October 18, 2019
A Few Good Event Registration Tools

By Laura Quinn

Laura Quinn
You’ve booked your event, lined up speakers, and launched your marketing campaign. Now all you need to do is sit back and watch the registrations roll in. Not quite.

Most event participants now expect to register online for events, so you’ll need a tool that can accept online payments as well as manage attendee information.

Fortunately, many software programs will accomplish these tasks, with varying levels of complexity: 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 manage the entire conference, including; and more.

What Are Your Registration Priorities?

Before choosing a tool, decide what “event registration” means to you.
  • 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.

  • Are you planning to run complex conferences or events? Some sophisticated event-registration tools will help you manage lodging, a conference Web site, name tags, signups for multiple sessions within the same event, and much more. Is this functionality important?

  • 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 the registrants into your database a key concern? If you are conducting many events and the attendees are key constituents for your organization, it’s critical to think through how you will get the registrants into your database. In this case, consider integration methods or even packages that support not just event registration but all your constituent management needs.

No-Frills Registration Tools

No-frills tools allow you to set up a basic registration form that links to your Web site, collect credit card and other registration information, process the credit card charges, and then view (or export) a list of registrants. 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 inexpensive tools can be just what you need.

PayPal ( www.paypal.com): With a transaction fee of approximately 2.5 percent, PayPal is one of the most inexpensive online payment systems. It doesn’t, however, integrate seamlessly into your Web site (when viewing the registration form, it’s clear to registrants that they have left your site for PayPal's), and doesn’t offer event-registration features, such as the ability to cap the number of signups. You’ll also need someone with some HTML skills to help set it up or to update event pricing.

Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.com): Formerly known as Mollyguard, Eventbrite offers event-registration functions that extend PayPal’s or Google Checkout’s payment functionality, such as discount codes and ticket levels, simple attendee surveys, easy posting of your events to other sites such as Eventful or Google Calendar, caps on attendees, and a limited ability to tailor a registration form to match your site and your needs. Payment is less integrated; the registrant is taken to the PayPal or Google Checkout site to finish the credit-card transaction. In addition to PayPal's fees (about 2.5 percent of the transaction) or Google Checkout fees (2 percent plus $0.20 per transaction), Eventbrite bills your organization for an additional 2.5 percent of the registration price, with a minimum of $0.99 and a maximum of $9.95 per registration. The tool is free for free events.

Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com): With a reputation as a “fair-trade ticketing service,” Brown Paper Ticket 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 simple, effective functionality includes such nice 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. Its affordable, clear-cut pricing scheme is $0.99 plus 2.5 percent of registration. Like EventBrite, the tool is free to use for free events.

For More Complex Events and Conferences

A number of tools combine event registration with tools to track and report on all the details of a complex event. These include Acteve, 123Signup, RegOnline, and Cvent.

Additionally, many online payment services have recently added a registration function. 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 such as Click and Pledge, AuctionPay, QGiv, GiftTool, MemberClicks, and Contribute.com.

Laura Quinn is executive director of Idealware, a nonprofit that provide reviews and information to help nonprofits choose software. For more, contact her 718-208-8172 or email to laura@idealware.org.

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