My background is not in the nonprofit sector. I actually came from a very FOR profit industry; I managed a live music venue. So while I don’t know all the ins and outs of the nonprofit world (yet), we do often share one particular goal: selling tickets. Lots and lots of tickets. Tickets to concerts, comedy shows, fundraising events, dance recitals, movie nights, classes, and more. Every day I would check ticket counts, see which events were struggling, and adjust my marketing plan from there. Over the years, we came up with a few ways to move more tickets. Thought I’d share:

1. Make It Exclusive: Offer a Members-Only Presale


There’s something exciting about having something before everyone has access to it. It’s one reason people become members, sign up for newsletters, subscribe to your blog – they want to be the first ones to know; to have some insider information. Reward your members and subscribers with exclusive on sale dates.

“Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, but members will be able to purchase starting Wednesday.” (*Bonus: Add a “Click Here” to become a member.)

And with that, no one wants to fall into the category of the “general public.”

2. Make It Targeted: Sell Discounted Tickets to Future Events During Events

With a room for 1000 people, we did a variety of shows. Some would sell out in advance, within minutes even. The big names are easy sells. But what about the up and comers? The unknowns? We took advantage of our captive audience by selling reduced rate tickets DURING similar events. So, at the Colbie Caillat show, we would sell tickets to Emily Hearn for $8, instead of their retail $12. Do you know who Emily Hearn is? Maybe you’ve heard of her, but she’s not (yet) famous. But we’re telling you it’s a good fit if you like Colbie Caillat.

If someone attends your yoga class, offer them a discount to your group night hike. It’s not the same event, but you have an audience of active people; offer them something you THINK they’d like – and for less.

*ONLY offer this at your facility, at the event. I think that’s basic sales, right? “One time only sale!” “Buy now or miss out on the deal!”

3. Make It Easy: Sell Tickets Online

I know that sounds basic, but people buy EVERYTHING online now. Amazon will mail you cereal. “Cyber Monday” is in the dictionary. You make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets, pay your bills, book your vacations, even order your pizza online. More than likely, your constituents are used to going to the internet for almost everything; don’t be the one thing they can’t get online!

We sold 90% of our tickets to events online. VERY few people are willing to drive to skip the online fees – and you guys have a ticketing system that allows for NO fees, so there is nothing to hold them back from buying online!

BONUS Make It Free: Give Tickets Away (and Sell Something Else)

When all else fails, give tickets away. Seriously. We call this “papering” – you guys use that term? The bottom line is that you need people for events. Performers NEED an audience; no one wants to talk to an empty room. And the perception of your constituents is affected by attendance. An awesome concert with 30 people often doesn’t feel as awesome as it actually was.

So if you can’t sell tickets, give them away. BUT give people something else to spend their money on. Movie night? Better have concessions. Concerts? You need beverages. Nature walk? Sell sunscreen and bug spray. Yoga class? Sell water. Have a vendor pay for a space to sell clothing. Rent mats. Be creative. You are offering your constituents what they need to enjoy the event; not just selling randomly to them.

*Where/how can you give tickets away?

  • Radio Promotions – Call to Win Contests
  • Facebook/Twitter Contests –
    • Share/Re-tweet for a chance to win
    • 1st 5 People to Reply to this Post Will Be Added to the Guest List (Keeps people checking your page)
    • Quizzes – Answer a fun fact about your org to win tickets (Drives them to your website)
  • Buy One Get One – Free Ticket to Movies on the Green With Purchase of General Admission

What other tips do you have for selling tickets?

This post is a slight variation of Blackbaud KnowHow’s “3 Easy Ways to Sell More Tickets.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen Gastaldo joined Blackbaud’s Altru team in March 2012, leaving behind the late nights of the music business. She spent 8 years in the music industry, managing a venue in Charlotte, NC, and then relocating to Charleston in 2007 to help reopen the Music Farm. While at the Farm, she founded the Lowcountry Artist Market, a seasonal market that features local vendors selling handmade and vintage goods. Her background in event management, marketing and ticketing in the arts and cultural community led her to pursue a career with Blackbaud, as Altru’s Community Manager. Kristen is here to help users connect with information, each other, and to help foster our sense of community.

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