6 Tests to Determine if Your Annual Banquet is a Good Investment (And Some Ideas to Improve your ROI)

So, that time of year has come up on your center: planning season for your ANNUAL BANQUET.

After the initial panic and/or feelings of dread subside”¦ It’s time to dive in.

Let’s start with some awesome news: if you’ve already done a banquet, you’ll probably already be able to see ways to get at the data we’re going to talk about below.

More awesome news: if you’ve NEVER done a banquet before, you can start collecting data from your very first year.

The lesson here: there is never, ever, ever a bad time to decide to start looking at your fundraising efforts and being more strategic.

But what if I told you that your annual banquet may not actually be the best investment for your center? An event of this magnitude is a huge investment of not just money, but time and effort. Sometimes, a center’s precious resources might be better spent on getting a very good Major Gifts Officer who can cultivate larger gifts that will easily outpace the Return on Investment (ROI) of its annual banquet.

If you want to make a solid case to keep or ditch your annual banquet for yourself or your board, here are six tests to consider running this year:

1. The Net Revenue Test

Let’s talk straight dollars and cents on this. Did you make money on the event.

It’s relatively easy to look at your costs vs. your gross income on the event, but your net income isn’t where you should stop for this test.

Instead, decide ahead of time that you’re going to calculate ALL of the costs involved with putting on your show-stopper of a banquet. Ask paid staff members to record all of the hours that they put towards the banquet, from brainstorming meetings to calling prospective venues to managing the cadre of volunteers. (If they worked any off the books, ask them to record it in a different line.)

Pro Tip: Can any of those staff hours be shifted to volunteer staff? This will increase the hours that your paid staff has to work on things that may need their attention more, outside of the banquet. Great tasks for volunteers: phone calls, putting together mailings, running errands. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Metrics to Track: Year over year, ideally costs should go down as you find additional volunteers, better deals through cultivated relationships, get stuff donated, etc”¦ or at least not go up. Revenue should go up as you find better ways to ask for partners to join you in your ministry.