April 5, 2010

Chat with the founders of Eventbrite for Causes

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Guest post by Katrina Heppler

You may have heard of Eventbrite, the ticketing service for events, but recently Eventbrite launched a new service for nonprofits, Eventbrite for Causes.

In this interview, I talked with Julia and Kevin Hartz, the co-founders of Eventbrite, about how social media, and specifically Facebook Connect and Twitter, have helped them to grow their business, as well as how these top social networks have been integrated into the Eventbrite for Causes platform.

Julia and Kevin talk about how Eventbrite for Causes helps nonprofits to raise brand awareness and raise money through events that are published throughout Eventbrite’s network.

The full transcript

Katrina: Can you share briefly, what is Eventbrite?

Julia: Sure. Eventbrite is the best way to publish, promote and sell out your event online. We’re really creating a social commerce around events, where we make it easy for event organizers to gather people around a live experience.

Katrina: What is Eventbrite for Causes?

Julia: Eventbrite for Causes is really our way of gathering nonprofit organizers around a single idea, which is: How do you leverage events for raising money? And we think that events are a very effective way of not only raising money but also of increasing the brand awareness of your charity or your cause, and also getting others involved and inspiring them.

Katrina: Can you tell us about the Eventbrite for Causes program?

Julia: Really where the meat of the program is is in this community building. So we’re going ahead and supplying successful nonprofit organizers on our service today, and also connecting them with others who have questions on how to best leverage events for raising money, which can be a bit daunting, and we want to break it down and make it as simple as possible.

Katrina: How many events did Eventbrite power in 2009?

Julia: We helped power over 150,000 events last year, so it’s a pretty wide, it’s a pretty large pie. And, nonprofits are a very important part of that pie for us.

Katrina: How did Eventbrite for Causes come about?

Kevin: We loved all these different causes. We loved hearing about all the various examples of charities and so on going on, and we couldn’t resist waiving fees or lowering fees. And we finally figured out, how do we institutionalize this or make this a formal program? And that’s what Eventbrite for Causes is. We had hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofits using our service in the past.

Katrina: How much does it cost for a nonprofit to use this platform?

Julia: The fee is a per-ticket transaction fee of a discounted rate of 2% plus US$ 0.99. We do recognize the need to be flexible, so we allow the event organizer to either pass the fee on to their attendees when they’re buying a ticket, or absorb it themselves. Essentially, if you’re passing it on, then Eventbrite is free for the event organizers.

Katrina: I understand that Facebook Connect has played a big role in the growth of your company. Can you explain how that has impacted people finding out about and using Eventbrite?

Kevin: Well, you know, it’s been really remarkable over the last year since the launch of Facebook Connect, and also with the rise of Twitter. You know, as we started to see more and more traffic generated from Facebook and Twitter, we started to more deeply integrate with those platforms. And really, it’s because people want to share what they’re involved in, what they’re passionate about, and what their cause is.

It’s now grown to the extent that after Google, our biggest driver of traffic is now Facebook – and our third biggest is now Twitter. So really, events are social. And events are around passion and community, and you want to get your friends, you want to get those around you involved in what you’re doing.

Katrina: What’s next for Eventbrite for Causes? What are you most focused on at the moment?

Julia: We’re really excited about hearing from nonprofits. So what we’ll be doing in the next coming months is really reaching out to nonprofits that use Eventbrite to hear from them what they would most like from us. And that’s really in line with who we are. We built Eventbrite around the customer pain points and having a direct, open, and transparent dialogue with our customers. So, we find it only natural to us to be able to apply those same principles to the non-profit organizations because we know that they have specific pain points that we’re not even privy to, and that we’re not experts on. So we’re not trying to be the expert. We’re actually really looking for feedback and open dialogue so that we can build not only in our product the features they need, but also create a really fruitful and productive community.

Katrina: What are some of those pain points, and how have you addressed them in Eventbrite for Causes?

Julia: Sure. So, I would say that one of the main pain points for fundraising through events is, how do we get people to attend the event? Oftentimes the fundraising doesn’t happen through ticket sales, it happens through what’s going on at the event, a live auction, a silent auction. etc. So, I think for us, we’ve cracked that code, we’ve created this incredible promotion engine. By virtue of just publishing your event on Eventbrite, you are reaching a wider audience. When you hit “publish” on Eventbrite, your event is indexed highly in all the search engines, it’s distributed out to a network of aggregation sites, and their affiliates. So, it casts a wide net.

Katrina: Can you touch upon the widget aspect?

Julia: Well, we offer really simple widgets that you can drag and drop and place in your website to create not only buzz around your event, but also a seamless experience for your ticket buyers. So, you drag and drop a ticket order box and put it right front and center and have your attendees buy tickets without leaving your site.

Katrina: Thank you. And what are some of the nonprofits that are using Eventbrite the most effectively that others may be able to refer to?

Julia: Our marquee non-profit users would be Full Circle Fund, Craigslist Foundation, and LAYN Rocks was a great event. And, I would refer readers to our blog where we’re highlighting a new non-profit weekly. And, there are really great tips on there from our team where we go out and we interview these nonprofits and find out what worked and what didn’t work, including everything from best practices to what they would suggest us changing or doing better in the future.

Katrina: Are there any other insights you’d like to share?

Julia: Sure, I would say that Eventbrite and Eventbrite for Causes is striving to become the engine behind successful events. The way we’re getting there is really listening to our users.

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