Event invitations

ChurchSuite's event invitation feature enables Calendar module Users to send an email invitation for an event and track who has opened the email, which people have accepted and declined, and who is yet to respond. The end-user experience for invitation recipients makes engaging with your events simple and intuitive - often with just a single button click.

In this article

Getting started
Preparing the recipient list
Sending event invitations
Receiving event invitations
Accepting event invitations
Declining event invitations
Selecting the "More Information" response
Managing event invitations within ChurchSuite
Communicating with event invitees

Getting started - check the event's settings

Recognising that you sometimes want to create "invite-only" events that are not publicly-visible or open for general sign-up, event invite responses are not dependent on an event's Visibility settings - invitees can accept/decline an invitation even if the event is not visible in My ChurchSuite, Embed or Connect, like this example below - this would be an "invite-only" event, perhaps sending the invitation emails to just a select audience.

However, you can also use event sign-up for targeted audiences and still have the event visible and open to general sign-up by a wider audience in My ChurchSuite, Embed or Connect. This might be helpful for a training course where you have some potential guests in mind - to whom you'll send an event invitation - but where others, outside of the invitation list, can also view the event and sign-up if they wish. In the following example, the event is visible in My ChurchSuite, Embed and Connect; people can sign up through My ChurchSuite and Embed (and Connect) but they can also sign up through an event invitation they've received.

ChurchSuite will match sign-up details against invitees to keep everything up to date, so you'll always be able to see which invitees have signed up, even if they respond outside of the invitation email, perhaps via your website if the event is visible there.

The Send invite button is only visible on an event's "View" page if the event Status is confirmed, the event date is in the future and Sign up through Event page is enabled.

If a confirmed event Status is later changed to pending or cancelled after invites have been sent, the Invites and Sign Ups tabs retain their information, so you can still see who has opened, accepted or declined. Subject to your refunds policy, a User will need to manually refund any paid tickets and communicate the event status change to those already signed up. Those responding to invites after the event status has changed to pending or cancelled will see an event page message explaining that they cannot sign up for the event.

Having reviewed the event's settings, you can now move on to preparing the recipient list.

Preparing the recipient list

When sending event invitations (in the next section), you'll select the recipients to whom the invite is to be sent. Invites can only be sent to those in your ChurchSuite database. You can add recipients individually - searching and selecting each recipient name one at a time - or you can add groupings of recipients by Tag. With this in mind it may be helpful to pre-prepare a recipient list Tag.

See the related support article for creating Fixed Tags and Smart Tags, which explains how they can be used to group people together within the Address Book or Children modules.

Once you have prepared a recipient list, continue to the next section to send the invites.

Intended functionality - child event invites

The workflow of sending invitations involves the system generating a unique email for each invited recipient. Embedded into the email, behind the Accept, Decline and More Information buttons, are personal links representing the sign-up details of each recipient - those details are used to pre-populate the event's sign-up page, enabling invitations and responses to be tracked for each recipient: ie, adding a sign-up for a recipient who clicks Accept or recording a Decline response, including their reason, against their invitation.

While the Children module has email functionality to Send to parent and Send to child, the Calendar module does not.

With this in mind, you can see that it's not possible to send an invite to a parent and treat the responses as being for their children as the system would be unable to distinguish which of the parent's children the invite response relates to or whether the invitee is in fact the parent.

Therefore, if you wish to send event invites to a parent email address but have the system track responses for one of their linked children, you must first add the parent email address to the child recipient's Child email field, and send the invite to the child (which will deliver to the parent email address but track responses for the recipient child).

Sending event invitations

From the event's "View" page within the Calendar module, click Send invite. This button is only surfaced for sign-up enabled, future-dated events, or for sequence events that have future dates in the sequence.

On the Send invite pop up you, select the Options to be included in the invitation email. Further customisation is also possible later in the process when previewing the draft invitation before sending. If the event has multiple tickets, select the tickets to be included in the invite email.

Click Proceed to see the draft invitation email. The invitation is branded according to the event's Category branding, with the email Subject and body content created according to the Options selected in the last step. At this stage the email can be further customised if you wish. Click Preview Email to see the final email preview and select the invitees.

Creating Preset email invites

While ChurchSuite will automatically create a correctly-formatted event invite email each time you click Send invite from an event's "View" page, it's also possible to create your own Preset event invite styled to your own layout and content for the event.

