A Few Good Tools for Event Registration (Updated!)

These days, most event participants expect to be able to register for events online. Luckily, there are lots of tools to help with that, ranging from simple up to sophisticated and all the way to multi-functional. We asked a number of nonprofit technology professionals what online registration tools have worked for them.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As of June 2013, we're aware of some still-developing information around one of the vendors mentioned in this article, including a number of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. Until we're able to determine the validity of some of the claims against the vendor or until we have confidence that they are unfounded, we've decided to remove mention of them from the article. Though our policy typically prohibits us from revising articles between review cycles, we felt that this situation warranted an exception. 
 
The venue for your upcoming event has been booked. Your speakers are lined up, and your marketing campaign is kicking into high gear. Now you just need to sit back and watch the registrations roll in, right? Sure—but these days, most event participants expect to register online, which means you’ll need software that accepts online payments and helps you manage attendee information.
 
Fortunately, there are many tools that can help. So many, in fact, that choosing one can be overwhelming. There are scrappy, affordable tools that handle just event registration, generalist packages that can process many different types of payments, powerful feature-rich software that can take registrations and even help you manage the rest of the conference, and more.
 
To understand more about the types of software that might be useful in accepting online registrations for paid events, we asked a number of nonprofit technology professionals what tools have worked well for them. We then combined their thoughts to come up with a set of solid tools that might also work for you.

 

What Are Your Registration Priorities?

Event registration means different things to different organizations. Before you choose a tool, decide what it means to you. In particular, ask yourself:

Do you simply need a quick, inexpensive, and easy way to collect credit-card payments? If you don’t run many events, you may not need all the bells and whistles of a more complex system. But if you’re planning to run complex conferences or events, some sophisticated event-registration tools will help you manage lodging, a conference website, name tags, sign-ups for multiple sessions within the same event, and much more. 

Are you going to need to take other kinds of online payments as well? If you are planning to support online donations, sell items, or take other online payments, it’s worth considering tools that will support all your online payment needs.

Is integrating registrants into your database a key concern? If you conduct a lot of events and attendees are key constituents for your organization, think through how you to get registrants into your database. Consider integration methods or packages that support not just event registration but all your constituent management needs. Does the tool integrate with a CRM through data sharing, or can it export data (as a .csv or .xls file) that you can import to your database?

Let’s talk through the tools that might make sense for each of these options.

No-Frills Registration Tools

These tools allow you to set up a basic registration form you can link to from your website, collect credit card and other registration information, process credit card charges, and view (or export) a list of people who have registered. If you only run small, infrequent events, or you have large events where few attendees fit the characteristics of promising constituents (like large festivals), these more inexpensive tools can be just what you need.

PayPal (www.paypal.com)

As with most types of online payments, if you’re just looking for something inexpensive and solid and don’t need elaborate features, PayPal might work well. At an approximately 2.5 percent transaction fee, it’s one of the least expensive ways to take online payments. It doesn’t, however, integrate seamlessly into your website—which means that registrants can see they’ve left your site for PayPal’s—and doesn’t offer event-registration features like the ability to cap the number of signups. You’ll also need someone with basic HTML skills to help you set it up or update event pricing. Organizations with more technical experience and a larger budget could also consider PayPal’s Pro system, which offers better website integration.

Google Checkout (www.checkout.google.com)

Like PayPal, Google Checkout provides a way for your organization to process online payments, and is easier to set up. At low volumes, Google’s pricing is similar to PayPal’s, but if you process more than $100,000 monthly, the fees are reduced to 1.9 percent.

Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.com)

Eventbrite’s event-registration features extend the payment functionality of PayPal or Google Checkout. It lets you cap the number of attendees, give simple surveys, and easily post your events to other sites like Eventful or Google Calendar. It also supports discount codes and ticket levels, and provides limited ability to tailor a registration form to match your site and your needs. Payment is less integrated—registrants are taken to the PayPal or Google Checkout site to finish the credit-card transaction. Eventbrite bills your 501(c)3 organization service fee of  $0.99 plus 2.0 percent of the registration price. You also pay the standard PayPal or Google Checkout fees. If your organization does not yet have a merchant account, Eventbrite now offers use of their own merchant account, for 3.0 percent of the ticket price. You can also integrate an Authorize.net account. Eventbrite does not charge for free events. Eventbrite also shares data easily with databases built in Salesforce.

Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com)

Brown Paper Tickets is getting some buzz in the nonprofit community as a “fair-trade ticketing service.” While the company specializes in performance-type events with assigned seats and physical tickets, it also supports registration for “general admission” events for which no tickets are issued. The functionality is simple, clean and effective, and includes such features as multiple pricing levels, a 24-hour phone registration line, and support for multiple dates for the same event. Brown Paper Tickets has no upfront setup charges or per-event fees, and offers an affordable and clear-cut pricing scheme—$0.99 plus 2.5 percent of registration. If you’re adding registrants to your database, Brown Paper Tickets can export names and information as a .csv or .xls file for importing into your system. Like Eventbrite, the tool does not charge for free events.

For More Complex Events and Conferences

The no-frills tools listed above may work great when managing straightforward events, but nonprofits planning conferences will likely need additional functionality. A number of tools combine event registration with the ability to track and report on all the details of a complex event. For example, these tools can help registrants to sign up for specific tracks or workshops within a session, support complex discounts such as early-bird pricing or discount codes, offer sophisticated reporting to automatically generate attendance lists by session—or print nametags for attendees—or allow one person to pay for someone else’s registration.

123Signup (www.123signup.com)

123Signup is tailored to those managing large events or conferences, with the ability to set registration limits for each session within a multi-track event, to allow one person to pay for someone else’s registration, for attendees to preview and approve their badge, sophisticated discounting ability and more. The company also offers a basic set of association-management tools (including a constituent database and email functionality), which might be useful for organizations with few programs other than events. Many of 123Signup’s clients are trade associations, and the functionality is geared in their direction. 123Signup charges 3.5 percent per registration, with a minimum charge of $1, in additional to standard credit-card fees of about 2.5 percent.

RegOnline (www.regonline.com)

Like 123Signup, RegOnline is focused on managing large events, with a similar or even more sophisticated set of features, and has all the same features plus support for more of the “back-end,” or operational processes, such as invoicing. RegOnline charges a fixed price—either $4.75 per registrant, or $150 per event plus $3.50 per registrant—in addition to standard credit-card fees of about 2.5 percent, making it an expensive choice for low-ticket-price events, but attractive for those that charge hundreds of dollars or more.

Cvent (www.cvent.com)

This sophisticated online event-management tool includes event-registration functionality, plus support for multi-day, multi-track events; seamless integration with your website; and the ability to export data or create a programmatic feed from Cvent to your database. As Cvent typically has a substantial setup fee to get started, this option makes more sense for those looking to invest in a long-term solution rather than one-time events.

Other event-registration tools targeted toward organizations running large, complex events include Certain (formerly Register123) and eShow.

Online Payment Generalists

We’ve already discussed tools that specialize in online event registration functionality, but a number of packages support a variety of types of payments—such as donations and online store sales—in addition to events. If you’re hoping to collect payments for more than one transaction type, it can make sense to consolidate these functions into a single vendor, like Click & Pledge, IATS, Greater Giving, QGiv, GiftTool, MemberClicks or Contribute.com

Integrating Registration with Other Constituent Functions

Organizations that offer events for core constituents will need to think carefully about how to integrate registration data with other constituent information, such as who has donated or volunteered. Nearly all registration options provide the ability to manually export data (for instance, via an Excel spreadsheet), but exporting data by hand and then manually importing it again can be time-consuming.

A number of packages support different constituent functions, including event registration, in a single system. If you’re already using one of these tools, then certainly start by evaluating what event-registration functionality it can provide. If you’re conducting a lot of events, or want to ensure a clear, 360-degree view of how constituents are involved with your organization, one of these generally more-expensive integrated packages can be worth the investment.

For instance, the vast majority of online membership and Association Management Systems—like Tendenci, Avectra netFORUM or CDC gomembers—support online event registration. For more information on these types of systems, see Idealware’s article on membership organization databases.

