Saturday, July 7, 2018

Tickets will NOT be Sold at the Door

There are 100’s if not 1,000’s of mistakes charities can make which spell disaster but the most major mistake a charity can make when planning their fundraising event is to either allow people to pay at the door or to actually tell your supporters & possible guests that they can pay at the door.  Just don’t do it and here is why.

Eight years ago, while helping with a Therapeutic Program in South Carolina, I fully instructed our client on how to sell correctly and successfully sell tickets including not allowing people to say they will purchase them at the door.  Our client, let’s call her Sarah, had rented a large plantation house which also included the menu with an open bar.  During the planning process, I routinely checked in with “Sarah” and she would report that on each occasion, her guest numbers were increasing astronomically finally selling out completely.  I was very proud to hear how successful Sarah and her committee were packing the plantation.  However, here is where the story goes sideways and overturns.  About a week away, as we were preparing to go to South Carolina, Sarah called telling me that the Plantation was looking for final payment which is very routine and she asked what she was supposed to do.  I simply said “Well, write them a check from all of your ticket sales money that you put in the bank.”  She said “Uhhhh, I don’t have any money in the bank and don’t have any way of paying for it now.”
I paused, to allow what she had just said to catch up and I could derive what she
was saying.  I said “Sarah, please tell me you listened to what I was telling you, to sell tickets and deposit the money.  To not allow people to tell you they will pay at the door.”  That is when Sarah exploded “This is the south, you don’t know people here.  What they tell you is what is going to happen.  Their word is gospel.”  With my head in my hands, I knew what was going to happen.  I said “Sarah, those people are not going to come to your event, I told you to not do that, your event is going to be a disaster.  You better hurry up and collect all the promised tickets immediately.”  That is when Sarah said “I can’t believe you’re not listening, you’re fired” and promptly hung up the phone.  Needless to say, Sarah was contractually obligated to us but what made matters much much worse, she also was financially obligated to the Plantation, the decorator, a band and several others.

Several months went by and while heading to upstate New York (to help Cornell University), my phone rang.  It was her boyfriend who told me that they were no longer together while asking if I heard what happened.  Exactly what I said would happen, happened.  Out of the 450 supposed people who were paying at the door, only 18 showed up.  Sarah had to take a personal loan out to pay for the event and she was forced to close down her charity.  He said and I can hear his words now “George Sir, you were right, she should have listened to you, I’m sorry.”
Here is why telling people tickets will be sold at the door or allowing people to tell you they will pay for them at the door is a MAJOR mistake:

#1 – Caterer – The venue will ask for a head count prior to your event so that they can prepare food for the number of guests who are attending.  However, if you are selling tickets at the door or allowing people to pay you at the door, you truly don’t have an accurate count on how many people are coming.  There are two negatives to this:

a.    Your guest count is high – People do not show up at your event and too much food is prepared which you are paying for.  Eventhough you believed they were coming, the caterer will want to be paid for the amount of people they prepared food for.

    Your guest count is low – Many more people show up to the door than you had planned or paid for and the caterer did not prepare enough food.  The guests who had paid prior to the event do not get enough food which causes them to have a negative experience.

#2 – An Easy Excuse or Brush-off – A very easy way for people to give an excuse for not buying tickets is to tell you “I’ll buy them at the door.”  It’s easy since they don’t want to make you mad or look bad.  But it most certainly is a brush-off. 

#3 – Pre-selling ticket success – By only Pre-selling tickets and telling people they are not available, people will be much more apt to purchase tickets and you will have a much better chance to sell completely out since you will know what your true ticket count is.

Summary:  If people do not spend money than they have nothing to lose.  A common saying is “They have to skin in the game.”  If they didn’t pay for the tickets, they have nothing to lose.  You know yourself, you may just simply change your mind or find something else to lose.  BUT if you spent money, you are most certainly going to attend.

Please heed my warning;  NEVER EVER tell people they can pay for their tickets at the door or allow people to tell you they will buy them at the door.  You will definitely be much better off telling everyone that “Tickets will NOT be sold at the door.”

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a full service company and a North American charity fundraising leader in a convenient “One Stop Shop” setting.  We can help you avoid the 100’s of pitfalls and direct you toward hosting a highly successful event.  Contact us at