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TechSoup Battles: The Event Registration Challenge

Event Planning

Are you new to TechSoup Battles? Check out our intro and our previous challenges.

Do you organize events as part of your work? Whether it be fundraisers, programming, training, conferences or volunteer appreciation parties, there’s many types of events that nonprofits and charities run. Having a good event registration tool can go a long way to keeping things organized and creating a smooth registration process for your attendees. But which tool to use? There’s so many out there that Jane and I decided to tackle this for our second challenge.

As usual we first had to do some research to find out what tools to focus on. For fun, I decided to try out a free infographic tool called to share what we found. As you can see, my layout and design skills leave much to be desired, but hey, everyone’s got to start somewhere! (See the bottom of this post for the main text in the image.)

Event Registration tool suggestions

Learn more by reading Idealware’s review of RSVP tools and event registration tools, and Platformation’s review.

(Click on the image to view it at full size.)

Also, keep in mind that you might already have event registration built in to your CRM or another tool you already use - if so, it might meet your needs and have better integration.

What are we looking for?

Our research helped us get a list of tools to investigate, but that still left us with lots of options. Jane quickly called dibs on Eventbrite, since it’s the main tool that came up in both reviews and we’ve heard lots of good things about it. I wasn’t sure what tool Team Tierney should go with, so I stepped back and asked myself: what exactly am I trying to do?

First of all, I realized I could narrow the field to event registration tools for simple events. As Idealware illustrated in their article, it makes a big difference depending on whether your event is fairly straightforward, or whether it is complicated (such as a conference, or a performance with assigned seating) and you need advanced features. An event management tool would be even more advanced, requiring much more complexity. In my case, organizing a Toronto Net Tuesday has fairly simple requirements, and I imagine the same is true for many nonprofit events.

Here’s the key things I need to help me organize Toronto Net Tuesday (some of which are pretty common, and some of which may be more specific to my events):

  • I can create free events for free.
  • I can create paid events and take payment online via credit card. I want to minimize the cost of running a paid event. I’m not too concerned about the ability to give refunds, but it would be nice.
  • I can easily create and update my event.
  • Attendees can sign up (and pay, if applicable) online. The tool will automatically email them to confirm registration.
  • I can email attendees before and after the event, so I can let them know of any changes and send out a post-event survey and recap.
  • I can print an attendance list, so I can check off names at the registration table.
  • I can ask attendees custom questions when they sign up, so I can tailor the event to the needs of the attendees.
  • I can embed a sign up form on my website, so attendees can sign up without leaving my website.
  • I can export a list of attendees, so I can track in my CRM who attended the event.
  • Attendees can be automatically added to a waiting list if the event is full, so that if there’s a lot of interest and someone drops out, the tool will automatically offer someone on the waiting list the spot.

Having my list of requirements helped me to stay focused on what I need when looking at tools. I eventually settled on Guestlist because it was simple, easy to use and offered charity pricing - though it didn’t meet a couple of my requirements. Since I looked at so many tools in the process, I’ve made some notes farther down on this blog which you may find helpful (there’s some other great options out there!).

The results

Here's my review of Guestlist and Jane's review of Eventbrite. Here’s the big idea:

Jane reviews Eventbrite

Tierney reviews Guestlist

Cost Free for free events; approved Registered Charities are charged 2% service fee + $.99 with a maximum of $7.95(USD) per ticket. Credit card fees still apply. Free for free events and paid charity events. 2% commission (to a max of $10) for other paid events. Credit card fees still apply.
Quick description Very intuitive interface; very easy sharing ability using social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Allows for collection of donations online. Many more features such as waitlists, printout of check-in list and name tags, can also track multi-channel promotions. Simple and clean interface. Focuses on the basic features rather than trying to do everything.
Might be a good fit if... You are a charity wanting to run a free or low cost event (as Eventbrite take a percentage of the ticket price). Also good if you need a lot of specific features. Great integration with third party applications such as MailChimp and Salesforce. You are a charity wanting to run a simple, paid event and you want a completely free solution.


Our next challenge, which we’ll tackle in a few weeks, will be to track our contacts. This one will be especially tough, since everyone’s needs are so different, but we’ll share a few options to help you get started.

As usual, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think of our event registration challenge (do you have more experiences/insights to share? other tools to recommend?), and what tools you recommend we look at tracking contacts. Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter (#TechSoupBattles), below in the comments or send us an email. Thanks to everyone who has shared thoughts & ideas so far!

So, what were those other event registration tools?

(Note that I only took a quick look at most of them - this isn’t a complete review!)

  • Brown Paper Tickets: this appears to be a fantastic tool and I came quite close to choosing it for this challenge. They offer quite a range of features (though not waitlisting, unfortunately, which was one of my requirements), all their services are provided in English, French and Spanish, they integrate with MailChimp and their pricing is pretty affordable (they do charge for paid events).
  • Anyvite: looks pretty promising, similar to Guestlist in terms of the type/complexity of events that would be a fit. Like Guestlist, it is also missing a few of the features we wanted.
  • Meetup: what I currently use for Toronto Net Tuesday. Great for building a community (people join your group, not a one-time event) if you have regular events, and Meetup will recommend your event to other users who like similar things which helps grow your group. I wouldn’t suggest it for one-time events. As well, you can’t export a list of attendee names/emails to add to your CRM and there is a monthly fee of $12 or more.
  • Upcoming is based around community sharing events (a bit like Meetup), and it seems to be best for simple, free events.
  • specifically aimed at charity events and free to use. Unfortunately, I didn’t like their interface and was completely unimpressed by the fact that the only provinces they list are Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta (it’s restricted in a drop-down menu). What about the rest of Canada?


P.S. Here’s the text from the graphic above:

Ask the experts


  • Avoid using email for RSVPs, it can quickly become a headache!
  • For simple events, check out Eventbrite, Brown Paper Tickets, Facebook Events and Upcoming
  • For complex events & conferences, check out Acteva, 123Signup, RegOnline, Cvent

Platformation: we really liked Eventbrite. Eventbee and Guestlist stood out as well.

Ask the community

  • Gifttool; good but pricey
  • Eventbrite for free events, RegOnline for paid. Like them both, but especially Eventbrite.
  • My Booking Manager
  • Use Cvent and love it. It's a bit pricey.
  • Eventbrite all the way



Here's another tool that came to my attention recently; it's free and takes a slightly different approach to the event invitation area. It looks like it would be particularly useful for recurring meetings and events. Here's a blurb about out from the people who make it: "Whoozin ( is a free user-friendly website where you can create a page for recurring or one-off events, send invitations (or share a link to a registration page), and track RSVP’s to monitor "who's in"." Tierney Community Engagement Manager, TechSoup Canada