Integrated e-communications packages like DemocracyInAction, BlackBaud Sphere Events (formerly Kintera) and Convio also provide event-registration functionality. In particular, both Blackbaud and Convio support group fundraising events and pledge-based event models (to provide online support for walk-a-thon pledges, for instance) that may be hard to find in other types of systems. Salesforce might also be worth a look for those willing to invest some time tailoring their event-registration needs within a sophisticated CRM platform.

Those using open-source content-management systems like Joomla, Drupal or Plone should take a look at the add-on modules that will support event registration. They’re not likely to be as feature-rich as the most sophisticated event-management tools above, but they may be a straightforward and fully integrated addition to your website.

Finally, web form tools like Wufoo or Formstack are growing in popularity as a low-cost way to handle registration, and integrate easily with online payment processors like PayPal or Google Checkout. The data reporting and export functions of these tools let you add new event registrants to a CRM or other database quite easily.

How to Choose

There are a lot of options. How should you decide? Start by determining how many events you are planning per year, and approximately how much the registration fee will be for each. A tool that has very affordable fees for a $40 event could be unreasonably expensive for a $400 conference.

Then think through your needs. Do you just need to get some basic online registration capability up and going, or do you have more sophisticated requirements? For instance, do you need to seamlessly integrate the registration form with your website? Allow registrants to register for multiple tracks or workshops within an event? Tailor complex discounts for particular audiences? Copy events or event templates to support frequent similar events? Do you want a package that can not only facilitate registration, but help you manage your event?

Keep in mind that many of these tools have free evaluation periods. This can not only give you a clear picture of the features offered, but also a much better sense as to how usable a tool is for your organization, and how accessible and helpful the vendor is when answering your questions.

Finally, as with pretty much any constituent tool, consider how you’ll integrate the registrant information with the rest of your data. Is your volume low enough that you can manually import and export? Should you consider a package that will handle more than just event registration, or a registration tool that will allow you build an automated connector to your database?

At the end of the day, there are a lot of reasonable options for online event registration. With the right tool in place, you should be all set to let your event be the star, and your software just a way to watch the registrations roll in.

Thanks to TechSoup for financial support of this article, as well as to the nonprofit technology professionals who provided recommendations, advice and other help for the original article and the update:

Evan Callahan, NPower Northwest (formerly NPower Seattle, 2007)

Brad Struss and Patrick Tewson, NPower NorthWest (2011)

Andrew Cohen, Forum One (2007)

Eric Leland, Five Paths (2007)

Cary McQueen Morrow, Center for Arts Management and Technology (2007 and 2011)

Shawn Michael, The Nonprofit Association of Oregon (formerly TACS/NPower Oregon, 2007)

Norman Reiss, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (2007)

Margie Roswell and Dan Shenk-Evans, Community IT Innovators (CITI) (2007)

Jon Stahl, Groundwire (2007)

Peter Turner, Episcopal Diocese of Washington (2007)

Heather Gardner-Madras, gardner madras | strategic creative (2011)

 

 

 

License: 
Copyright © Techsoup, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Comments

Terrific list

Terrific list. Gonna check them all out. Thanks for putting this all together.

Acteva needs to be updated

I just saw this artricle and thought you might like to know some important information about Acteva. They have over 50 complaints filed with the BBB for service issues. I have been hearing from numerous NPO's that Acteva has not paid out the money they had been collecting. I know you are merely reviewing these services, but future clients would love to be aware of the mounting complaints against Acteva. I have documented  a few cases on my site. I personally know 1 NPO that Acteva has been having issues paying.

Try Cogran!

Sometimes event registrations are only part of what you need to manage, and so it makes sense for nonprofits that are also membership-driven to think about a member management system (like Cogran's) that also has facility reservation and event management capabilities. That way, your membership database functions as your email list (no exporting!) and your members are able to register for your events using their own existing accounts. Not for every situation, but really great for the nonprofits that are also membership organizations!

