booking & paying for events

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I am aware it is not a new phenomenon of people booking on events and not turning up but has anyone got any advice on how to minimise this? Would putting a nominal charge on events that we are currently offering for free help? How are refunds handled or is it better to have non-refundable charge?

We used eventbrite recently for 1 of our events, which was a drop-in event anyway, to help get an idea of numbers which was useful. We also held a photography workshop which was oversubscribed but only 4 out of 12 turned up. We didn't charge for either.

Does anyone have any experience of making events funded by HLF chargeable and handling any income generated?



proffil Benjamin Sanderson's Benjamin Sanderson Aug 9 2018 - 2:34pm
  1. Hi Benjamin

    We encountered this issue too, and like you we used eventbrite. We felt that introducing a charge was completely against the ethos of inclusiveness which we had, and we also had no mechanism to recieve payments (as the LP team itself had no bank account etc.) So yes, we did get quite a few no-shows, but this significantly reduced over time as we became better known in the area, and our marketing of events improved. It will definitely take time to get steady numbers and attendance, be sure to start your marketing as early and as widely as possible.

  2. proffil Ewan Bachell's Ewan Bachell
    Offline | Last seen: 5 mis 4 dydd ago
  3. I'd be interested to know HLFs stance on participants paying for events. We too want to make our events free so as to include as wide a range of people as possible. However, when thinking longer term about legacy and viability of some sites, income raising could be a useful option to test out. What do the policy makers think?

  4. proffil Cathy Hopley's Cathy Hopley
    Offline | Last seen: 3 mis 1 wythnos ago
  5. in reply to

    I’d have a slightly more flexible approach to this.

    In Touching the Tide LPS we started charging for most events, partly in response to no shows – in particular a training opportunity that cost us quite a lot of money per person, and where we’d been turning people away, but where 2 people didn’t bother to turn up on the day. I also think there’s something about valuing what you pay for.  Also, we could have been perceived as being unfair competition to local commercial and NGO training and events providers, and even though we were cheaper charging at least something meant this never became a source of conflict.  HLF were fine with this - we'd always intended to generate some income this way but eneded up with a surplus over the budgeted income to plough back into more events.

    We didn’t charge for “drop in” type events, just ones that involved booking ahead. We also didn’t charge where the target audience would have been deterred or prevented from participating – eg for work with refugees or vulnerable young adults. In our situation that was a relatively low proportion of our output, but it might be more in other circumstances.

    By way of the potential complexities, we had a relatively prestigious classical music event as part of a project celebrating a local lighthouse.  The bulk of the audience were relatively wealthy retired locals who thought our £10 tickets were very cheap – but the families of the (decidedly less affluent) local kids taking part thought their free or half price tickets (depending how many they wanted) were well worth it too.  In this case influencing the wealthy retired incomers was an important objective for the event and for our project, and local advice was if the concert was free then probably fewer of them would come. In the end, for many of the poorer families this was the first “prestige” event they’d ever attended, let alone taken part in, in a village dominated by the rich incomers, and their feedback was that it was a very empowering experience for them.

    I’m now working on developing one of the last of the LPS in the Quantocks, and it’s interesting how local views vary here. One local youth club in a very deprived area of Bridgwater has a policy of always charging a nominal amount – maybe only 50p – both because you value what you pay for and also because it preserves the dignity of the families involved to feel they’re paying for a service rather than being passive recipients. The families also feel more empowered to have an input or ask for changes.

    On a similar note I had an interesting talk with the leader of another organisation working with care leavers, who had developed a whole protocol for weaning them off their sense of material entitlement. He gave the example of young people trashing a TV knowing that it would be replaced next day…  all of which made giving them the emotional and wellbeing support they really need to transition to being independent adults much harder.

    On the other hand another youth project targeting potential young offenders doesn’t charge, because they know that even 50p would prevent some of the young people being able to come.

    So I’d say think about your target audience for each event, and about the outcomes you want for them, talk to your partners and others with knowledge of the client group in question, think about what other provision already exists in the same or similar market locally, and then decide your charging policy accordingly. There’s no one size fits all locally or nationally.

