How should we manage all of these RSVPs for events at our non-profit?
April 4, 2016 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Hello Mefites! I'm seeking some help finding a better method for a very inefficient RSVP process here at the nonprofit where I work. Please help me come up with a better solution!

The agency holds about 3 - 5 events per month, varying in attendance from a handful of people on the RSVP list to a couple thousand people, depending on the particular event. An email invite is created by one staff member, then all the caseworkers are asked to send the invite out via email to their caseloads. The invitation asks for folks to respond directly to the email to RSVP.

Each time a caseworker receives a response, they then need to add a bunch of info (name, age, contact info, etc.) to a spreadsheet. In order to get all that info, the caseworker usually needs to look up all the info in our database because even if we ask for it in their response, almost nobody follows the directions and usually just write back "I'm in!" or something like that. If we don't just look up the info ourselves in the database, there's a bunch of back and forth emailing that takes time and doesn't seem efficient.

Maintaining RSVPs is one of the least "important" aspects of the caseworker job, however, it does take priority because these events are first come first served and if you aren't on top of it, your folks on your caseload miss out, which is a HUGE bummer and can make your caseload upset with you. So, it's not like you can put aside some time at the end of the day to just enter the info all at once, you have to add them to the RSVP list as soon as they respond. If you have to head into a meeting for an hour, that could mean that other caseworkers who weren't in the meeting will add their responses first, then there aren't any spots left for your folks who technically may have responded sooner.

At one point, I had suggested that the person who is in charge of these events, or one of the staff on that team, sends out the emails and manages the process, but I was told that they think the emails will be better received and better noticed if sent to them directly from their caseworker. I disagree on this point, because I think if we just told folks to expect that their invites will come from a specific place, that they'd get used to it. BUT, I've been told this is not going to change. So, I'm moving on from that idea and want to think of at least something to help.

So, what I'd really like to do is send folks an invite like a Google Form that asks all their info upfront in order to respond, then adds them to an RSVP list automatically. The issue would be that we need to be able to cap the number, which I don't think I can do with Google Docs automatically.

Do you have any suggestions? I've been doing the RSVP process like this for YEARS and I'd love to be able to make a great suggestion to management that will seem more efficient and make people's jobs easier for them.

Thank you in advance for your help! I really appreciate your advice!
posted by smirkyfodder to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can actually use the FormLimiter add-on in Google Forms to do exactly this!
posted by cogitron at 2:20 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Good lord!

There's Eventbrite for that!

(You don't have to charge for tickets).

The benefit to EventBrite is you can run really awesome reports based on the kind of data you want to collect from people who RSVP.
posted by zizzle at 2:30 PM on April 4, 2016 [15 favorites]

It seems reasonable that your clients would be more likely to open/respond to an invitation sent by their caseworker, but could you not have a central RSVP email rather than having folks respond to the person who sent (which many will do anyway, but in that situation the caseworker can auto-forward to the RSVP account)? Then, designate someone on the event staff or an intern to look up the supplementary info in the database and only get the caseworker involved if there is info missing after that first pass?

Or perhaps Eventbrite (free if your event is free) with the necessary info set as required fields?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:30 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eventbrite. It's free if your event is free. You can set a cap for the number of tickets available, and it can automatically do a waiting list for you if you wish. You can add extra fields to the registration form and export all the data as a spreadsheet. You can also use their app at your events to keep track of the attendees and check people off as they come in.

The caseworkers can still send out the invites themselves and just include the Eventbrite link for those who want to RSVP.
posted by zachlipton at 3:32 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am surprised that an organization of your size, that regularly holds events with thousands of attendees , doesn't use any sort of CRM system to input and manage that data! CRMs are often expensive, but there are less expensive options, and I have to imagine there are CRMs that are built for, or have modules for, social services agencies. A CRM could also be used to send email invites - and then caseworkers could forward the nicely-formatted emails to their clients with a more personal note. But sending through a CRM means you can track responses, bouncebacks, clickthrough rates, etc.

But yeah, the current system you have is completely untenable. I would suggest something like an eventbrite RSVP where you use the attendee report to create a shared google sheet where caseworkers can check and see if their clients have signed up.
posted by lunasol at 3:38 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eventbrite, definitely. You can customize the registration questions and make them mandatory.
posted by sadmadglad at 3:49 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our organization uses EventBrite for almost exactly this.
posted by samthemander at 9:01 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You already have a database. This is exactly the sort of thing that a CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) will do for you. If your database is not a CRM, you need to get that sorted rather than creating another band-aid system.

Your CRM would send out the emails with a unique link to register per person, accept the registrations until the cap is reached and then give you the attendance list with all the details you need.

You will save many hours having a proper CRM. I can't imagine running regular events for thousands without one.

This is what I do at a small non-profit, feel free to get in touch.
posted by ssg at 10:58 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you! I love you, Metafilter!
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:05 PM on April 5, 2016

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