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Ask Slashdot: Event Sign-Up Software Options For a Non-Profit? 104

New submitter don_e_b writes I have been asked by a non-profit to help them gather a team of volunteer developers, who they wish to have write an online volunteer sign-up site. This organization has a one large event per year with roughly 1400 volunteers total.I have advised them to investigate existing online volunteer offerings, and they can afford to pay for most that I've found so far. In the past two years, they have used a site written by a volunteer that has worked fine for them, but that volunteer is unavailable to maintain or enhance his site this year. They believe the existing online volunteer sign-up sites are not quite right — they feel they have very specific sign-up needs, and can not picture using anything other than their own custom software solution. I am convinced it's a mistake for this non-profit to create a software development team from a rotating pool of volunteers to write software upon which it is critically dependent. How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?
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Ask Slashdot: Event Sign-Up Software Options For a Non-Profit?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    By not helping them with their custom solution.

    • Another way would be to show them existing free software like Canonical "summit", which was used for last Debconf 14 in Portland. It's available from here:

      http://anonscm.debian.org/cgit... [debian.org]

      There's also Penta, but it's quite old, and maybe summit is better.

      So, if that non-profit thinks SaaS solutions aren't good, tell them they are right. But also tell them that starting from scratch is silly (to say it nicely) when there's already nice free software they can contribute to (for these features that they
  • CiviCRM (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:42PM (#48197135)

    Look at CiviCRM (in combination with drupal). Extremely flexible, build for non-profits, completely Open Source.

    • Yes, Drupal. Civicrm is a good place to start but probably more than what is needed. There are some other Drupal solutions too. I found them on my own and so can someone else. A good learning experience.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      I would like to echo this statement that CiviCRM will do everything you require and then some. You can use as much or as little of it as you need and is very flexible if you need to alter things around.

    • I would look at HandStack. Less complicated and easy to use than CiviCRM (and you won't need a developer to take care of it either)
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:43PM (#48197151) Homepage
    Specifically, ask them questions.

    Start with:

    Is this software related to our industry?

    Do we need some advantage over our competition or can we just use the same stuff they do?

    What's our back up plan if we discover that our self created software ends up making the Obamacare website rollout look good?

    How much money do you think we will save?

    If it ends up costing more money, how much we will sink into this project before quitting?

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:46PM (#48197183)
    I've used it to handle large event signups. You can add drop downs, free text fields, etc and pretty much setup any kind of information you need. You can then export the results to a spreadsheet to create name badges, sort by requests, etc as well. They have a free version but it may not allow you as many signups as you need. You can, however, buy a month to month subscription and then drop back to the free one when you don't need it.
    • Ok, to your question. Point out that they volunteers who write their signup may not be available when they want to make changes; and as volunteers if their demands get too high they may simply drop out of the project. If they are problems with the site they have none to turn to to fix it unless the volunteers decide to put in more time; and they may expect you to take care of any problems that arise. Finally, software development takes at least 2x as long as expected and you need to test thoroughly to be su
      • Frankly, when I here "we have unique demands" I ask for clarification an detain gently guid ether to the determination they are not a unique as they think.

        I'm a consultant - I convert gibberish into cash-flow.

        Speaking of unfinished jobs...?

        • Frankly, when I here "we have unique demands" I ask for clarification an detain gently guid ether to the determination they are not a unique as they think.

          I'm a consultant - I convert gibberish into cash-flow.

          Speaking of unfinished jobs...?

          Hey, that's authentic spell checker gibberish. At least $10 worth at current rates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aradiaseven ( 167118 )

      Eventbrite is set up for this sort of thing -- volunteer signup is a very common use. Plus, free.

      I think I'd set up a small demo using your real data and requirements -- its obvious ease of use and lack of cost would make the case pretty easily. (I'm sure that's the case for ten or perhaps fifty other off-the-shelf services too.)

      • Yes, EventBrite would be my recommendation too.

        If management really wants a custom solution, have someone create a custom web site/wiki/CRM that embeds or directs the user to the sign-up page on EventBrite. The end result will be a mashup of sorts, but it should work just fine, and even if the custom web site goes down on the day of the event because it's badly coded or whatever, the EventBrite sign-up page and related infrastructure will still work, so your event will still be able to go on as planned.

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

        Umm, EventBrite is very NOT free. They charge per signup. A quick check of their website shows 2.5% of your ticket sales plus $0.99 CAD per ticket, plus they charge higher-than-normal credit card fees of 3.5%.

