Nonprofit organizations invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in driving potential fundraising event participants to register online and use sophisticated tracking to measure which efforts produce the best results. Likewise, once someone registers, there is  a wealth of information of information on how participants engage with online tools to fundraise.

But for many organizations, the registration process itself is a bit of a mystery, with little understanding of how potential participants are navigating the multi-step process.

When analyzing results from multiple events’ registration process, the Charity Dynamics team discovered that only 40% of walk participants and 8% of endurance participants complete the registration process. Every person who doesn’t complete the process represents dollars lost.

The first step to improving registration rates is understanding the roadblocks.

Roadblock #1 – Muffing the Mobile Experience

In our study, an average of 20% of participants entering the process were attempting to register on a smartphone or tablet, with some nonprofits having as much as 30% mobile visitation.  Yet “road tests” of the user experience for events not using a mobile responsive registration form, showed that it was impossible to select a Registration Type for an event – a key first step in the registration process.

Roadblock #2 – Losing the Magic

Yet we found that once a participant finds their local event, the user experience loses its energy and enthusiasm (and ease).  With no pictures or graphics employed and phrases like “User Login” and “Returning Participant” dominating the screen, the experience stopped being about the donor and their goals for the event and became all about the computer program.  In most cases, nonprofits did not even add some simple text that might better explain the process for users or paint a picture that would transform an antiseptic “Registration Type” into a portrait of someone making in impact – something all participants want to do.Nonprofits invest significant time, energy and money on their event website – employing top notch photography and moving videos of enthusiastic participants and inspiring stories of lives changed by the organization.  Many organizations also invest significant effort to make it easy – even fun – for participants to find their local event (a precursor to entering in the registration process in our study), employing stunning light boxes and well-presented maps to guide participants.

Roadblock #3 – the “More is More” Mistake

As tempting as it is to learn as much as possible about participants, nonprofits need to take a lesson from their other successful digital, direct mail and face to face fundraising efforts, where testing has shown that too many donation levels or requests for additional information can overwhelm donors, causing a falloff in response.  This feeling of overwhelmed was most evident in the Waiver stage of the process, where longer waivers, filled with paragraphs of legal jargon led to a significantly higher abandonment rate. At several steps in the process – Registration Type Selection, the actual Registration Form and signing the waiver, nonprofits fall victim to forgetting the paramount “less is more” rule, giving participants too many choices, asking for too much personal information without articulating a good reason and overwhelming them with legal jargon.

Next Steps

There are many strategies for improving registration rates, including mobile optimization and shorter registration forms.

As part of the Peer-to-Peer Bootcamp series, we’re leading a webinar, “Set the Right Expectations: Optimizing Registration Experience,” on the event registration benchmarks, the roadblocks mentioned above and ways to capture more fundraisers by improving your registration process.

Sign up for our webinar today.

Dolores McDonagh is a principal consultant with Charity Dynamics.

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