You can only initiate the Send invite workflow from the event's "View" page. It is not possible to send the Preset from any other place in ChurchSuite. When previewing the system-created invite email, you can then select your own previously-prepared Preset Email invite from the drop-down list, which will replace the system-created version with your Preset version.

A Preset event invite can contain any text or custom body content, however the invite must include the merge field ::invite_rsvp:: within the email body - you will not be able to preview and send the invite if this merge field is absent from the email body content.

As an alternative to ::invite_rsvp:: you can optionally use ::invite_accept::, ::invite_decline:: and ::invite_information:: as separate merge field links - perhaps to style your own buttons within the Preset - however, all 3 buttons must be included in the Preset. For example, it is not possible to send an event invite with only an "Accept" button.

The final email is then previewed - click Back or Back to edit to make further changes or click Cancel to abort and start again.

You can now add your invitee Recipients - either searching and adding names of contacts or children individually, or searching by Address Book or Children tags (see previous section in this article for preparing a "recipients" Tag), which will add all tagged contacts or children to the recipients list. You can send separate invites to different groupings, so don't worry if you don't create your full recipient list at this stage.

Invitees without an email address and those who have 'opted out' of general emails are clearly distinguished in the Recipients list. While no invitation will be sent to those people, they will still be added to the Invited list for the event, but you may prefer to remove those non-recipients before sending. There must be at least one "opted in" recipient with an email address in order for the Send Email button to become active.

Once you are ready to proceed, click Send Email and the invites will be sent. The sent invitation email is recorded in the event's Communication log and also in each invitee's communication log.

An Invites tab is added to the event's "View" page.

If an invitee has previously signed up for the event, (shown on the Sign-Ups tab) their invite status will be shown with an Accepted status; otherwise the starting point will be that the invitees will be listed with a Pending status until they begin responding. Invites for those without an email and those opted out are listed with a Not Sent status.

In the next section we will look at the invite recipient user experience.

Receiving event invitations

In addition to the email subject and body content about your event, the invitation email contains three 'action' buttons - Accept, Decline and More information. The actions performed by these buttons when clicked by the recipient are dependent upon the event settings - whether there are tickets, multiple tickets, event questions or if the event is free or requires online payment.

For events set as Visible in My ChurchSuite and where Sign up through My ChurchSuite is enabled for the event, invitees will see their invitations awaiting a response in the My Events section of My ChurchSuite.

...and on the actual event's "View" page within My Events.

The Accept and Decline buttons in My ChurchSuite function just like the buttons embedded in the invitation email, explained in the next sections of this article.

Accepting event invitations

If there are no event questions and no tickets for the event (or a single free ticket), clicking Accept, the invitee is taken through to the Event Page where they will be automatically signed up with no further intervention required. If their linked spouse/partner is also invited and their signup status is still 'pending', they will have the option to respond on their spouse/partner's behalf. In the example below, Sue has clicked "Accept", so her sign-up is confirmed. However, she can also respond on behalf of her spouse/partner, Joe. Clicking Accept will sign up Joe; clicking Decline will provide an opportunity for Sue to submit an optional decline reason on Joe's behalf.

If the event has questions or there are multiple tickets (free or paid), the invitee is redirected to the Event Page where the invitee's contact details are pre-filled into the sign-up form. If a linked spouse/partner is also invited and their signup status is still 'pending', the invitee can also respond on behalf of their spouse/partner, which will add an additional ticket for them with their details also pre-populated into the same sign-up form. The invitee can then answer any event questions and/or select their ticket/s (and pay, if the event is a 'pay' event).

Once an invite "accept" response is processed and confirmed, a signup is added against the event and the invitee's status within ChurchSuite will update from Pending to Accepted. Any linked spouse response will also update their invite status within ChurchSuite too. If an invitee accepts a previously declined invitation, the status within ChurchSuite will update from Declined to Accepted. Note, however, that it's not possible for an invitee to accept an invite after the event sign-up period has closed, although a sign-up could still be processed manually by a Calendar module User - see later.

If the event is visible, for example in your website, and an invitee chooses to sign-up manually, rather than using response buttons in the invite email, ChurchSuite will still match that sign-up against the invite list (as long as contact details match those you hold in ChurchSuite) and the invite status will be updated from Pending to Accepted.

Each Accepted response creates a sign-up on the Sign-Ups tab of the event...

To complete the end-user experience, a sign-up confirmation email is sent to the signup (and their linked spouse/partner if they are invited and accepted too). Finally, a sign-up notification is sent to the event overseer(s) if the Notify signups option is enabled in the event's settings.