        If we, a non-profit, tried to use EventBrite for our event, we'd end up having to pay them roughly $60k!

      • Not happy with Eventbrite ticketing process (recent purchase of tickets). EventBrite emailed me some PDFs, and the event asks me to print paper tickets. But the PDF is in US Letter format instead of A4 (which the rest of the world uses). After a lot of fiddling with printer settings, I can print but the printout is one big black block – not enough lettering visible to identify it as a ticket. EventBrite have abused PDF format or just did it badly.
        I would definitely DISrecommend Eventbrite to anyone wh
  • The vagueness of this made my eyes hurt - oh and the traditional, "How did this make it to the front page?" Now that's out of the way, if you honestly can find a great product that harnesses all your needs with only a reasonable amount of customization then I'm sure they would be intrigued by it. But as in anything, you need to make a convincing argument. Lots of analysis about the cost/time/training savings that this "out of the box" system would use. However, there's a reason completely custom software e
  • by Anonymous Coward

    First off, the question sounds a little whiny. Rather than investigating the best possible solution, the submitter is looking to get his/her way. This is absolutely the wrong approach. The submitter is far more knowledgeable of the situation that any of us. If they cannot even craft an argument for why their approach is best, how are we, who know next to nothing about this project, to be able to come up with one?

    As laid out by the submitter, there are two choices:
    1. Use already owned and successfully tested

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Not knowing all the details, I'm thinking I might concur here.

      For one, you can either coast by on the current solution so long as it continues to accommodate the needs or completely change over now 'just in case' needs evolve in the future. The latter frequently is a bad move since you are taking a hit now either way for the sake of a nebulous future requirement that you can't even be certain will be met by your selected solution. This means that if that nebulous future comes to pass, you might have to mi

  • by Ksevio ( 865461 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:49PM (#48197211) Homepage
    Though the requirements are a bit vague, Google spreadsheets might be able to fit the need. It can be setup to just have a form/questionaire for the volunteers to fill out and then sticks it all into a spreadsheet.
    • I did a registration system for a pre-school this way thinking having everything land in a spreadsheet would be about their speed. It was kind of awful. You think of

      Google as having a bunch of great APIs that let you do all sorts of fantastic things, but stuff that would have been absolutely trivial to do in MS Office 15 or 20 years ago using VBA (minus the web part, which was barely around) were hard to impossible to make happen.

      Want that input form to look nice? Want the submitter to be able to prev

  • by bfwebster ( 90513 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:52PM (#48197243) Homepage

    I am convinced it's a mistake for this non-profit to create a software development team from a rotating pool of volunteers to write software upon which it is critically dependent.

    Yes, it is, for a whole host of reasons that I'm sure will be expanded upon here shortly. I've spent 20 years dealing with troubled and failed IT projects, and one of the biggest mistakes I see time and again is an organization trying to create a mission-critical project, often in a compressed time frame, using developers who are not an experienced, functioning team. You can usually throw into that first-time adoption of some silver-bullet technology and/or methodology. So, what you get it, "OK, let's get 10 random programmers who have never delivered a working system together as a team, and they're going to develop this mission-critical system from scratch in 4 months using Swift and Agile, even though none of the programmers have ever used either. And we can add more programmers if we start to fall behind."

    Having the programmers be volunteers is even worse, since they are now self-selecting based on their own interest, instead of being chosen for, you know, actual skills, talent, experience, and so on.

    Sigh. ..bruce..

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      OK, let's get 10 random programmers who have never delivered a working system together as a team, and they're going to develop this mission-critical system from scratch in 4 months using Swift and Agile, even though none of the programmers have ever used either. And we can add more programmers if we start to fall behind.

      You must work at my employer. Don't forget, resources are fungible!

  • Don't give them what they ask for. Give them what they need.

    Following this, I am 99% sure that a spreadsheet is sufficient for their actual need. Don't waste time, money, and resources on pie-in-the-sky vaporware. Just get it done.

    • In fact, a (totally free) google doc spreadsheet can have a built-in customizable webform that lets you add rows with validation.

      About the only reason you'd want something more complicated is if the sign-up process flows more like a wizard than a form.

  • I wouldn't (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:02PM (#48197321) Homepage

    How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    I wouldn't. This seems like a trivial project, something you could whip up with Perl/CGI in a few hours. Is there something wrong with the "site written by a volunteer"? Why is the original developer the only one that can "maintain" and "enhance" the site? What exactly needs "maintaining"? Why do you expect that there is an "existing solution" that not only meets their needs but that also costs nothing to "maintain" and "enhance"?