Thanks for the tip

 Thanks for letting us know about Cograns website. I run a non-profit and need a bi-monthly meeting event registration tool that's free, easy to use and is fully integrated with the iPad. One wouldn't think this would be so difficult to find, but each one I've tried has a quirk that doesn't allow me to use it or finish using it.

Thank you,

Kathleen

Event Planning Software for Non Profits

We offer and highly recommend etouches for an <strong>Event Planning Solution for Non-Profits</strong>.   The etouches product line offers a complete solution for every aspect of the event lifecycle. The modules feature specific tools to set you up for success before, during and post event. The etouches product line is designed to give you one system for the multiple touchpoints needed to create an exceptional participant experience. Includes custom websites, registration, onsite management, survey, marketing, custom reports, hotel block management, badges and more.  No nickle and diming.  You pay a per registration fee that includes unlimited user, events and websites.  To request a free demo please contact me a dnocero@csystemsllc.net or 828-448-9280. 

SignupForms.com is another good one

Here's another site that deserves mentioning for it's clean design and low price: https://www.signupforms.com. They use Stripe for their payment processing and they're registration form editor is a lot like Google Docs.

Whoozin.com

 Try http://www.whoozin.com for RSVP and registrations. It's free and with no ads. 

Online registration options

 I am really surprised that EZ Register missed your list, especially as a really affordable option for small nonprofits. We have been using their services for about three years seamlessly. They have great customer service, are a US based business, and charge a flat rate of $1 per registration - that's it. No percentage* not "up to $4.95" etc., like every other service I've investigated.

I can customize questions as much as needed, e.g. for our national gathering we offer housing options and provide space for dietary needs (vegetarian, allergies, etc.).

Since registration fees are paid directly to our Paypal account, the funds are available almost immediately - we don't have to wait until after the event for them to release funds to us. When our event is over, they simply email us an invoice for the $1 per transaction fee, and we pay them via Paypal. So simple!

*We use our Paypal merchant account for credit card processing, and pay the usual Paypal percentage. If you use the EZ Register merchant account, then there is the percentage for credit card payments.

http://ezregister.com/pricing/

Check them out - we are one happy customer!

New Online Event Registration System

 Hello there, we've just launched in the UK. We are Participant.co.uk the online event registration and ticket system by Event Organisers for Event Organisers.

Our fees are the lowest in the UK and our software the most advanced. Have a look or contact us for a free demonstartion. Free to sign up!

www.participant.co.uk

There are literally dozens of

There are literally dozens of online registration providers in the market, but very little comparative information is available for those trying to determine the best solution for their needs.

 

http://www.hostmansaving.com

Nice post!

Terrific list. Thanks for sharing this guys.  

Still Researching Solutions

I have been researching platforms for awhile that would connect to Salesforce and found many that don't meet our needs because A) they aren't able to sell optional products with an event, B) they are not able to be hosted on our domain or C) they have a per-registrant fee instead of a monthly fee, which usually means too high.

Has anyone used MemberNation's event solution?

Another tool

I think this post is extremely relevant and important but I would also like to recommend looking at "Regpack" since it is different in the sense that it enables organizations to ask any question, process payments, and manage their attendees from start to finish.
It is like having all the tools that are discussed in this post in one and some more. The great thing about "Regpack" is that they can grow with it as they develop and start using it for membership management, inner processes and
donations. It has a very versatile permission module so they can also share information inside the organization and outside of it with only a few clicks (something like dropbox for information).

You are more than welcome to check their website: https://www.regpacks.com//

Event-O-Matic for the Raiser's Edge

For non-profits using The Raiser's Edge O-matic Software, a Blackbaud application partner, recently released the Event-O-Matic module RE7. This module complements the RE7 Event module by greatly enhancing the participant management process, allowing users to see and manipulate event participants in an Excel-like format, but with right-click options to perform nearly any function (like, say, "add spouse as guest", or "add 8 placeholder guests") to any participant or selected group of participants. The newest version allows mass emailing to selected participants/invitees, has a customizable event dashboard, and includes new custom reports for participants and seating. Of course, if you're using an external event registration site and are wondering how you will get all that constituent/participant data into RE7, please check out our flagship product, Import-O-Matic for the Raiser's Edge. Feel free to request a live demo of either product today. We look forward to showing you why over 800 non-profit organizations use our software!

