Fresh Fundraising Event Registration Trends
In-person fundraising events are back! Whether you’re planning one or planning to attend one, you’ll likely notice the registration process may look a bit different in the new world. This is a positive thing! Event software companies embraced the digital world long before you and your org were forced to. They’ve spent the past two plus years refining and streamlining processes that were often quite refined to begin with.
Since check-in is the very first thing guests encounter at your event and check-out the last, you should be sweating the small stuff. Here’s what to keep in mind to ensure your registration process is as streamlined, seamless and smooth as it can possibly be.
What’s Your Purpose?
Did you see the movie Soul? Lots of talk of purpose in that movie! So what’s the purpose of your event (besides the obvious one – raising funds)? Define it. Meaningful conversation? Connecting with donors on a higher level? Education? Community building?
Our data suggest you’ll have a better chance of fiscal success if you plan for a slightly smaller event, than the ones you planned pre-Covid. Go smaller until you gain your sea legs. Guest count numbers are trending down slightly – the focus used to be on getting as many rear ends in seats as possible. Now it’s more about being intentional and meaningful. In other words, go for quality over quantity!
There’s another bonus to thinking smaller – it’ll help your budget.
Pre-Event Registration Perks
There’s a lot that registration can do for you before the big event. The more you can get done before, the better! However, the format of your event will determine how much you can get done pre-event. For instance, are you planning on open seating, or assigned seats? If you opt for the former, bidder numbers are assigned as folks come in. With assigned seating, registration will vault your guests’ credit card information ahead of time. Both are viable, and both processes (obviously!) play out quite differently at registration. Likely, the biggest challenge your team will face? Last-minute changes. That scenario is not the least bit uncommon. But never fear, last-minute changes are no match for your robust registration team!
Where IS Registration?
In the “olden” days, pre-pandemic, it was commonplace to walk into a venue and immediately be met with registration tables. In other words, it was commonplace to be greeted with a bottleneck and subsequent line (worse yet – sometimes waiting outside)! Recently, we’re seeing more registration tables moved away from the immediate front entrance, farther into the venue, in an effort to create more of an experience for guests the moment they arrive. Just make sure you clearly point the way towards registration wi
th good lighting and big, beautiful signs leading people where you want them to go. Ideally, suspend these big beautiful signs from the ceiling, or high on a wall, so they can be seen from a distance, across the room.
Another perk to moving registration away from the front entrance: It’ll help your guests forget they’re waiting in line. Or, at least it’ll make it so they don’t mind so much that they are. How about live music? Or an artist performing? Send your ED or board members over to chat with guests as they’re waiting. Pass drinks or hors d’oeuvres.
A quick logistical note: Best practice is to offer one registration terminal (with a pair of volunteers) per 60-75 guests. So do the math and decide how many registration terminals you need for best results. Also, be sure to include a line for guests who may need extra help. An “exceptions” terminal or a “manager” line, if you will.
What you DON’T want to include in registration terminals, is untrained volunteers. With all due respect to new volunteers, this is not the best place for them. More on that later.
Harness Event Tools + Software
Some software platforms give your guests the option of checking themselves in and out. Guests can also absorb credit card fees – those pesky little fees that generally don’t make a huge difference to donors, but that add up quickly when your org is on the hook.
What do you want event software to do for you? Create tickets with early bird specials? Track sales and attendance? Allow guests to connect with each other, pre- and post-event, via mobile apps? That’s a fun trend helping orgs increase engagement.
Will you have assigned seating at tables? Pre assigned bid numbers? Or will you assign them as folks arrive? Do you need detailed reporting? Mobile bidding functionality?
Will you require registration software for an auction? Or just a paddle raise?
Donors who’ve agreed to give money before the event (AKA pre-commits) should have their own range of numbers – say, the 500s or 600s. It’s much easier to keep track of pre-commits this way.
Avoid Extra Fees
A smaller event will save you money on food, venue, decor – all of the extra things you need with more bodies. Bring the number of attendees down and bring your costs down with it.
Pro Tip: Do NOT leave registration to under-trained volunteers
Get a pro to lead the registration charge. Otherwise, you’ll not only end up making way more work for yourself, you’ll also lower your guests’ perception of the event. We love volunteers, but let’s be honest: A pro will provide better, faster, more accurate service. Our partner Kristin Smith, Founder and Co-Owner of Event Savvy, says you’re inevitably going to make more work for yourself, if you place volunteers in highly-skilled roles.
“Volunteers always know what they’re doing – until they don’t. Then you have a real mess to deal with. And the tasks that need immediate attention during a live show won’t wait while you fix the problem your well-meaning volunteer created.”
Using professionals in technical roles will elevate your donors’ experience. Rule #1 of fundraising = keep donors happy. There are plenty of tasks you can assign to volunteers, as long as you play to their strengths. For example, is your volunteer charismatic, charming, bubbly, etc? You want that person selling raffle tickets.
Not everything is easier in a post-pandemic world. Happily, registration for fundraising events truly is, in myriad ways. We’ve vetted the best registration teams in the business – reach out for your complimentary consultation. Let’s change the world together!