A big part of a lot of nonprofit websites is a robust online event signup solution. The challenge I'm trying to solve today is assisting you with selecting the best online event signup software for your website. And while I’m talking directly to our nonprofit listeners, what we’ll cover here applies to anyone running an online event, though our examples are going to be focused on the nonprofit community. Our very own Stacy Brockmeier will be providing the checklist of the criteria for how to select the right solution!View the Episode Goodie Bag >> Hosted By
A big part of a lot of nonprofit websites is a robust online event signup solution. The challenge I’m trying to solve today is assisting you with selecting the best online event signup software for your website. And while I’m talking directly to our nonprofit listeners, what we’ll cover here applies to anyone running an online event, though our examples are going to be focused on the nonprofit community.
As I was making this checklist for listeners, I thought to myself, who better to ask for input than our own Stacy Brockmeier? Given her job is to help our clients plan their websites, a big part of that for nonprofits is choosing an online management software for their events. Stacy Brockmeier is our frontman when it comes to helping clients plan their websites, which includes helping nonprofits choose an online event management software that’s right for them.
She has a checklist of the criteria for how to select the right solution we’ll go over today. In case you missed our discussion on different event registration solutions and functionality for your website, we covered that in our last blog/podcast post, Online Event Registration Solutions – From Simple to Robust. Go check it out!
What is event management software? For us at MayeCreate, this event management software is the functionality within your website that allows people to sign up for your event.
DISCLAIMER: Not all scenarios require you house your registration capabilities within your site. We’ve had some organizations who imagine doing this all through their website, and when we sit down and really start to listen to what they want out of it, we determine it makes more sense to just use their client relationship management system, or CRM, rather than recreate the wheel on your website. Other times their signup form is so incredibly robust, it can’t be handled through their CRM, in which case they may have to do a little bit of manual back and forth to make it all work.
The first thing you want to do before you begin evaluating your event registration software options is list out all the events you’re going to have, and then think through what is needed in terms of registration for each one of those events.
There is a lot of software out there that does some really cool stuff. What you want from it comes down to planning and then evaluating your software options. We love a good rubric, so if you find a platform that checks all your boxes, that’s a win! Usually though, there’s going to be something that doesn’t fit what you need perfectly, so then it becomes about prioritizing what you must have versus what you can be flexible with.
Onto the evaluation checklist!
If so, you’ll need to find a solution that works with your bank account and payment gateway. In terms of functionality for price structure and all that, you can make it as easy or complicated as you’d like.
Some events we’ve had offer a discounted rate for group signup or let you sponsor a full table. Many event management systems allow you to use a simple group discount formula like, like an order of at least 6 tickets gets 20% off. Others might do a member versus non-member rate, and of course, there’s always the option of purchasing one ticket or one whole table for a flat rate. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Being able to see if a transaction has actually cleared is really important for an online paid-event registration. If somebody signed up for your event, but the transaction didn’t clear through your payment gateway, you have to be able to see that so you can get ahold of them and ask them to sign up again. There are several gateways that won’t let the form go through until it’s actually cleared, but not all of them are set up that way.
Not all systems offer tickets, so that’s something to be mindful of as you evaluate your software options. If you know what you want, you can start there by seeing which one fulfills your needs best — there are a lot of systems that can offer anything from physical tickets to QR codes to gift cards. Sometimes a simple email works, too.
How simple or complicated is the form? And how easy or hard is it to update? Is there a limit to how many people can attend? Again, consider your users, both your staff and your registrants when you’re planning out your form.
Some event signup forms we’ve worked on have been really straightforward. Especially for a webinar, you just collect a name and an email. Another client ran an entire conference and had a ton of options on the initial sign up form, everything from t-shirts to dinner to an extra ride from the airport to what sessions you wanted to go to at the conference. It can get really intense when you’re planning.
For instance, a golf tournament won’t allow for an unlimited number of attendees. So make sure that functionality is possible in your signup form.
Consider not only your attendees but also your sponsorships, as well as what can make the registration process easier for your office staff. The idea is to turn your website into a tool — you can even think of it as an additional employee. What you don’t want is a website that’s hard for you, your staff, or your website visitors to use.
Establish the end result you want from the software and work backwards from there. What are you going to need from it? Is an Excel spreadsheet enough? Or are you going to need to print tickets or name badges or things like that? How are you going to need to get the data in the end? Because that’s going to determine where you go from the beginning.
We don’t see many event management software applications that don’t let you get at least a CSV export of your attendees, so this shouldn’t be a difficult box to check off if that’s all you need.
While an Excel spreadsheet is a great end product you can use to make other resources, it’s not always the most versatile for your registration needs. It’s possible you’ve got an ever-changing and evolving list for a robust event that employees are going to need to update on their own. Some of our clients need to have an attendee list that multiple people can access to be able to check off information during registration, and others need a live list at all times to keep track of certain details. If your software doesn’t provide functionality for these types of scenarios, there are tools out there you can use like Zapier, which lets you connect your form to your Google Sheet list of attendees so that your list updates automatically as people register.
What emails should the registrant get? How will your staff be notified that someone signed up? Are there any final steps attendees have to complete before they’re officially registered? Also think about things you can do to help them save the date, like including an “Add to Calendar” button on your Thank You page or sending email reminders before the event begins.
We use Formidable forms for our online events, which integrates of course with MailChimp. Once someone submits a signup form, they’re plopped into a group within MailChimp that’s set up to automatically receive email notifications once they join.
Some event registration solutions include tons of marketing, then there are others that don’t really have any. If you’re going to put your event sign up on your website, you have to use your own marketing activities to promote the event. If you’re going to use a third-party solution that offers these tools for you, make sure you can get all of your marketing assets out of it, like your donor information. You’re getting donations — that’s great, but in the long run, you want to establish relationships with your donors, and if you don’t know who they are, that kind of puts you at a stop.
You can run an entire campaign on Facebook and use all of their tools to market your event, but be wary of the data you have access to once the event is over. You may only be able to see some donor information if you have it set up in a certain way. They still have the option for donors to opt out of sharing their information, but you can sometimes see their name and, less often, their email — it’s still hit or miss, but it is wildly better than it used to be.
I’ve noticed many third party softwares are integrating now with text, which is a really powerful mechanism to reach out and talk to your donors.
The open rate on text messages is phenomenal. Nobody likes to see those little red dots on their phone. Stacy’s on the board of a nonprofit and says one of the best pieces of marketing they can do is send a text message with pictures of our trips to our donors. They see exactly where they’re money goes, and that’s really a cool thing.
And for those of you who aren’t aware, text is a little different than email in that you can’t just take a list of phone numbers and pop them into a text messaging service and send them messages. People need to subscribe first to receive them, so if that’s part of your marketing plan moving forward, it might be smart to find an event registration application that allows you to send texts to and from your recipients to get them used to that type of interaction with you.
You might have a donor database software your event registrants need to go into, and unless your event software is through your donor database, these event registration solutions don’t automatically integrate with the donor database. Make sure that you can get and give as much information as possible, however you decide to connect your platforms.
Again, finding an event registration software that will work for you means making sure that system meets your needs and being flexible on the things that you can be flexible on. As long as you have a good idea of where you stand on those things, you should be able to find some really great systems that do things you never even thought of.
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