Classlist Parent Associations

How to create a sell-out event

St George's Summer Ball
By: Kelly Walsh, organiser of the Summer Ball at St George’s School in Weybridge, Surrey

‘Four years ago, we were struggling to sell just 250 tickets for the Summer Ball,’ says Kelly. ‘But, this year we’ve sold-out; we have 585 people coming and we have a long waiting list of parents who are desperate to attend.’
Want to know how St George’s did it? Here are Kelly’s tips…

Listen to feedback

‘Four years ago, when the Summer Ball wasn’t pulling people in, we started a policy of asking for feedback, taking it on the chin and responding positively to what we were being told,’ says Kelly. ‘One issue that kept coming up was that the food wasn’t good enough. So, we decided this was something to spend on. We hired an excellent outside caterer and now the food is one of the highlights of the night.’

Use your Class Reps

‘The best events attract parents from across the school,’ says Kelly, ‘and everyone feels welcome. We ask our Class Reps to ensure that they each persuade at least 10 people from their class to come along. Those parents then chat to other parents about how good the night was – and more come along the following year.’

Send out simple teasers

‘Three weeks before the tickets went on sale I posted a quick message on Classlist,’ says Kelly:
Save the Date
2018 Summer Ball
Tickets on sale on Tues, Feb 6th at 10am.
And I posted another just before the tickets went on sale. But I kept it to these three lines.
People want information that’s to-the-point and easy-to-read. They don’t need big posters and many people don’t click through to attachments. Keep it short and sweet.’

Have a clear fundraising goal

‘If parents know what you are raising money for and how it will benefit their child, they’re more likely to support the event,’ says Kelly. ‘So, have a clear goal. This year, all proceeds from the Summer Ball are going towards a climbing wall for the school.’

Time your ticket sales

‘Classlist has a dashboard with various tools,’ says Kelly. ‘One of those tools lets you track when your posts are being opened. Use that to work out the days when most of your parents are looking at Classlist. At St George’s, the most popular days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So, I put the tickets on sale on a Tuesday.’

Sell tickets on Classlist

‘Buying tickets via Classlist is hassle-free for parents,’ says Kelly. ‘They can choose to pay through Paypal or on their credit card – and it’s done. They don’t have to write a cheque or find someone to give the money to. It’s also far easier for the PTA because the money is there. There’s no chasing people for payment or trying to reconcile a cheque from a student with payment from a parent who may have a different surname. It saves everyone time. We sold out tickets in two batches. The second batch of 300 tickets sold in just 20 minutes!’

Be strict about numbers

‘Decide how many people you want at this event and stick to it,’ says Kelly. ‘If it sells out, that creates a buzz and people want more of it. So, if people come to you asking a ticket when they’ll all been sold, don’t try to squeeze them in – tell them you’re really sorry, but the best you can do is to put them on the waiting list. It’s hard to do, but it increases the desirability of the event.’

Create a wow factor

‘If you want your event to sell out year after year, it has to be an event that’s talked about afterwards (in a good way!),’ says Kelly. ‘One of the key ways we do that is through our marquee. We rent a new, giant one and get an outside florist to come and fill it with flowers. It’s worth spending money to have a space where everyone is together (which keeps the evening lively) and which looks, smells and feels amazing.’

Go for quality, not quantity

‘What parents are going to remember isn’t the choice of food or drink – it’s the quality of that food or drink. So, strip back on what you’re offering, but make your choices count. Our caterers offer a main vegetarian or a chicken dish and make sure it’s delicious.’

Don’t charge for everything

‘When you offer things for free at your events, you create great goodwill,’ says Kelly. ‘And that means that people are willing to spend more money on the big-ticket items. So, along with the three-course meal and a live band we have free photo booths, for people to dress up and take fun pictures, and free casino tables. The person with the most chips at the end of the night wins a bottle of Champagne. Those activities make the guests feel that they are there to have fun, rather than there to have their cash extracted from them. That means they relax – and probably spend more!’

Have prizes people want

‘Incredible prizes are a talking point,’ says Kelly. ‘They create a buzz around the night, which then entices more people to come the following year. So, we get our sponsors to give us prizes that are genuinely enticing. We have a luxury tombola – the price points are £10; £20; £30 and £50 – everyone wins and the prizes are worth more than the tickets. We have a table game, where anyone who wants to can enter. They pay £10 each. Everyone who’s entered stands up and trivia questions are asked until only one person is left standing. The winner receives an expensive piece of jewellery (which, again, is donated by a sponsor). And we have a silent auction, run by a professional, who offers up lots that include limited-edition prints; holidays; experiences; signed rugby balls…’

Spread the sweet taste of success

‘Once you’ve had the event, send a message on Classlist saying what a great night it was and thanking everyone for being there,’ says Kelly. ‘Then, when you know what the night raised, send another message celebrating that success. Those positive messages build the feel-good message around the event – and help to make it a sell-out the following year.’