  6. proffil Bill Jenman's Bill Jenman
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  7. We run regional half-day Info-Point workshops for heritage owners and interpreters, which are genuinely intended as educational for our potential customers, but with the open intention that it promotes our product through better understanding of the practicalities digital heritage interpretation.

    We find that, even though you could argue that it is a form of sales demonstration, a nominal charge to cover venue and catering costs (usually £50-£70 depending on the venue) is not a deterrent and regularly get up to 30 delegates, and all of them with a serious interest. You can establish a paypal account to handle online payments (although some could not/did not want to use it, and I think you still need a bank account).

    My past experience in several other spheres is that people will unfortunately subscribe to free events on the basis that they 'might' attend, even if the event is of little relevance to them. They rarely let you know when they can't, leaving you with no knowledge of how many to really expect, and footing the bill for over-catering etc.

    IMHO far better to charge even a nominal amount to guarantee that registrations are serious.

    Neil Rathbone


  8. proffil Neil Rathbone's Neil Rathbone
    Offline | Last seen: 3 mis 3 wythnos ago
  9. Hi all

    This is really useful as we (Land of Oak & Iron) are also taking the approach of paying for events that we feel have a value. This does not apply to regular volunteering activities or those that contribute towards the development of the programme such as partnership forums, legacy planning events etc. 

    Our biggest challenge is how to accept payment. In the past participants have booked and paid in cash at the event or bought a ticket at a centre we have. The fees on some websites are a deterrent. 

    What do other partnerships do? Any advice to is hugely appreciated. 

    Thanks in advance

    Karen Daglish 

  10. proffil Karen Daglish's Karen Daglish
    Offline | Last seen: 11 hours 24 min ago
  11. in reply to

    Hi Karen

    Here at the Quantocks AONB we have a paypal account (which the LPS I'm developing will be able to use) which links directly to our County Council host's financial system. I'm told it was a nightmare to set up at the CC end, because we were a pioneer, but once created it is easy for us and easy for users. Ironically the CC has since realised its a good way to facilitate other payments (parking fines etc) so it now uses the system itself. The difficult bit, I think, was ensuring that the money ended up being credited to the right budget rather than disappearing into an anonymous  CC income stream. 

    So its possible, anyway…

    Back in my Touching the Tide days in Suffolk the CC just wouldn't have any such system, and didn't take credit cards either,  so people had to send us a cheque in the post. How quaint. 




  12. proffil Bill Jenman's Bill Jenman
    Offline | Last seen: 1 day 5 hours ago
  13. Hi Benjamin

    All the comments above are so useful in relation to making sure an activity is available for the people you most need and want in the room or place.

    In relation to 'no shows', I've tried a few different approaches using Eventbrite over the years of running free activities.

    I always put on the Eventbrite description of the event a sentence about the importance of cancelling your ticket beforehand if you can't attend.  I also put in a sentence about how and why the event is free and only being able to offer these events because of funding.

    On the ticket confirmation email that the booker receives, I always edit the email and put in a sentence along the lines of: “If you are unable to attend the event, please cancel your ticket as soon as possible, to allow someone else to take your place. This is important as we are only able to allow free places because of public funding.' So basically, it's really clear to people why it's free and encouraging them to feel responsible for their attendance.

    I also schedule a reminder email 3 days before the activity, and again put in that request re cancelling, and usually it sparks people to life and they cancel at that point, freeing up places in time for people to take them. I also use a Waitlist on Eventbrite so you can release places.

    That has meant I have had far fewer no shows. On recent events in the park, I found that the 'just turn up' people exactly balanced out the 'no show' people which was very amusing!

    A few years ago, I actually decided to email the people who didn't show, and made it clear that their no show had cost someone else a place. One woman was appalled that she hadn't shown up and felt terrible!!  I genuinely think there are people who forget, or who get swamped by life.  But I have found the above methods have worked for me generally, and at most I only get 1 or 2 no shows generally. 

    Best wishes



  14. proffil Sue Palmer's Sue Palmer
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