    I've noticed a sort of reverse-Not-Invented-Here syndrome recently, where problems that would be trivial to build one-off solutions for are instead solved with huge, unwieldy, general-purpose, off-the-shelf products. It seems the pendulum swings both ways.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Yes, this is what I struggle with as well. It sounds like a trivial sort of application and the submitter characterizes it as needing a pool of developers and project management investment. That is a silly assumption, some things are truly trivial things. I had a very simplistic script on a backed up, shared filesystem and did 'git init' because it was essentially a free thing. Upon noticing that I bothered to git init, suddenly people were pushing 'you can't do git without something like github or gitl

      • by Matheus ( 586080 )

        The balance also heavily swings on the quality of the devs involved. There's a vast field of difference between what one developer might consider trivial and another. If their pool of devs are true NP volunteers then it could be a fleet of "I read this book on Java once" quality devs which would make everything worse than trivial.

        Since the requirements are pretty vague it's hard to say for certain but honestly I'd spec this project out at 2 people. I'd do all the dev and have another guy to get their infr

    • You might not even have to start from scratch. I'd wager that ACT (A Conference Toolkit) [mongueurs.net] could be customized to fit their specific needs. ... but they still haven't explained why it is that Event Brite or Brown Paper Tickets wouldn't work for them, other than expense. I guess they just assume that volunteer programmers are 'free' vs. the opportunity cost.

      If nothing else, you then don't expose yourself to some security mistake because you rushed to put something together. Or some other simple mistake, lik

      • But even Perl ACT seems to provide an order of magnitude more functionality than what's required!

        An "online volunteer sign-up site", as far as I can tell from the stated requirements (of which there are none), needs to accept some user-provided text data fields (let's say name, address, phone number, email address) and store it somehow. This is easily accomplished using HTML forms and a Perl CGI script that simply takes the values from the form fields and drops them into a perl .db file. In fact, this is
  • Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:04PM (#48197341)

    How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    Easy, give them a quote. Then let them know that doesn't include support.
    I think any developers on slashdot could likewise quote them...
    I'm going to say, if I like the charity and am willing to do them a favor: $100k up front, and another $50k on completion if it's relatively simple. Then another $50k per year for support. I can pass background checks and all that stuff.

    Oh... so they want, for free, something that would cost at least $200k? And they think their free versions going to be even remotely be equivalent? It's like saying "Well, we could take the buss, but ferrari's are more comfortable. We can't afford a real ferrari so go get us some volunteers and have them custom build a Ferrari from the ground up so we can save money."

    It's silly on its face... and if they can't figure that out, I think it's a clear sign how they'll handle the rest of the money they get. Run, don't walk away from that place. This is an important lesson for you not them.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      For what is almost certainly a few cosmetic touches to an existing app (that is likely only a couple hundred lines of code to start with) that would take probably 15 minutes to do, you'd charge $150k without any warranty of working, and then basically charge enough to nearly dedicate one reasonable (entry level) full time employee to an app that probably isn't used at all about 11 months out of the year? Well I know who is likely to lose any bids I put out for development work if that is indicative of your

      • For what is almost certainly a few cosmetic touches to an existing app (that is likely only a couple hundred lines of code to start with) that would take probably 15 minutes to do, you'd charge $150k without any warranty of working, and then basically charge enough to nearly dedicate one reasonable (entry level) full time employee to an app that probably isn't used at all about 11 months out of the year?

        Yes ... and I'd like to point out a few key phrases in your statement that prove why I'd do this...

        that would take probably 15 minutes to do

        Booting up my computer and logging into all my various apps would take longer than that so...

        charge enough to nearly dedicate one reasonable (entry level) full time employee

        Entry level people can't debug code. They make bugs, they don't fix them. You want someone to create new accounts for you? That's what this person can do. Debug a production website while the president of the company is on the phone screaming in your ear that they'll eat your children for breakfast if this isn'

        • by Junta ( 36770 )

          and how do you know it's used that much?

          Admittedly, before making a formal business commitment, we wouldn't play 'guess the actual requirements from vague problem descriptions, but:
          "his organization has a one large event per year with roughly 1400 volunteers total." suggests the need is highly seasonal and admittedly one month is a bit specific, but you get the idea.

          Just so you know how that works, that place already has the site built

          Actually, that case was not site development, but I'm well versed with precisely how much work it involved and even given the benefit of their familiarity with the codebase being modi

  • Your job is to inform and advise. Convincing them is not a reasonable task. People making the decision may not do so in a manner you consider rational.

