University of Cambridge uses CiviCRM to develop a better booking user experience for their Alumni Festival

2014-12-16 10:54
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Alumni Festival is organised every year and typically consists of 140 events such as topical lectures, tours of colleges/departments and opportunities for Alumni to return to the city and re-experience some of their time at Cambridge.  The events take place over 3 days and around 1100 alumni and guests book each year.

For 2014 the decision was made to bring the booking process entirely online, streamlining the booking and payment process.  The decision to use CiviCRM was based on our analysis and testing of the standard event booking forms, reporting features, support for multiple participants and advanced priceset functionality (max participants per line item with a variety of flexible selection options).  We were fully aware that some of the advanced features we required for Alumni Festival were not supported out of the box, but taking into account it is an open source project we knew we would be able to add the additional functionality.

A brief summary of the functionality we have added / modified:

  • A JavaScript based fix to prevent bookers from selecting events which are on at the same time.

  • A fix for concurrent bookings so that if more than one person or group is booking at the same time, the system stops them booking spaces that have been confirmed. The fix removes the oversubscribed options from the person/groups booking and provides the booker with a summary of what has been removed and from which participant.

  • A JavaScript based fix to auto select hidden price sets based on the event selections Alumni made.

  • Additions to the Event reports to link lead bookers with their guests.

  • Adding custom fields to events to pass finance codes to our payment gateway.

  • A temporary solution to handle and calculate VAT (ahead of CiviCRM 4.6) on individual line items and pass that information to our payment gateway.

Compared to previous years, using CiviCRM meant we could make desired improvements quickly and cost effectively, less time was spent managing bookings and overall significantly reduced the usual manual processing.  The reports were easy to use and we could adjust capacities swiftly during booking if certain events were more popular than expected. Overall, our alumni also found the system easy to use, and when CiviCRM 4.5 was released we had an easy way to modify bookings.

Our events team is now extremely keen to use CiviCRM again for the next Alumni Festival (we also use it for our other simpler events) and we are looking forward to making further improvements we didn’t have time to make this year.  We will of course aim to get any improvements which would be generally useful for other organisations added to the software.