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Planning for Communitywide Special Events:
Evaluating the Event

A North Central Regional Extension Publication

Evaluation is an important step in planning and conducting a community wide special event. It is the means by which future planning committees can examine the success of each activity within a total event and discover the extent to which the original objectives were met.

Several points should be remembered when planning for and conducting an effective evaluation:

  1. Planning for evaluation should be included with all other event-planning details.
  2. Information and opinions gathered in the evaluation process should be as objective as possible. It is just as important to record minor failures of the event as it is to report major successes.
  3. Input to the evaluation process should be made by planning and evaluation committee members and others involved in the event.
  4. A variety of evaluation methods should be used with the results combined and compared.
  5. The evaluation committee should suggest evaluation methods that fit the event and those that are within the feasible resources of the total planning group.

No specific method can be considered best for evaluating an event; however, it can be said that a simple headcount and financial accounting are not in themselves adequate means of evaluation. They are but a part of the process, as are the comments of committee members and perhaps the complaints of a few disgruntled participants. Questionnaires, personal interviews, and even reports on the weather may also be included in the evaluation.

Specific assignments for the various evaluation methods should be made well in advance of the event so that each committee member understands his or her responsibility. Forms and check-off sheets should be designed and printed as necessary.

If questionnaires are to be used, they should be designed with particular attention to the specific information and opinions desired. (For help with designing the questionnaire, contact a county Extension adviser or a staff member of a nearby college or university). Members of the evaluation committee may wish to administer questionnaires by personal interviews as people leave the event or by mailing the forms to local residents.

The total planning committee should meet as soon after the close of the event to discuss and record all of the information received, both in the form of written facts and opinions and informal comments by event planners and participants. A complete report on all aspects of planning and conducting the event should be compiled following the evaluation meeting.

The following methods were used to evaluate the Musket Days Festival described on an earlier page of this circular and may be helpful to groups planning evaluations for their own events.

Objective 1.

To interpret the unique Civil War history of the community through pageantry, displays of craftsmanship, and serving of authentic food.

Evaluation methods: Record attendance at each pageant performance. Briefly interview audience members at random. Request an objective review by an experienced drama critic. Compare types of crafts displayed with all those sought for the exhibit. Record observations of interest in specific crafts. Interview a few event participants regarding the craft show. Record the effect of the location, weather, and crowd on various craft displays. Record the volume of food consumed by specific item and income. Record observations of food locations, crowdedness, service, and cleanup or litter problems. Randomly interview participants regarding food service.

Objective 2.

To utilize the full resources and cooperation of local governmental, civic, and church groups for voluntary help, facilities, and financial backing.

Evaluation methods: Record names of groups invited to help and note response (refusal or type and amount of aid given). Compare total number of volunteers, number and types of facilities used, and funds donated against those needed or requested. List agencies or groups that were not solicited but that may be contacted in the future. Record suggestions for future involvement of community groups.

Objective 3.

To provide fun and entertainment for children and adults of all ages.

Evaluation methods: Record number of participants at each children's activity. Record observations on enjoyment of various activities along with notes on possible safety concerns. Randomly interview participating children and their parents. Rank each activity according to its popularity.

Objective 4.

To attract at least 3,000 visitors to the community from surrounding rural areas and towns.

Evaluation methods: Estimate and record the total number of participants at various events at various times. Randomly ask participants if the are local residents or visitors. Ask all out-of-town visitors to raise their hands at specific event and record the count. Compare estimates of visitors against that of total attendance.

Objective 5.

To raise at least $5,000 (net profit) for installation of a children's playground and other equipment in the community park.

Evaluation methods: Set up and maintain complete records on all expenditures and income for each separate money-making activity. Maintain a central record of one-day and total-event receipts. Record observations on reasons for the financial success or failure of each activity.

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About the Author:

This publication is a revision of the 1976 circular by Robert P. Humke and Anne Murray Stenolen. This edition was prepared by Robert D. Espeseth, recreation resource specialist, Office of Recreation and Park Resources, Department of Leisure Studies and the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service. It is designed especially for groups planning their first communitywide events; however, the material will also be of value to those evaluating existing events in the hope of making them more successful.

North Central Region Extension Publications are subject to peer review and prepared as part of the Cooperative Extension activities of the thirteen land-grand universities of the 12 North Central states, in cooperation with the Extension service - U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C. The following states cooperated in making this publication available.

University of Illinois (publishing state)
Kansas State University
University of Wisconsin

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