Declining event invitations

When an invitee clicks Decline their invite status is immediately updated in ChurchSuite to Declined, with no further action required by the invitee. A message is displayed showing that the invitation has been declined and enabling an optional decline reason to be submitted - choosing between two 'canned' decline reasons or to enter a custom "Other" reason. At this point the invitee can still reverse their decline action - perhaps if they clicked 'decline' by mistake - by clicking Didn't mean to decline? Click here to undo, which will set the invitation status within ChurchSuite back to Pending and clear any previously made decline comments. The invitee is then redirected back to the event page where they can now optionally sign-up.

An invitee can also decline on behalf of their linked spouse/partner if they too are invited and their invite status is still Pending. If the linked spouse/partner has previously accepted, they cannot subsequently decline their spouse's invitation. If the linked spouse/partner has previously declined, they can undo that decline and accept their spouse/partner's invitation.

In the example below, the invitee has successfully declined their own invitation by clicking the Decline response button. They now have the option to add a decline reason and they can also accept or decline on behalf of their linked spouse/partner who is also invited.

Invitees cannot subsequently decline an invitation that they have previously accepted. In this scenario, and since refunds or a cancellation policy may be involved, the invitee will need to contact the event organiser, who can manually decline the invitation on the event's "View" page within the Calendar module.

An invitee is always able to decline (but not accept) an event invite even after the event sign-up period has closed.

Selecting the "More information" response

When an invitee clicks the More Information button they are redirected to the Event Page where they can read further information about the event. Their contact details are still pre-populated into the sign-up form but they will need to click Proceed and tick the privacy notice acceptance in order to complete the sign-up. If the invitee's spouse/partner is also invited and their invite status is still Pending, the invitee will also have the option to respond on behalf of their spouse/partner.

If the invitee has previously accepted or declined the invitation, the " More information" button will open a summarised Event Page so they can see the date, time and location of the event, see ticket details and, for a previously declined invitation, undo the Decline or add a comment to their decline (but not add further comments once the decline comments have been submitted).

Managing event invitations within ChurchSuite

Calendar module Users with manage permissions can manually process event invite responses on behalf of invitees; for example, where the invitee doesn't have access to a computer to respond. Users can manually accept and decline invitations or set an invitation's status back to Pending (which will also delete any associated Accepted event sign-up or any Declined comments). A User selecting "Set pending" will revert the invite status to Pending or Opened. Sign-ups with a paid ticket must first be refunded before the invite status can be manually declined or set pending.

If a user manually adds a sign-up, ChurchSuite will attempt to match the sign-up to the invites list and, if matched, the invitation status will change to Accepted. It's not possible to manually change an invite's status to 'accepted' without also adding the sign-up - a sign-up is always present for an 'accepted' invitation.

A simple progress indicator bar on the Invites tab shows the invite response with three metrics - Accepted (green) i.e. those who have accepted the invitation and have a sign-up on the Sign-Ups tab, Declined (red), and Opened (yellow) i.e. those who have opened the invite and/or have clicked a button link within the invite, but not submitted a response.

Calendar module Users can easily resend an invitation to any invitee with a Pending status by selecting Resend from the action menu next to the invitee's name in the list. It's not possible to resend an invitation to someone who has declined, but you can set their Declined invite status Pending and then Resend.

Communicating with event invitees

A vital part of event management is effective and timely communication, both before the event, perhaps to pre-welcome people and let them know any last minute information, or chase up those 'non-responders'; but also after the event, perhaps to thank people for coming or to communicate 'next steps'.

On the Invites tab click Communicate and choose Send email or Send SMS to communicate with the filtered list of invitees. You can optionally filter the list by invite Status.

The Send email (and Send SMS) pop up will reflect the filters you have selected. If no filters are selected then all invitees will be recipients. You can also apply filters on the pop up as appropriate - perhaps just those Invited between a range of dates, those in the Address Book and/or Children module, and those with a particular invite Status - Not sent, Pending, Opened, Accepted, Declined.

Having selected the appropriate filters, click Proceed and the usual email or sms "compose" pop up is opened. Once you have composed your message, the message Preview ƒulates with the filtered list of recipients and is ready to send.

Event communication logging

All sent event communications are logged in the Communication section at the bottom of the event's "View" page and also against the contacts in the Address Book and/or Children module (where the sign-ups or attendees are linked to the people in those modules).

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