From time to time, most of us will plan special events, socials or trips for our choirs. Those usually involve taking money and signing people up for the event. It can be tricky to handle this kind of management on top of the usual front-of-house admin that takes place at rehearsals. However, with a good system and a bit of assistance you can easily be on top of things. Here are some top tips:
When planning an event or activity where people will need to sign up, it's always a good idea to allow plenty of time. If you only give your singers very short notice, not only will many of your potential participants not be available, but you may have difficulty collecting the fees. Sometimes, you might want to simply give a 'save the date' announcement with details to follow. If you have an exciting Christmas booking on the horizon, telling the choir and getting them to sign up in the summer may be a little too soon!
Have a well-planned list
When signing people up for an event, don't rely just on memory or scrappy bits of paper with people's names scribbled on. A typed table with space to insert all necessary details is best and will look more formal and professional, especially if people are handing over money. The number of columns required will depend on the event. For example, my choir are being recorded soon in a venue with a professional sound engineer. There is a fee to help cover the cost of the venue, engineer, pianist and also to include a CD. On my sign-up sheet I have four colums. F irstly their name, secondly their part within the choir so that I know how many altos, sopranos and tenors I can expect on the day. The final two colums concern payment, the first being the method of payment and the second the date of payment. This way I have a clear record of all the recording details and I know exactly who will need a CD afterwards.
Money up front
After trying varying methods over the years, we have found that a policy of taking money up front works the best when signing people up for an event. If someone signs up and pays, everything is done and dusted. If they sign up but haven't the money on them then you start a whole process of having to send reminders and chase people for the money. Also, if you are running an event which can only go ahead if a certain amount of people sign up (for example of you book a coach for something), not having all the payment up front can cause a cashflow issue. There may be cases where people genuinely struggle to pay a full amount up front. You can decide how to deal with this at your discretion. We often let those struggling with the full amount pay in smaller installments.
Terms and conditions
This may sound a little formal, but not having any terms and conditions can catch you out. You don't need to have a long, complicated contract, but it is a good idea to specify the terms on which you're willing to give a refund or a transfer. Otherwise, you can end up out of pocket. If, for example, you have a fixed overhead such as a venue, you need to know that that cost is covered. If you have to give several refunds for no-shows, the project might no longer be financially viable. You could end up having to make a choice between cancelling it or footing the bill for the shortfall yourself.
Creating a buzz
When signing people up for an event or excursion, don't be afraid to create a bit of urgency. If people feel that they only need to commit at the last minute, that's exactly what they'll do. Meanwhile, you're panicking because you don't know if you'll be able to run the project at all. You could consider some sort of 'early bird' discount to encourage prompt purchases, or stress that it will be 'first come, first served' and remind people that they don't want to miss out.