    Make your case honestly and to the best of your ability. What someone else does with your input is beyond your ability to control. You have already summarized the key points of the decision reasonable well. Back them up with supporting info and let it go. Ulcers are not fun.

    • This^

      How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

      List all the reasons you think it's a bad idea, present it to them, let your opinion and advice be heard. Then tell them you will go with whatever decision they go with, it sounds like they have already made up their mind, if you are getting paid, just do it. (If you're not getting paid or just want to help then mock up an currently existing solution and show it to them as proof of concept.

      Hey, people/companies/government's make bad decisions everyday and there is usually someone in the corner (wavin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When you depend on an existing third-party solution, the third party can hold you for ransom. (For example, many companies use Oracle's database software, and they're subject to the whims of Oracle as a result.) But by building your own solution, based on open standards, you are free from outside influences and other complications.

    Of course, building one's own solution requires a team of developers with well-defined specifications, so that the departure of single developer doesn't threaten the project, an

  • As a programmer analyst your responsibility is to map the requirements of the customer, assess them and come with a proposal. Your proposal has to either satisfy their requirements or suggest a different course of action. If there are unreasonable requirements it's also your job to bring them back to reality.

    Keep in mind that nobody else here understands your customer better than you.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:21PM (#48197491) Homepage

    Here's a list of 62 volunteer-management packages. [capterra.com] Some are web based. Some are free. Somewhere in there should be something that solves your problem.

  • The details of what they're looking to do is a bit vague, and it depends on what the real requirements are. In other words, this is a two part question, and the choke point is vague...

    Part 1: Getting the data in the door.
    I'm a huge fan of Machform for this. It's not free, but it's inexpensive, self-hosted on any garden variety LAMP stack, their support folks are pretty good, and making new forms is a very simple process that you can teach Sally Secretary to do in half an hour. You can download the data in a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:25PM (#48197543)

    They're being lazy, and you're being lazy. Let me give you some real get-shit-done dealing-with-dullards project management 101.

    When an organization feels they must use custom developers it's often because of those "unknown unknowns" in the non-existent specification that they want to make up as they go along because they cannot sit down and concentrate long enough to commit it to paper. You should not accept this. If you do, you shouldn't be in this business. Your job is to MAKE them decide on the specifications. If you think it's someone else's job, but nobody is doing the job, then guess what - it's your job, because your job is to do the fucking project correctly.

    Mock it up SCREEN BY SCREEN ON PAPER, button by button, every edge case handled. Nail down every field, every possible error condition. Hold meetings with simulations waving bits of paper around to simulate swiping, button clicking, and result pages. Do not stop until you have a "working" piece of software that exists entirely in paper mockup that everyone agrees will solve all their problems. Tell them it is crazy to start coding until you get to this point because it's like starting work on a custom engine before you know if it's going into a car or truck. There is no reason not to do this, and nobody does this, because people are stupid and don't understand how software development works, and they think they can write the spec as they go along and the developers will just adapt and figure it out. It's our fault for being so adaptable on 90% of late-stage feature requests that come through, and it makes us feel like the 10% that kill us are actually our own inadequacies.

    Then you write it up formally (as briefly as possible, preferably with shiny pictures or a pop-up book if you can) and you tell them this is the specification. You get signatures. You create an Appendix A that says that any feature request is a change to the scope, and that changes require a new Appendix, and also make them sign something that acknowledges that any appendices may necessitate starting ALL CODING FROM SCRATCH AGAIN, and that if the appendix is added because of something they "forgot" or "didn't think of until they had a chance to actually use the UI" then they take full responsibility for not thinking about the mockups hard enough.

    Once that nightmare is over (which should be 3/4 of the cost of the project if you're getting paid), then you try to match their needs to a piece of existing software. Only if they truly have requirements that do not exist do you accept a custom development project.

    The rotating pool of volunteers is of far less importance. A shitty implementation and customization of a third-party system can be just as confusing as a custom code project for new volunteers coming in, though arguably slightly less so, so it is certainly preferred.

