Think outside the box with CiviCRM: Innovative idea #13

Free event, multiple sessions with limited seats and multiple participant registration?

One of our clients organizes conferences on a regular basis. These conferences are free and feature multiple sessions to choose from, each with their own participant limits - e.g. the morning panel takes place in the ballroom that seats 400 people, but the afternoon fundraising strategy presentation takes place in the video conference room that seats 50 people. They decided to use a price set in order to set the maximum number of participants for each session and configured the event as a "Paid Event" in order to be able to use a price set for selecting the different sessions.

If multiple participant registration is not enabled, the registration process flows smoothly:

The total of all options selected is $0, so no payment block is displayed, and the participant can confirm and complete registration. 

If multiple participant registration is enabled, a bit of a bump is introduced into the registration process:

If the only payment option enabled is a credit card payment processor, CiviCRM requires credit card details being entered by the registrant before any additional participants can be registered, even if the total is $0.
The reason for this is that CiviCRM doesn't check the price options offered in the price set are set to $0 - it assumes that as this is a paid event a registration fee is due and the amount depends on the selections made for each additional participant. While this is a logical technical explanation, registrant may believe their credit card will be charged and may end up canceling their registration altogether.

Our client toyed with several ideas to address this issue and to prevent confusion and frustration during the registration process:

  • Use of custom fields and profiles for the selection of each session was ruled out because they do not have the ability to manage participant counts and limits 
  • Inclusion of a very verbose explanation of why credit card details are required even though no payment is due was also ruled out because it brings confusion

The Solution: Pay $0 Later!

If the only payment option selected in the event fee configuration is "Pay Later", CiviCRM computes the total amount to "Pay Later" after all additional participants have been registered and the registrant is directed to a confirmation screen where the total amount for all participant selections is correctly displayed as $0. Once the registrant confirms the registration, CiviCRM doesn't display the "Pay Later" instructions on the "Thank You" screen because nothing is due, and the subject of the email sent is "Registration Confirmation" without any reference to "Pay Later" instructions.

So, with only the "Pay Later" option enabled, we have:

  • Multiple participant registration enabled - Check!
  • Participant count and max participant limits enabled - Check!
  • Credit card details not required - Check!
  • Total of all participant event selections is $0 - Check!
  • Registration confirmed and participant status is "Registered" - Check!


Want to know more about how CiviCRM can help your organization further? Contact Virginie at and we'll be happy to help.