experiences or that the target audience has shifted. These indicators should inform how you shape future iterations of an event.
Consider Events that are too expensive require a second look, and she warns of “hidden costs” too. “When analyzing projects, people often overlook the staff’s time,” Lagowski shares. “For perspective, a large-scale fundraiser generally requires 500 to 1,500 hours of work to produce. The average full-time employee works 2,080 hours per year, so the event requires a minimum of 25 percent of one person’s time.”
Conduct surveys Do this: “Survey your attendees, volunteers and even service providers,” she suggests. “They often have great ideas about what changes could be made to improve the success of your event.”
Review “If you are organizing a fundraiser, every dollar counts, and getting three competitive bids for the services you need can ensure you get the best value possible,” Lagowski says.
This interview was originally printed in Special Events Galore! March 2020 Edition and reprinted with permission from John Wiley and Sons.