Event Management Software: Everything you need to know as a planner
The journey to selecting the right event technology can be overwhelming and with the expanding offering of options and the evolving services available, it can be an investment of time to compare and demo platforms.
In the research process for a solid Event Management Software suitable for fundraising events, we have created our key considerations, but before we get there let’s talk about some common terminology.
· Event Management Software = web-based software for all aspects of event management from registration, fundraising, communication, and more.
· SaaS = Software as a Service.
· Text-to-Give = Allows anyone to give to your organization by sending a text message with a dollar amount.
· Fund-A-Need = Provide an easy way for donors to support a specific cause or organization.
· Text-to-Register = Allows anyone to register for your event by sending a text message.
· Peer-to-Peer Fundraising = A multi-tiered approach to crowdfunding where individuals can create personal fundraising pages for your cause's behalf.
Now that we understand the basic language, let’s dive into the important factors to evaluate as you research platforms suitable to your needs.
We start here because this can often automatically rule out some competitors. Begin with a list of the key features (or problems) you are looking for the SaaS to provide (or solve) for you. Do you need peer-to-peer fundraising? How about the ability to sell tickets or process registrations? Do you want supporters to be able to text-to give? Do you want to use the platform to assign seats? Bid numbers? To help track your sponsorships?
Try your best to create a complete list of your needs. And if you are unsure about the correct language or what will benefit you the most, speak with a company representative who can walk you through their recommendations.
Some companies price their platform as an all-in-one package; others price features individually. The latter can sometimes work to your favor and sometimes destroy your budget. Stay aware of competitors pricing structures and understand that the most cost effective option for one event might completely change based on the features needed for an alternative event.
Bonus points to any company offering 24/7 online chat support with an actual person. This can come in handy when you have simple question explainable in a few sentences. It’s also important to know the hours of call / email support and even better for you to test out the responsiveness of this service before you sign anything.
We have found the variation in Customer Service to be one of the most defining amongst all platforms and is one of the most heavily weighted criteria we consider. Many companies offer pricing structures based on the level of Customer Service they will provide. While having some added support built into your contract can be helpful, if you have a basic level of technical experience, you should not need to opt for the highest package price to get the right level of Customer Service. The system should be designed to be fairly straight forward or it is not the right pick for you (or anyone for that matter).
On a personal level, while I appreciate a platform that has thorough and easy to navigate online support resources, I am wary of companies that pitch their Customer Service strength based on an existing library of resources. Sometimes you just need to talk/chat/email with a real person about your situation and don’t have the time to watch (3) 20 minute video tutorials to figure out how to upload a graphic.
Most sites are going to highlight the usability of their platform and unfortunately, often you don’t find out the truth to that until after you have signed an agreement. If trial periods are an option, use these to your maximum capability and test as many features as you can. Practice graphic uploading and how hyperlinks work. Run through the steps for payment processing that your supporter will be doing. Evaluate customization options. And so on.
As mentioned previously, if the system is not fairly straight forward to you, someone with basic technical experience, then you should continue your search in other directions.
A huge benefit to fundraising SaaS is the ability to manage all aspects of your event in one place, including the communication to your supporters. Many platforms give you the ability to send customized SMS texts to your supporters to keep them updated before, during and after the event. This is a great tool but we have run in to some challenges with the level of customizations.
Not all sites give you the ability to customize the link that automatically accompanies your text. This can result in more “clicks” the supporters has to make before ending up where you want them to and could result in you losing a transaction. This also reduces the value of this messaging tool. For example, at an event that had a YouTube stream failure we sent a text to notify everyone the Facebook stream was still live. Unfortunately, the link included took them to our Event Page within the platform and not directly to Facebook as desired.
In addition to text messages, some platforms offer the ability to email your supporters directly through the software. Make sure to evaluate the customization options offered with the email service to ensure it’s comparable to what you get from your existing Email Marketing platform – i.e. Mad Mimi or Constant Contact.
Virtual Event Integration
If your event features a virtual broadcast, you will want to consider the capabilities of your software to integrate your stream into your branded site. Many platforms are just launching this capability so we recommend requesting demos on the features they currently have rolled out as well as what is not yet implemented.
Ideally, an integrated virtual stream would have chat functionality as well as donation and bidding options seamlessly organized in one branded event page.
Based on your needs outlined in the beginning of this process you may be looking for a platform that integrates with other SaaS tools you are using within your company – Salesforce, your Email Marketing platform, etc. Make sure to address these needs up front to not only ensure they are offered but that the integration works in the way you need it to.
We’ve arrived at what is often the biggest concern for fundraising events but it’s important not to skip straight to this. Pricing will vary greatly based on the features provided and you might find that a more expensive option actually gives you a significant amount more of what you need. Take price into considerations as a component of the full picture, not as the only factor.
Some companies price by annual contract and some price per event but take a percentage of funds. To compare, you will need to know how many events per year you plan to use the technology for and your fundraising goals. Just because you only have one event per year, an annual contract can work to your cost benefit if you have large fundraising goals. This also applies in the reverse.
I know it can seem like a lot to take in but if you take some time to properly vet your options in the beginning, you will end up with a solution that will create efficiencies for you and your supporters as well as profitability for your organization. With so many options available, pick a few that you have seen others use or that have been recommended and start there. Make sure to review examples of how the platforms work for other similar events to get inspiration on how you can maximize the platform to your benefit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Thompson
Jenna is a mountain based Yogi with a love for veggie focused foods. When she's not in Warrior Pose you can find her spending time with her Avalanche Rescue Dog Luna with a Matcha Latte in hand!