Every day there are nonprofits running travel programs for donors, board members, and volunteers, without having any metrics in place to determine the program’s success. We’re all very familiar with the metrics and measurements we use in our mission-related work (also called Monitoring & Evaluation), as well as the benchmarks and goals we set for fundraising (as outlined in the Development Plan). Yet travel programs, especially when they are not fully managed by one individual from one department, frequently fall into a grey area where they are not being measured.

Because I feel strongly that we should never be investing time and money into something that does not benefit the organization in a measurable way, I want to include some questions you can use to assess the past success of previous trips and set measurements for future trips. This is very different from merely soliciting participant feedback in order to make the trip more interesting and comfortable (I.e. How as the hotel? Rate the professionalism of the tour guide, etc). These are metrics you should be using to determine the value of the trip to your organization. This is how you justify the time, money, and resources invested in the travel program.

Money

Not every trip is a fundraising trip, but if you are taking donors to the field and hoping they will make larger gifts in the future, these are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer to determine the value of the trip:

Ask yourselves:

  • How much was raised from all donors who attended the trip?
  • How much was pledged on the trip?
  • How much was pledged after the trip (but is likely as the result of a donor’s attending the trip)?
  • What percentage of funds were restricted to a specific program and what percentage were unrestricted?
  • How much was raised from new donors?
  • How much was raised in the form of multi-year pledges?
  • How many donors became monthly donors?
  • Did gifts from current donors who attended the trip increase? By what percentage?

Ask your participants:

  • Has this experience impacted your giving decisions? If so, tell us how.
  • Why did you increase your gift?
  • Why did you give to the organization for the first time?
  • What was your most meaningful experience on the trip and why?

Marketing

It is often a challenge getting quality footage and stories from the field, so why not set some objectives on your next trip? If your goal is to acquire more marketing assets and to utilize trip participants to increase audience engagement, these are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer to determine the value of the trip:

Ask yourselves:

  • How many stories did we gather?
  • How many media assets (photos/videos) did we gather?
  • How many quotes did we gather?
  • How many testimonials did we gather?
  • How do we plan to use the assets (Annual Report, Campaigns, Events, etc).

Ask your participants:

  • What is the most powerful story you will take home to share with friends and family?
  • Would you be willing to share your experience with our supporters?
  • How would you like to share your story? (Online via social media, in person at our next event, through a pre-recorded video, etc)?

Education

All trips involve an educational element, whether it be educating our donors, board members, or volunteers on the impact of our work. This too can be measured in a qualitative way, so that you can assess the effectiveness of the education participants received. These are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer to determine the value of the trip:

Ask yourselves:

  • Which elements of our work did we highlight on this trip and why?
  • Which methods of education seemed to most resonant with participants? Break this down by type, such as formal and informal, experiential and cognitive. (i.e. Meeting with program staff, interviewing beneficiaries, informal dinners with local partners, lectures from tour guide, hands-on experience working at the site, etc).
  • In what ways did we allow participants to reflect on their experiences? (Nightly debriefs at the hotel, facilitated group discussions over lunch, questionnaire at the end of the trip, etc).

Ask your participants:

  • What was your most meaningful experience on the trip and why? (This question gets repeated in multiple sections because it is so revealing)
  • What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  • Rank the activities in order, starting from the ones in which you learned the most to the least. (You will provide them a list)
  • How did your understanding of our organization change as a result of this experience?
  • How did your understanding of the culture/region/environment change result of this experience?
  • How did your understanding of our solutions change result of this experience?
    What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

Volunteering

Many trips have a volunteer component to them which provides participants with hands-on experience and the ability to contribute to the mission through their time and skills. It is important that these trips be measured in more than just hours and money. To asses the value of your volunteer trips these are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer:

Ask yourselves:

  • How has the work of volunteers contributed to the mission in a meaningful way?
  • What would we have done without volunteer support? And how much would that have cost us? (Hint: if the answers are “nothing” and “zero” then the contribution was not meaningful).
  • What is the approximate value (is money terms) of the volunteers’ contributions?
  • How were our beneficiaries directly impacted by the volunteers’ contributions?
  • How were our local partners directly impacted by the volunteers’ contributions?
  • How was the local community directly impacted by the volunteers’ contributions?

Ask your participants:

  • What was your most meaningful experience on the trip and why?
  • Was this experience a worthwhile investment of your time and skills? Why or why not?
  • Would you volunteer again in the same capacity? Why or why not?

Recruitment and Retention

For Board development trips, recruitment and retention are the main goals, along with the educational component. Many nonprofits report that a large number of their board members were recruited as a result of attending a donor trip, and that this methods has allowed them to secure people who are deeply invested in the long-term. A trip can also be a way to re-energize existing board members and reacquaint them with the work in an impactful way. To asses the value of your Board recruitment/retention trips, these are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer:

Ask yourselves: (For prospective board members)

  • Which participants do we think have the greatest potential of becoming board members and why?
  • Were we successful in recruiting any of this participants to join the board? If not, why?
  • How did the trip provide an opportunity to screen and assess these participants?
  • What did we learn about these participants that we did not know before?

Ask yourselves: (For current board members)

  • Which current board members did we invite to participate in the trip and why?
  • How did the trip provide an opportunity to reevaluate these board members?
  • How did the trip provide an opportunity to bond with these board members?
  • What did we learn about these board members that we did not know before?

Ask participants:

  • Why did you decide to serve on the board?
  • How has this experience affected your board service?
  • How has this experience affected your commitment to the organization?
  • How has this experiences affected your anticipated length of service on the board?
  • What was your most meaningful experience on the trip and why?
  • Would you have been interested in joining the board/remaining on the board were it not for this experience?

 

Get the latest insight on donor travel and more. Subscribe now:

Leave a Reply