Today’s tip: Consider a registration fee, because people who pay to play also tend to show up to play.
Too many fundraising events tolerate a large percentage of non-performers. A successful fundraising event requires a strong fundraising culture. A registration fee helps set an expectation by requiring something of the participant up front. This will guarantee a certain level of income for the event by ‘weeding’ out the non-performers and raise the awareness and mindset that the cause is important, money is needed to take action to help the cause, and there is value to being part of the event. Positioned correctly, such a fee can have a positive effect on fundraising performance, while at the same time decreasing event support costs by reducing the number of non-performing participants. In fact, all of the clients we interviewed who charged a registration fee were positive the fee resulted in more committed fundraisers.
Another benefit of charging a registration fee is that participants who pay a fee tend to actually show up at the event. While our data set did not include actual attendance figures, we heard time and time again in the interviews that participants who pay a registration fee are more likely to physically show up at the event. If one of your goals is to make a public spectacle with lots of people, be cognizant of the effect a registration fee can have on physical attendance as well.
However, there are two caveats with registration fees. The first is that while events that do charge a registration fee see higher fundraising growth, they also see slower participation growth. If you do not charge a registration and your event is relatively mature or you are happy with the rate of participation growth, you should consider implementing a fee. Most organizations position the fee solely as a way to cover the costs of the event. However, if your event is very small, or it is more important to you to rapidly grow the participation, you may want to hold off on implementing a registration fee.
The second caveat is that participants who pay a registration fee do not necessarily fundraise, so don’t think that you can rely on this correlation to guarantee participants who also fundraise. In fact, it is common for as many as 60% to 70% of paid registrants do no fundraising. All participants should be encouraged to fundraise and provided the tools to be able to articulate “the ask” for your organization, regardless of registrations fees.
Ultimately, registration fees seem to be beneficial to events success, but be careful! Analyze the median and average funds raised per participant after each event to set the fee at an appropriate level that encourages participation.
The average amount raised is significantly higher for nonprofits that charge an event registration fee.
Our data set included information on registration fees collected as a part of participating in the event. We found that the majority of organizations charge a registration fee. In fact, for every organization that does not charge a registration fee for their events, there are three organizations that do.
Registration fees are trending higher each year. The average registration fee in 2008 was $19, and has grown an average of 5% each year.
The average amount raised is significantly higher for organizations that charge a registration fee.
The online registration numbers for events that do not charge a registration fee grow consistently year over year, whereas the registration numbers for events that charge a registration fee do not.
Adapted from Join the Race: A joint study by Convio and Event 360 with support from the Run Walk Ride Council, analyzing the best practices for increasing performance of nonprofit team fundraising events. Download the full white paper here.