When it comes to planning a nonprofit fundraising event, nonprofits have to compare the various differences between virtual and in-person formats.
For example, attendee engagement during in-person events is more straightforward. Attendees might mingle with each other, listen to a live presentation, or participate in different activities like dancing or an auction. Virtual events require a little more creativity. Participants might have conversations in the chat feature of your livestreaming tool, or get to know each other and talk about your cause in smaller breakout sessions.
However, one of the biggest differences between these two types of events is how easily your organization can assess event success.
In contrast to being able to directly observe in-person events, you must do a little more footwork before and after your organization’s virtual fundraising events to assess their effectiveness.
In this quick guide, we’ll look at four tips for measuring virtual nonprofit event success. Let’s begin!
1. Set clear goals for your events.
Setting goals before your virtual events will give your team a sense of direction when it comes to planning and executing your event, tying all of the work that goes into the event to your larger mission and vision. Plus, your goals can provide a basis against which to measure the outcomes of your event. If, for example, you set a goal to get 1,200 people to attend the virtual gala for your animal shelter, you can track your attendance numbers after the event to determine whether that goal was met.
Set your event goals using the SMART acronym:
Here are two examples of some SMART goals to help inspire your own goal-setting:
- At our next virtual dance-a-thon, we will raise $15,000 for our free community dance class program, which will help us pay our dance teachers and revamp our facilities ahead of the summer season. We’ll measure our progress using a fundraising thermometer and will aim to reach $15,000 by the end of the night.
- We want to increase the average number of registrants for our educational webinar series from 500 to 1,000. We can do this by leveraging social media advertising and SEO best practices. In the weeks leading up to our next webinar, we’ll monitor our progress by checking our registration numbers daily and determining next steps.
Perhaps the most important part of the SMART acronym is the “Attainable” aspect. Your organization should set goals that are challenging but that your team is fully capable of achieving. This will ensure that you’re able to see progress and feel motivated to continue improving different parts of your virtual event strategy. And you can always set a stretch goal after achieving an initial goal!
2. Track event attendance and engagement metrics.
One of the first questions you’ll likely have about your virtual events is, “How many people came to the event, and how engaged were they?” You can answer this question by monitoring event attendance and engagement metrics.
To get metrics that you can gain insight from and take action on, you’ll need to gather useful data from your virtual events. Get information from your registration and donation forms, your CRM, your website, social media platforms, and email marketing platforms. From there, you can calculate or derive specific metrics like:
- Registration numbers: One of the best ways to see how well your marketing strategy worked for encouraging people to register for your event is to look at your registration numbers. Simply count up the number of registrations you received ahead of the event.
- Attendance rates: Just because someone registered for your virtual event doesn’t mean they actually attended. You can calculate your attendance rate to see who actually showed up on the day of. Simply divide the number of people who actually attended your event by the number of people who registered for your event, and then multiply by 100 to get a percentage.
- Social media engagement: Social media is an excellent tool for engaging virtual event attendees, whether you’re asking them to follow your organization on Instagram or tweet about your event. To get general insights about how your attendees interacted with your organization on social media, compare your follower numbers before and after the event, or engagement (likes, shares, comments) on specific event-related posts. You can even dive deeper into social media engagement by looking at specific platforms.
Track these metrics over multiple events to identify specific patterns or trends. For example, if you find that your registration numbers for virtual events shoot up during the year-end fundraising season but fall during the summer months, you’ll know when to schedule the majority of your events.
The longer you track your metrics, the clearer your patterns will be, empowering you to act on what you’re seeing with the goal of improving future events.
3. Monitor your fundraising progress.
Most of your virtual events will likely involve some form of fundraising, whether you’re hosting a live virtual auction or encouraging text-to-give donations throughout a virtual performance. However you’re fundraising, you should actively monitor your progress toward your fundraising goal throughout the event to ensure you’re going to hit your target.
As you monitor your fundraising progress, you should encourage further donations by sharing your progress publicly. Here are some best practices for doing so:
- Use a fundraising thermometer. Display a fundraising thermometer during your virtual event to show how much you’ve raised and how far you have to go. You can get creative with how you use your thermometer, too. For example, say you’re having your supporters participate in a peer-to-peer initiative to sell snacks like cookie dough or candy bars. You could use your thermometer to show how many items your volunteer fundraisers have sold compared to your total selling goal.
- Have a prominent member of your community announce fundraising milestones. Sometimes a reminder from a prominent figure can make all the difference to your fundraising goal. For example, you might ask a board member, local celebrity, or the entertainer or emcee for the evening to announce periodic fundraising updates and to encourage more giving.
- Leverage social media. Social media, especially Twitter, is a great tool for sharing live updates on fundraising. Plus, you’ll not only direct your event attendees’ attention to your social media profiles but will also encourage donations from your supporters who were unable to attend the event.
Another fun way to encourage additional giving is to ask a major donor to match donations up to a certain dollar amount. Being able to tell your event attendees that, for the next hour, one of your major donors will be matching donations up to $10,000 can encourage donations as your supporters will see how easily they can boost the impact of their gifts.
4. Solicit feedback from event attendees.
In addition to tracking metrics and your progress in fundraising goals, sometimes one of the best ways to find out how successful your virtual event was is to ask your event attendees what their experiences were like.
Talking to your attendees about your virtual events won’t just provide you with information you can use to improve your events, either. Kwala’s guide to donor communications emphasizes how regular check-ins like these can keep your organization top-of-mind and strengthen your relationships with your supporters. Thus, reaching out to your attendees is an all-around best practice for ensuring your supporters stay engaged with your cause.
So, how can you solicit feedback about your virtual events? Here are three ideas:
- Email out a survey. To ensure that your attendees will fill out your survey, keep it short, just a few questions long. Make your questions open-ended. For example, you might ask, “What did you like most about our virtual concert?” or “If you could change one thing about your experience at our virtual paint-and-sip class, what would it be?”
- Use a poll on social media. Polls provide a quick look at your community’s general feelings about something, like your event, through short questions with set answers. You could, for instance, post a poll on your Instagram story asking if your supporters would attend another virtual event in the future, or have them pick what they would be most interested in attending from a list of event types.
- Pick up the phone. Sometimes it’s better to have a freewheeling conversation about your event with a supporter. Have your staff members or volunteers call a few event attendees chosen at random to ask some questions about your event. Make sure to have your callers record the responses they receive so you can analyze them later.
Go the extra mile in your efforts to get feedback by adding a little incentive to the process. For example, you might ask an event attendee to fill out your post-event survey for the chance to win a fun prize, like a gift basket filled with goodies from local businesses. Or, you might send gift cards to the supporters who take the time to answer your questions over the phone.
Giving your supporters a little something in return for their feedback will help them feel seen and valued, and encourage them to give you honest and thorough answers.
Virtual nonprofit events can be a convenient, cost-effective way to engage your supporters in a unique shared experience. But to ensure that your virtual event strategy is supporting your nonprofit’s larger mission and vision, you need to measure your virtual nonprofit event success and work to improve.
Use these four tips to get started measuring the success of your next virtual event, and to take your virtual events to the next level, consider working with a charity event planning and production team like CharityBids to produce one-of-a-kind events that your attendees will never forget. You’ve got this!