Community Organizations

Another group that has worked out good is MyCommunityEvents.com.  They are great for smaller groups and their fees that they charge cannot be beat.  They don't charge two fees (one for listing and one for processing), they only charge one fee that is smaller than all the rest in our research.  They allow you to list free events at no charge and you can keep track of your cash/check sales at no charge. 

One more...

Those examples are nice and your article is very helpful.  But I would like to offer one more solution to consider.   StarChapter is an all-in-one meeting registration, membership management, email communication and cms online SaaS.  And it is very affordable for the small local association or organization.  Thanks! 

Online registration tool for Non Profits

Cost plays a crucial role in determing the right tools for a non profit. Our online event registration service - DoAttend (http://doattend.com) is integrated with paypal and you only pay a small transaction fee and 49 cents for every registration. You can set up an event on DoAttend very quicky and can start selling registrations on a customized URL like http://yourevent.doattend.com. 

One of the major cost factor

One of the major cost factor is the credit card processing fees. You only refer to  credit card fees for 123Signup's offering. I am sure all other vendors also must charge this fee.. 

Really good list and tips

 

Thank you for writing and updating this article. I really enjoyed the read.

One of the key components in selecting a registration platform really comes down to understanding your event’s needs. Each of the registration platforms and solutions listed are slightly different from each other with key differentiators. One thing to keep in mind with almost all of the solutions listed is labor. You provide it, which can be complex and time consuming.

Check out www.conferencesix.com where we have flat rate solutions for website design, creation and registration services. Not only do we provide all of the labor, they look amazing and are priced to fit nicely in smaller events budgets.

Thanks again for the list and great information!

 

more tips on what to look for in registration software

First, thanks for initially posting this article and updating it. There are literally dozens of online registration providers in the market, but very little comparative information is available for those trying to determine the best solution for their needs. While this article omits a lot of key providers (e.g., ABC Signup), it does help "shoppers" focus on some of the things they need to determine internally before looking for providers. And, we couldn't agree more with your final paragraph!

Here's an article we penned for ASTD that lists 10 things to look for in an online registration provider: http://www.astd.org/LC/2010/1210_chandler.htm. Perhaps it will be useful to your readers. 

A final piece of advice to anyone seeking the right registration service: use the phone. It is extremely difficult to differentiate providers from features listed on websites. It is even more difficult to get a handle on pricing. Call the providers, ask for the information you need, and ask for customer contacts that you can talk with.

Event Tools

We have just been through an extensive process of choosing a new ticketing system for our theatre. We reviewed over 80 different solutions. As a theatre we have more complex demands than most event organisers, but there were a few things we learnt along the way:

Most solutions are gouging the market with fees. A ticket fee of $4 is not acceptable. In many cases this can amount to $10,000 a year in fees being paid by an organisation or attendees. This is excessive. If you compare this to the cost of other sophisticaed SAAS solutions like Salesforce or online accounting it can clearly be seen that most current service providers are charging far more than their service is worth.

It is impossible to find a solution that does everything perfectly, but there are defintely products that excel and those that are substandard.

I want to personally recommend the three solutions that made it to our final choice list:

PatronManager CRM
PatronBase
NonProfitEasy

Each of these is an excellent choice if you need system that has a bit of sophistication in it.

Check this new tool for nonprofits- manage paid events, webinars

Hi

Thanks for this list of powerful tools.
You should consider a new tool, exclusively designed for nonprofits: LiveGiving platform.
It's called a Video Site and you can manage live events like webinars, conferences, meetings and more...
Every event can be:
- A free event open to all
- A event that require a subscription, where attendees have to create a new account before the participation.
- A paid event,  where each participant has to pay via Paypal.
A reminder is sent automatically 24 hours before the event.
The administrator of the Video Site can add manually participants or remove others.
Check this site for a real  example: http://bit.ly/live-orsay  or contact me 
All the best