Online Event Success Metrics: Measuring Nonprofit Virtual Gatherings

If your nonprofit has moved to virtual events and activities, your measurement strategy should change, too. But what are the best metrics to use? What kind of data can you collect? We’ll help you choose key event success metrics so that you can measure results and refine your strategy.

Linking Virtual Event Metrics & Nonprofit Goals

The first step in determining the best event success metrics for your nonprofit is making sure to set goals for your event. Otherwise, your measurement plan won’t give you much actionable insight about where things worked well and where they fell short.

Depending on the type of event or activity, your goals probably tie back to one or more common areas of nonprofit work:

  • Programs, such as offering online support groups or community-based services 
  • Education/Awareness, like hosting a virtual conference or training related to your mission
  • Fundraising, such as hosting an online gala or auction to raise money for your organization
  • Advocacy, like running a virtual advocacy day for supporters to reach out to legislators

Classifying your event at this basic level will help you determine the most important and relevant measures of success. For example, it might be nice to get donations as a result of an advocacy event, but your top priority is getting as many people involved as possible. 

Keep this in mind as you look through our list of metrics. Pick and choose the ones that align closely with the type of event and the questions you want to be able to answer (e.g., did we raise any money?) after the event.

Event Success Metrics to Consider

If you need to create a report for the board or just for your purposes, the following metrics can provide you with the data you need to assess whether or not you reached your goals for an online event. 

As you look through these options, consider what kind of data you have for past events, too. Your event analysis will be even more compelling if you have similar, historic metrics to compare to, even if they were events that were previously held in-person.

Event revenue

If you’re looking for the event to bring in money for your nonprofit, calculate total revenue based on how you collected funds, like ticket sales, donations and event sponsorships. It might also be helpful for you to calculate revenue on a per head basis (based on the number of attendees) to inform pricing in the future.

Event registrations

How many individuals signed up to participate in your online event? In addition to this single number, you could consider breaking down registrants by demographic data you’ve collected in the registration process, like their zip code or age group. Collecting registrations on your website instead of through a third party could make this a lot easier.

New and returning donors or members

If you’re curious to see if online events are bringing in new supporters or engaging existing ones, calculate how many of your registrants are new and returning. You can also use this information to learn more about the types of events that these audiences are interested in and update your target audience personas accordingly.

Event participants

Sure, people registered for your virtual gathering. But how many showed up? With so much competition out there, it’s nice to know how well you were able to keep the interest of your registrants and get them to attend the live event.

Event engagement

Wondering how to measure event engagement? It’s nice to know if people tuned in but were mostly tuned out. Learning about audience engagement mostly comes down to the platform you use for the event (more on that below). For example, you might be able to track the number of comments/chats or participation in live polls.

Attendee attrition

Another way of looking at overall engagement is to compare the number of participants who were present at the start of your online event compared to the number at the end.

Quantitative feedback

Depending on your event platform or software, you can gather some quick metrics from event attendees by polling them during the event or just before it ends. Consider asking them things like how informative or engaging they found a speaker or session. You could also ask how likely they are to attend a future event or recommend your online events to others, similar to a Net Promoter Score.

Qualitative feedback

If you want to collect feedback that goes deeper than a simple poll, you can use a post-event survey to help measure its success. With this approach, you can ask more open-ended questions and pull out common themes to share with your team and adjust your strategy.

Website traffic

If you’re using your nonprofit’s website to do things like promote your gathering, register attendees, or live stream your event, there’s a wealth of data that you can gather about the amount of traffic that it’s driving to your site, like visits to your event landing page. You can also take a deeper look at the traffic sources (paid and organic search, social media, email and referrals) that are most interested in your event.

Website events and conversions

Website tools like Google Analytics can measure the actions that visitors take on your website, like submitting a registration form, clicking a specific link, or playing a video. These interactions are usually tracked as events or conversions based on how your site is set up. (Remember to put these tracking mechanisms in place before your virtual gathering since it can’t gather data retroactively.)

Email performance

Like your website, you’ll probably rely on email marketing to promote your event to potential participants and then again to communicate with registrants before and after. Most email marketing platforms allow you to track basic performance metrics for each of your emails, like the click rate, open rate, forwards, and the amount of unsubscribes.

Pay attention to any trends you see, like a drop off in interest, which could indicate you’re sending too many emails or need to tweak your messaging. And if your email provider is also linked up with your website analytics tool, look to see if your emails are leading to meaningful actions.

Social media performance

Posting about your event on social media is a great way to drive traffic to your website to register and to keep people interested in the event leading up to the big day. You should be able to monitor engagement with your posts in the form of comments, clicks, and shares. 

When your online event is live, you can also look for social media activity that mentions it, which can also tell you a little more about members of the audience who are super engaged.

Getting Access to Key Event Data

There’s the desire for more event data, and then there’s the process of actually collecting it from the tools you use to promote and host your event. Get a feel for the metrics that you’re likely to be able to measure based on some of the common platforms and services out there.

  • Facebook Event. You’ll have access to data about the number of responders, your post activity and engagement within the event, and clicks on the ticketing link you use for registrations. You can also look at any discussions going on to gauge audience interest and satisfaction.
  • Zoom Videos. After the event ends, you can access webinar and meeting reports through Zoom. These allow you to see numbers related to registrations, attendees, engagement, participant feedback and the results of polls or Q&As.
  • YouTube Live Streams. With YouTube’s live stream metrics, you can monitor how many people are watching at any given time, how long the average watcher stays tuned in, the chat rate of participants, view demographics, and more.
  • GoToWebinar Events. The included webinar analytics allow you to see metrics like total registrants and attendees, attendee duration, poll and survey responses, and average attentiveness.

Switching to virtual events or adding them to your existing marketing, fundraising and program tools can open the door to new opportunities and audiences. Just don’t forget to update your event success metrics to reflect all the great data you can collect from online sources like your website, service providers and other digital channels.

The more consistent you are when it comes to gathering great data means better analysis and actionable insights you can use to improve the user experience and your internal processes.

What kind of event success metrics do you use for your organization? Any tips for tools or services that make it easy (and inexpensive) for nonprofits to track virtual event metrics? Let’s geek out in the comments.