Why you should be tracking event attendees in your database

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Spring event season is well under way in fundraising land. If you are not yet using your database to track event attendance, or you’d like to improve your tracking, then read on!

Let’s face it: tracking event attendance can be a pain. But it’s well worth it, especially if your organization relies on events for a significant portion of your fundraising revenue. One of the most important parts of your event is what you do after it’s over to convert newly-acquired donors into long-term donors. Using your database, you can easily segment event attendees and do special follow up to first time attendees, brand new donors and/or major gift prospects who attended.

Tracking event attendees and revenue also lets you analyze what’s working, and what’s not working. When you use your database’s event tracking tool, you can easily figure out which events have the best attendance, highest revenue, highest revenue per attendee, best rate of acquiring brand new donors, highest attendance by major gift prospects, and more.

Not only that, but event attendance is a great sign of engagement. People who are willing to leave their house for you are often demonstrating that they like your organization and want to be involved. If the data is available, I always look at event attendance as a criterion when I am prospecting for major donors. By tracking attendance in your database, you make this data reportable in future years, which will improve your donor analytics capacity.

When you decide to start tracking event attendance, you have a critical decision to make: Am I going to track RSVPs and money received in real time in my primary database, or am I going to import some or all of that information after the event is over?

There are some strong arguments in favor of using your database’s event management tool in real time, as long as your event is relatively simple and/or your database is sufficiently robust. This is particularly true if your database offers an integrated event registration tool that lets donors register online, saving you a lot of data entry. Your database is also a communications tool: if you can register event attendees in real time, then everyone on your fundraising team will have access to information about who is attending and how much has been raised.

That said, there are a few reasons you may decide to do a post-event import. You might use a third-party event management tool, particularly when it comes to complex events like auctions or golf tournaments. As well: let’s get real – sometimes due to your database’s configuration, it is easier to track RSVPs on a spreadsheet, and then import them to your donor database later. As long as that method is sufficiently organized and useful as a communications tool within your fundraising team, then that’s okay. But make sure to put time on your event plan to do the import, lest it lag and you wind up with several years’ worth of event attendance spreadsheets that have not been imported to your database.

If you decide to do a post-event import, then consider whether there are any gifts that should be entered in your database as they are received. For example, some organizations decide to enter the majority of event registrations post event, but to enter sponsorship gifts as they are received, since those are larger gifts, often requiring more visibility across the organization. If you do decide to enter some gifts as they are received, and others later, make sure you document this meticulously so you don’t end up double-entering or skipping some gifts after the event is over.

Want more on events? Check out the archives!

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