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Strategies for Online Events: from registration to fundraising and how to get your participants to raise more

Last month I was honoured to be invited to speak at the IoF Yorkshire Region Annual Conference to speak about maximisng online event registration. It was a great opportunity to meet regional fundraisers and learn about the challenges they face and how they have leveraged huge community support into successful fundraising events.

Over the next few weeks I will blogging about my session in a 3 part series called ‘Strategies for Online Events: from registration to fundraising and how to get your participants to raise more’. The first instalment focuses on the event registration process, how to avoid common mistakes, and maximising your online tools.

When you create a registration process for an event you should consider some key usability issues – these may seem obvious, but sometimes the simplest things can turn off a potential participant. Ask yourself these questions:

•    Is the registration button easy to find?
•    How easy is the registration process?
•    Do participants know what is expected of them?
•    How long does the process take from start to finish?

Event participants shouldn’t have to hunt around on your website – make it easy for someone to register. The landing page from Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity’s Race for the Kids is a great example – wherever a particpant’s eye  is drawn, there is a button to register!

The next three questions are all tied together. How long does the registration process take? Overseas challenge events may require a more involved registration process, but for a simple 5km the shorter the registration the better.  Users start to lose interest after 3 minutes, so try and keep the process as short as possible. Avoid the temptation of asking lots of marketing questions.

How easy is the process? Have you tested it? Are there common areas where your testers are getting tripped up? Testing will allow you to sort out both major and minor issues before you unleash the event on the public. Part of ensuring a smooth registration process also means making sure that participants know what is expected of them. Do they need to pay a registration fee? Do they need to have their passport details handy? Do they need a credit or debit card? Preparing your participants before they enter the registration process means that fewer people will drop off and more supporters will leave the process feeling satisfied.

Here’s a great example of a landing page from the Prince’s Trust Palace to Palace. Participants are given a list of registration tips – the list was compiled from FAQs collected from last year’s event.

Don’t forget….
•    Keep the registration process as short as possible (under 5mins)
•    Don’t ask too many ‘extra’ questions – just the essentials!!! Carefully consider how much ‘marketing info’ you will actually use vs. the annoyance factor of being asked too many questions.
•    Make sure participants know where to get help if they need it. If your contact details are not easily accessed on every page, participant will get frustrated and quit when they run into difficulty.

So now that we’ve looked at how to avoid drop offs, let’s take a look at how you can use your event registration system to increase event sign-ups. Ask yourself these questions…

•    Can participants register more than one person at a time?
•    What is the incentive to register now?
•    Can participants pay, create a fundraising page and add extras on all in one go?
•    How many registration processes do your participants need to go through?

Carefully consider how many things your participants can do in one transaction. If your event is geared towards families, corporate teams or other groups, can one person register everyone in one go? Is there an incentive to do this? If your registration system allows you to offer customised registration options it can really help you increase registration numbers by making it easy for participants to add on extras such as equipment rental and other participants.

Registration incentives can also include early bird discount periods or returning participant discounts. When designing the registration process and the marketing for your event, you should also consider what the imperative is to register. With so many 5km runs in the marketplace, what makes your event special? What is the incentive for a supporter to register right away?

You also need to consider how many processes you’re asking participants to go through. If you want participants to fundraise online, how do they sign up for a page? Do they need to register with a third party provider? Do donors need to register to sponsor a friend? Can you provide support for a third party fundraising tool if something goes wrong?

Registration Success Story:
In 2009, The Prince’s Trust doubled the number of registrations for the Palace to Palace Cycle. They did this by  reducing registration processes by unifying the payment and registration processes and they allowed participants to ‘add a friend’. The events team also stripped out all ‘extra’ questions and only asked the basics making the registration process quick and easy. And most importanly they told participants what to expect. This year’s registrations started the day of the 2009 race ensuring that registration numbers would keep growing.

Posted by Scott Gray on 29/03/2010 within Fundraising
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