Whether free, paid, or somewhere in between, a lot of thought should go into fundraising event ticket sales and registrations.
Like many other event-related challenges, when it comes to ticketing, timing is crucial. Starting to offer tickets too late can lead to complications and a higher risk of underselling. But promoting tickets too early can hurt your event's buzz and may not maximize performance.
If you’re responsible for turnout at a fundraising event, we have some considerations to help you determine the right time to begin your ticketing campaigns.
Just like real estate, fundraising event planners know the importance of location. Organizations always strive to run events conveniently for their constituents, but it isn’t always possible. Some types of events require unique spaces that may be out of the way, such as an open park. For larger organizations, it may be nearly impossible to run an event that is located centrally for all their supporters.
Location can give your attendees more things that they have to consider before committing. Is the event out of town, requiring travel and accommodations? Is it accessible by public transportation? Many of your supporters will be willing to make the effort, but your ticket sales schedule should give them the time they need. Making tickets available too close to the event can make it more difficult for them to figure out all the details. On the other hand, if you know that most of your supporters live close to your event location, you can be more flexible with your on-sale dates.
A simple consideration to factor into your timeline is pricing. Generally, the higher your prices, the more time you will want to leave yourself to sell them.
With a low-cost or free event, your supporters will be able to make a spur of the moment decision about attending. With a pricey event like a gala, being able to afford it may take a few months of budgeting.
An event with expensive tickets also may require more creativity and promotion by your organization. You’ll want to leave yourself time to offer various discounts, marketing tactics, and group buying offers if your initial price leaves you with fewer sales than you had hoped.
Our first two considerations looked at why some types of events may benefit from selling tickets earlier. But there are certainly cases where, regardless of location or price, you may want to ensure they are on sale close to event day.
Specifically, events that are likely to generate a lot of buzz can perform better as the event nears. For example, if you’ll be having a celebrity join you, they may earn publicity when they arrive in town. In other cases, if you have an audience that heavily uses social media, they can also create tons of chatter as the event approaches.
These scenarios would mean that many potential attendees want to register shortly before your event. You should plan to have at least some tickets available for them, since this may be a new group of supporters to introduce your cause to. Plus, all that buzz may even allow you to charge a higher fee than you had for earlier sales.
Specific organizational needs
Of course, your organization may always have preferences or requirements that need to be factored into the timeline.
For example, budgeting should always play a role in your schedule. If down payments and other early costs for your event will be an obstacle, it becomes important to generate sales well in advance. On the other hand, if generating significant publicity is a main priority, you may want to have ticket sales ongoing near the event so that you can easily run contests, social media promotions, and other buzz-generating campaigns.
We recommend trying some scenario planning to see what kind of impact early, late, or balanced sales would have on your event and organization. To learn more,