The typical nonprofit fundraiser goes something like this:
- Someone on the board has an entertainment connection or gets an artist to donate services.
- A suitable venue and date are secured.
- A ticket price is decided. Someone uses a ticket template on their Microsoft Word and prints up a bunch of tickets on fluorescent Astro-Brite cardstock at Kinko’s.
- Someone contacts the local newspaper and gets the event listed. If you’re lucky and your town is small enough and they need to fill space, they might even write an article about you.
- You may create posters, get radio/TV spots and you place these strategically where you think your target is likely to be.
- You distribute tickets to your members to sell, and wait for the money to roll in. Members turn in unsold tickets on the day and you sell whatever you can at the gate.
Sounds OK, right? What if I told you this scenario is fraught with gotchas that will impact your bottom line?
What are the gotchas?
Here are some potential issues:
When it’s set up as described above there is less possibility of reserved seats because how can you know ahead and in general which people can sell which particular seats. Event patrons, especially time-strapped people and the elderly, are willing to pay more for reserved seats. The time-strapped just want to arrive at the last possible minute and take their (good) seat. The elderly, because of health or perceptual issues, often have specific seating requirements, e.g. up front, on an aisle, in the back, or just the same seat they always have. They may just skip going if the event is general admission! That’s lost revenue for you.
How do you comply with ADA regulations? Just save all the disabled seats for door sales? You are losing money, because the person who might have committed to a ticket earlier might just decide not to go at the last minute.
Difficult to track your customers. When your customers pay cash you have no idea who they are. If they pay by cheque, this is somewhat better, but someone has to key all that data into your database. If you know your customers you can notify them about subsequent events and build audience.
Limited opportunities for buying: Potential sales may be lost due to there only being opportunity to get tickets if you meet a member who has them. Problems here include potential customer fails to have adequate cash, member left tickets in other brief case, member is poor at sales, etc.
Potential customers from out of town have no easy way to get tickets.
No way for potential customers to know how many tickets are left. That out of town patron might drive down to get a ticket at the door if he knew that there would be tickets available. Not knowing, he will probably not chance a wasted trip.
Poor distribution of tickets: Some of your members are great at ticket sales and could sell more if you had a reliable way to transfer tickets from members who are lousy at it to the good ones. If you print one ticket per seat you risk members running out while others have tickets. If you print extra tickets you risk the embarrassment of overselling.
If you have ever had a nonprofit fundraiser with less than stellar results you may be able to improve your bottom line by offering the tickets for sale online through an authorized online ticket seller. Authorized ticket sellers harness the power of the internet to create solutions for many or all the gotchas listed above. It frees your people to focus on the event, and leaves the boring mechanics of ticket tracking and sales to computers.radio strap
Colleen Dick owned and operated TixRUs LLC an online box office that specialized in handling ticket sales for nonprofits, up until April 2008. She is planning on reopening the business at a time TBD. Ask Colleen any questions you have about ticketing, event planning, or ticket logistics. Colleen has probably been there, done that.