  • Delegate the difficult part of the system you need. If you delegate dealing with security, registrations, username, passwords, verification mails, security, etc the sign-up system get very simplified. Perhaps you would like to consider Stormpath ( https://stormpath.com/ [stormpath.com] ). They provide security, dealing with users, passwords, assign those users to groups and controlling all the security stuff, mailing, etc. It integrates with google, facebook, etc. I think it costs $49 at month, but they have a free full
  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:36PM (#48197639) Homepage Journal

    A couple of years ago, I was asked to be the registration chair for a national event, which we successfully held this spring. All previous events had been run strictly on paper-and-pencil mail-in forms, but that involves a lot of manual work, including a lot of last minute work at the event door. I looked long and hard at various open source and commercial event management offerings, and I spoke to other people who ran similar events. Based on recommendations from other event organizers, I landed on regonline as a good blend of features and customizability, even though it was a bit expensive (though they offer a discount for a 501(c)(3) organization.) What it came down to for me was effort. I wouldn't have time to set up all the hosting needed, to install and configure the software, or to integrate with a payment gateway, and I got a lot of really valuable features from their system. I didn't want us to make our attendees suffer through hour-long lines at a registration booth. And I was able to provide instant reports to the conference chair, who used them to help run the event smoothly.

    Something it sounds like you need to do here is figure out "who is the Registration Chair"? If it's you, your only question to the Event Chair should be "what is my budget?" Base your solution on the bottom line. If your budget is $5/registrant, and it includes lanyards and ID cards, your options are wide open. If your budget is $0.50/registrant, and you have to use a box of old "Hello my name is..." stickers, your options are a bit more limited. The important thing is: the Registration Chair is in charge of registration. He or she decides how to best solve the problem, not "here are some random developers, you must write us a site."

    One thing that still isn't clear is why you would have to "write" a new site. It sounds like you created one a few years ago, and then another, and then another. I realize your group is a precious snowflake, completely unique in the world, but events really are just events. They all have web sites, registrants, admins, venues, agenda items, merchandise, travel, lodging, taxes, payments, receipts, badges, volunteers, and reports. And there is nothing in that list you can't get from the marketplace. Ultimately, if you absolutely can't use a packaged solution because of [illogical rationale], you should only need to have someone reconfigure the existing site. That's a lot less effort, perhaps not much more than c/2014/2015/g

    Finally, if you're taking payments on line, you're going to run into extra effort and risk to interface with them. No matter what, you really, really don't want to be responsible for someone else's credit cards. Not these days. The risk is more than you can imagine. If that's something you can foist off on a third party, you'll keep a ton of liability out of your organization.

    • This. You need to do formal business requirements gathering on what the solution should do, regardless of whether it is a custom solution or off the shelf. This is a collaborative process that you need to drive. You also need to speak their language. This is not a technical discussion, it is a list of business wants/needs. You shouldn't even call it a specification, this is before the specification. An example business requirement is, "I must be able to assign volunteers to one or more categories" or "The s
      • by plover ( 150551 )

        You have essentially lead them into making the decision that you want them to make.

        I agree with everything except your conclusion. It's not a contest, with a winner and loser. Everyone at the table needs to be trying to serve the users and business interests. Once the goals and requirements come out, it may turn out his initial decision was not the best. It's about cooperating to deliver the best fit solution that meets everyone's requirements to the maximum extent practical.

        To that degree, it often helps not to look at it as a process of compromise; it's better to think that you're a

  • by Mathieu Lutfy ( 69 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:57PM (#48197811) Homepage

    They should only go with custom code up to a certain extent. The organization should have the freedom to choose its own service provider (including volunteers). I'm probably stating the obvious, but if there is too much custom code they will be forced to spend a lot to rewrite code when volunteers rotate (and most likely will want to roll their own fancier solution), spend a lot of energy/time/money to maintain the code, or have difficulties finding volunteers who want to get involved in such a mess.

    I don't know the specifics of your use-case, but CiviCRM [civicrm.org] is a Free Software contact relationship management software aimed specifically at non-profits. It has a large community of users and developers. While the community mostly operates on non-profit budgets, it includes users such as the FSF, EFF, Wikimedia, sub-orgs of UNESCO, Amnesty International, NY State Senate, etc. I use it for my small local clients, but I'm happy to be able to pool ressources with such organisations.

    While turn-key tools can only do so much, you would probably have better chances of customizing that to fit your needs, and in the long term, the organization can turn to specialized service providers if necessary, without restarting from scratch.

    Heck, worst case, if your volunteers are PHP-averse and don't feel like spending too much time customizing the application, you can write just a front-end application to it, and use the CiviCRM REST API to store the data. Writing a whole new application just for that seems like a huge waste of ressources, and does not seem sustainable. An event management tool has a ton of small but critical features to think about.

