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Event Tickets and Registration – Part 2: Selecting a Tool

I recently wrote about different needs you should consider as you select an event registration system to integrate with Salesforce. Once you have an understanding of your needs and budget, you can start to look at different tools. Here are a few tools that we’ve worked with at Cloud for Good and had success with.

For a low-cost tool for general admission events

Eventbrite: Eventbrite is a very popular event registration system. It offers a good amount of flexibility for managing general admission events: different ticket types, automatically expiring early bird pricing, customizable questionnaires for your attendees, and more. They offer a slight discount on their processing fees for nonprofits, and Groundwire has built Eventbrite Sync, a very nice free, open-source  to import Eventbrite registrations into Salesforce.

Pros: Pricing – free for events that are free to attend, reasonable fees for paid events. The Eventbrite system itself is pretty intuitive and easy-to-use, with a strong community and support offerings. The Connector is free as well.
Cons: This is an import tool, not a real-time connection, so registrants only appear in Salesforce as you import them. Also, some limitations of the Eventbrite API mean that it is not possible to create Donations (Opportunities) for events where one person can register and pay for multiple attendees.

For real-time recording of registrations in Salesforce

This is an area to watch for development. There are some lower-cost tools that support real-time registration of your participants in Salesforce, but they lack some of the more advanced event management features of Eventbrite. Both Click and Pledge & Soapbox Engage are in this category, and include events management in their respective suites of tools for Salesforce, at no additional cost. If you have relatively basic event needs, and are also looking for an online donation tool, these can be excellent options. Click and Pledge has just released a new version of the Events tool, which I have not yet been able to evaluate – I will update this post soon.

UPDATE, 4/3/2013: Click & Pledge released a significant update to their Events product in January 2013. They added support for custom questions, various discount schemes (codes, groups, date-based) and a smoother payment process. They have released several incremental updates since then, to resolve issues with and provide enhancements for free events and custom fields. The end result is a very robust event management solution for general admission events that integrates very well with Salesforce and the Click & Pledge payment system. However, building events is a very detailed and potentially complex process, due in part to the flexibility of the system and the fact that it is all done within Salesforce. It is a very good option if you are already using Click & Pledge.

Linvio Events is a strong contender is this category, but is definitely a higher cost tool, around $3300/year, including their payment processing solution. If your organization has a large events program, this is a very good tool that is worth considering, but is hard to justify financially for organizations with a modest roster of occasional workshops.

More complex event types: conferences and reserved seating

If your organization runs multi-day or multi-track conferences, especially those where you also manage housing, then these tools that are primarily targeted towards general admission are unlikely to meet your requirements.

If you’re already using a service to manage your more complex registration needs, such as CVent, RegOnline, or Acteva, ask your vendor about their Salesforce integration (I know that those three have them). If you need to select a tool in this category, Acteva has the strongest Salesforce integration, and offers nonprofit discounts through TechSoup. However, its features don’t handle the most complex events. I have heard mixed reviews of the Cvent and Regonline integrations, and wouldn’t recommend them for organizations where Salesforce integration is a top priority. [UPDATE, 6/16/2013: Based on the concerns about Acteva’s payment of event fees to their clients reported by Idealware, we cannot recommend them at this time.]

Another option is custom development. Cloud for Good has built an events management framework that includes payment processing, using Salesforce Sites. It can be tailored to an organization’s specific needs – please feel free to contact us for a quote.

Reserved seating, as used by performing arts organizations, or table management for fundraising events is another area ripe for further development. Patron Manager is a full Salesforce customization for performing arts organizations that supports single-show and subscription sales with visual seat selection, as well as donor management. This is not a product that can be added on to an existing Salesforce instance – Patron Manager becomes the core of your Salesforce customization. Alternatively, you can use a separate ticket-selling application that has an API, and have a custom integration built between the two. While an overview of the ticket selling marketplace is well beyond the scope of this blog post, both SeatAdvisor and TicketLeap are online ticket selling platforms whose APIs we have identified as robust enough to manage a strong Salesforce integration. TicketLeap has a beta Salesforce integration available, but it imports data into custom objects, rather than than Standard Contacts, Campaigns, and Opportunities as required by almost all nonprofit organizations.

Theater seating applications can often manage different kinds of seating maps, including tables. But we have yet to identify a strong solution for banquet-style table management for our clients. I’d love to learn about any options that others have found, in the comments!