Here's another blurb we're working on for our Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits - this one on software to manage the LOGISTICS (not just the registration, which is a different topic) of events. We'd love your comments on this, if you have them - we're not sure if we've found all the appropriate software that might apply here. Special thanks to Heather Mason of A Caspian Production for contributing her event management expertise - though any errors are ours, as she hasn't reviewed it!
A large event has a lot of logistics to manage – will you have sponsors? What’s the budget? Where will people sit? What rooms will be used for what? Some Donor Management Systems
, Constituent Relationship Management Systems
, or member/ association management software can help with these details. If your event involves organizing volunteers, some volunteer management systems can provide useful functionality to manage who will be doing what and when. While it can be useful to have event management functionality integrated with other constituent management functions, the feature set provided by these types of tools is often not as sophisticated as is offered in stand alone packages.
More sophisticated Online Event Registration
packages also frequently have event management capabilities – for instance, to assign seats or do some basic management of agendas and rooms. If you’re primarily trying to manage attendee details (for instance, session preferences, seat assignment, or meal preferences), having this functionality combined with the tool you’re using to do online registration makes a lot of sense.
As your events become more complex, keep in mind that no software will actually plan all the details for you – if your logistics become more complicated than what you can easily manage in Excel, it might well make sense to hire an experienced event planner and use whatever software they recommend. However, there are a number of packages - like StarCite and eTouches – that are designed help you to track complex logistics, speakers, rooms and budgets, as well as manage all your attendee registration details for huge events and conferences.
Live and silent auctions tend to have a particularly difficult set of information to track. You’ll need to track the items that you’re selling, their fair market value, the buyer, and the selling price – and be able to generate bills and receipts on site within minutes of the auction itself. Software packages like AuctionPay and ReadySetAuction provide tailored functionality specifically to meet these needs.