    If they think it will be hard to learn an existing generic tool, imagine how hard it will be for new staff/volunteers to use a completely custom tool. Not to mention that if your organisation has an aim of promoting common good, community building, etc, they should also participate in existing Free Software projects :)

  • > How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    The 2 core beliefs are:
    1) We are so special
    2) We know what we want

    Neither of these assumptions are true. But, you know that already.
    The best course of action is to get a simple program and get them to use that. Get them to use it the standard way first. With sufficient training and motivation, they may be able to use last year's program.
    After that, the event will have started and ever
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @03:14PM (#48197977)
    95% of all projects like this, including in large corporations, would have cost less overall if they had just used index cards in metal boxes.
  • Event signup (free)
    https://www.eventbrite.com/ [eventbrite.com]

    Have them start with that, and then ask them what does or doesn't work.

    Then, estimate labor to build, maintain, and support custom work.

  • The So Cal Linux Expo [socallinuxexpo.org] and Texas Linux Fest [texaslinuxfest.org] both use scalereg [google.com] for attendee + staff registration. It can probably be customized to meet your needs without too much effort. (Note, I'm the primary scalereg author.)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.signupgenius.com/

  • That's the problem. Maybe they have fields that are not available on any of the other sites. Maybe they want to run reports off the site. Let me tell you what I think their goal probably is: A few weeks before the event, they want to lock the registration, get a report of all registrants, when they get in, when they leave, if they have any dietary restrictions, who requests lodging. Then they give that to their office manager who starts contacting local hotels and caterers.

    I wrote a web-based event manageme

  • http://www.google.com/forms/ab... [google.com]

    More than just surveys

    Plan your next camping trip, manage event registrations, whip up a quick poll, collect email addresses for a newsletter, create a pop quiz, and much more.

  • Don't convince them write a static html page with frames or iframes to survey monkey and call it done. Tell them it'll take a couple of weeks to test and debug and then upload it to their volunteer signup URL.

    :))

    BTW, this is the classic ROI conundrum. The work used once a year will NEVER payoff, but you just can't convince some customers of that. :/

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @03:46PM (#48198327) Journal

    > How would you convince them to abandon their plan to dive into project management and use an existing solution?

    I wouldn't. Pushing for "your" solution rather than the right solution is being a fan, not a professional.
    I would instead work with them to come up with a list of requirements. Note that that a requirements document is needed in order to do either correctly - to either build or buy, you need to know what features the solution needs to have. Applying a "checkbox" style to the list might be a good idea, to visually emphasize that the right solution is that one that checks off all of these needs.

    Then with the requirements list in hand, you look at each option - the existing one, off-the-shelf solutions, and a schedule / quote to build a a custom solution.
    If an off-the-shelf solution meets al of the requirements, you show them that - here's the list of 20 things we figured out you need, and this solution checks off all 20 boxes. If no off-the-shelf solution can check off all of the boxes, you ask if any of them can be customized to check off all of the boxes. If not, you must either build custom or revise your requirements.

    This process will find the right solution, rather than convincing them to do it your way, against their better judgement. Remember, there's at least 50/50 chance that you're wrong. The other people are just as likely to be right as you are. Listing the requirements as a checklist will answer the question, in a clear, convincing way.

    I once asked a couple of friends who'd heard me argue a proposal whether they thought I had done a good job arguing my view. They surprised me when they answered by shrugging and saying "well, you were right. I don't think you did a god or bad job of convincing us, it just became clear that your view is correct." When you present a clear set of facts showing which way is right, you don't need to "convince" anyone to do it "your way", you've simply demonstrated which way is in fact the right way to go.

  • let their sales team handle the rest? One I've worked with in particular is Payscape Advisors [payscape.com]. They have a managed software solution built for customized registration type processes (camps, after school activity, sports, etc) called RegPoint. They've been getting some good reviews lately and I know they are planning on increasing the development team size soon. Unless they are planning on selling the software they are trying to develop to their direct competitors I, personally, think that custom solution
  • Then they will see the error of their ways.

    Other than that... just walk away.

  • If you don't know how to convince them they're doing it wrong, what makes you so sure they're doing it wrong?
  • I have used CiviCRM and recommend it for the situation you describe. Among other things, the CiviVolunteer module is being improved rapidly. CiviCRM can do things like track time for different kinds of jobs, etc. It also has a strong CiviEvent module that can track registrations, etc. If you are organized, and test it first, you can set up tablets at the check-in tables that feed directly into the CiviCRM setup. (Test that first and be sure you have reliable internet, etc.)

    While CiviCRM is a cousin to Dru

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