Six Ways To Make Registration And Checkout At Your Next Fundraising Event Memorable
This article was originally published on Forbes.com on June 2, 2017.
In my job working for a fundraising software company, I’ve attended my share of galas and other fundraising events. These events often are critical for nonprofit organizations, so the donor experience must be one that encourages supporters to attend again and give more money. For that reason, it’s always discouraging to see a fantastic evening end on a sour note because checkout is chaotic.
The truth is, no matter how wonderful your event, if registration or checkout is a hassle, it’s what your supporters will remember.
With a little planning, the beginning and end of your event can be the bookends that set the tone and make the event very memorable. Here are a few simple things that nonprofits can do to make registration and checkout trouble-free:
1. Go with the (traffic) flow. At large fundraising events, it’s not uncommon for a lot of guests to show up at the same time. You can keep lines short by planning for a minimum of one registration line per every 100 guests. Better yet, implement a VIP check-in, which allows for early registration and silent auction access for premium tickets.
Many people are happy to pay more to skip long lines at check-in and to get better parking. Place VIP registration in a special room. Once VIP registration is complete, volunteers can cut lines in half at the main registration and move them to the VIP area. Also, keep registration humming by pre-registering as many people as possible and by asking for a minimum of information. The only thing you need at registration is the guest’s name, cell phone number for mobile bidding and a quick swipe of a credit card. If you sell tickets online, you can gather all this information in advance and simply verify it at registration.
2. Plan volunteers wisely. Make sure you have a strong ratio of volunteers to guests and schedule them in shifts. This will ensure that volunteers aren’t burned out when it’s time for checkout. Fully brief volunteers with all the information they need to know in order to answer common questions.
For more difficult questions, plan a help desk area where guests can get more personal assistance. Place volunteers at the door to greet guests and to triage registration. With a couple short questions and an iPad loaded with event management software, volunteers can determine which guests have pre-registered and can skip the queue. Finally, make one volunteer a captain of each phase of the event and task them with ensuring everything is going as planned.
3. Provide distractions. Make the magic happen as soon as guests enter the door by scheduling unique entertainment in the registration area. This can include a band, magician, games or a photo booth. Have waiters circulate offering a glass of champagne, water or soda. Provide a charging station for cell phones and plenty of seating. Make waiting in line an experience. Finally, make sure your board of directors and other important supporters are visible and mingling with the crowd.
4. Take a cue from Nordstrom. Nordstrom has a loyal following because of its high customer service, which includes roving sales associates who can check you out using a mobile device. Likewise, you can arm volunteers with iPads or other devices using event management software to speed up the registration queue.
5. Automate checkout. By using mobile bidding software, most of the checkout process can happen automatically via a text message or email notifying supporters of the auction items they’ve won. Since a credit card is swiped at registration, guests will see the amount charged to their cards and will get directions on how to pick up their items.
Guests who don’t need to pick up auction items can skip the queue altogether, cutting down significantly on the line. Make sure the auction pickup area is clearly marked with signs, and have the emcee make announcements detailing the checkout/pickup process. Have knowledgeable volunteers available to help individuals who want to change their credit card or who need to set up a future payment. Finally, plan ahead for the delivery of oversized, heavy or breakable auction items.
6. Gift your guests. A gracious way to end the evening is to give a little something back to your supporters. This also provides additional time for volunteers to finalize auction items and checkout details. Consider a door prize or a raffle that will keep guests in their seats a few moments longer. The amount raised that evening also can be announced at this time, which will allow supporters to leave on a high note. Finally, keep the good feelings flowing during checkout by handing each guest in line a wrapped chocolate truffle or a small box of donut holes and a cup of coffee.
Karrie Wozniak is the vice president of marketing at BidPal.