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This Ticketing Platform Donates All Booking Fee Profits to Charitable Organizations

Move over, Ticketmaster. Australian ticketing company Humanitix, which recently expanded to the U.S., donates all profits from its booking fees to funding education projects for disadvantaged children.

All About This Charitable Booking Platform
Humanitix has handled ticketing for large-scale events like Australia's annual Strawberry Fields Festival.
Photo: Duncan Jacob

Is there anything more frustrating than scoring affordable event tickets, and then getting bogged down with exorbitant fees? Take Ticketmaster, the U.S.’ largest broker, which adds an average of 27% in fees to ticket prices—with some fees getting as high as 78%.

One company trying to disrupt the Ticketmaster monopoly is Humanitix, an Australia-based event ticketing platform that directs 100% of profits from booking fees to children's education charities around the world. Fees are typically just 2.1% per ticket (nonprofits and schools pay even less); other features include a free "Humanitix for Hosts" app for smart devices, along with customizable event pages, options to sell merchandise, and more.

In 2015, longtime friends Adam McCurdie, an engineer, and Joshua Ross, a hedge fund analyst, were hiking through Sri Lanka just nine months after that country’s civil war. After reflecting on their own privilege to have been born into safety and comfort in Australia, they made a pact to leave the corporate world and dedicate their careers to helping children who weren't as lucky.

After searching for industries with opportunities for reinvention, they stumbled across the ticketing world—and Humanitix was born. Since its founding, the company has redirected more than $1.5 million in event booking fees into helping disadvantaged kids around the world. It's received funding from the Atlassian Foundation and the Government of New South Wales, and even won the Google Impact Challenge in 2018. According to the team, the company has doubled in size every six months, becoming the fastest-growing ticketing platform in Australia and New Zealand.

Now, Humanitix has set its sights on the U.S. market, which founder Ross—who recently relocated to Denver—argues has ticketing fees that are "probably the worst in the world." We recently caught up with him to learn more about Humanitix and its expansion, along with the importance of ethical ticketing and event accessibility along with his hopes for the future of the industry. All About This Charitable Booking PlatformHumanitix co-founder and co-CEO Joshua RossPhoto: Courtesy of Humanitix

Where did the idea for Humantix come from, and what have the last few years been like?
We created Humanitix because, among many dreams, we were on a mission to create a long-term and sustainable impact on the planet. We also wanted to address the problem of high ticketing fees in the events industry. It gets pretty ridiculous, and the fees add up to billions of dollars! So, we set out to create a nonprofit ticketing platform that would use its booking fees to fund education charities, whilst simultaneously saving event organizers money with much lower fees.

The last seven years for Humanitix have been marked by steady growth as Humanitix expands its offerings and partnerships. We have offices in Denver, Sydney, and Auckland, with tens of thousands of events every month. We ticket everything in scale from Mothers' Day luncheons and yoga workshops, all the way up to multi-day, 30,000-person music festivals. Probably the most famous event we ticket is for Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations—roughly 40,000 tickets for the government around Sydney Harbour watching one of the world's best firework displays.

We just gave away another million-dollar donation tranche to our charity partners in December, so it's exciting times. Now our impact is really starting to ramp [up]. The United States is now our fastest-growing market, so I've permanently relocated [from Australia] to Denver. 

How do you choose the charities you work with? Do event organizers who use the platform have any say in the specific charities?
If the event organizer is running events for a nonprofit, rather than charging them normal fees and donating the profit back to them, we simply let them use our platform at our sustainable cost price, which generally saves them about 50% on the fees they'd be paying a for-profit platform. Thousands and thousands have moved across as it's generally a no-brainer—we aren't trying to make a profit from them!

With respect to our for-profit clients, they have options to raise donations through our platform for a cause or charity of their choice. However, the general model is we charge fair fees, much lower than a lot of the for-profits, and we use those proceeds to fund education programs that we've vetted. Humanitix is a nonprofit organization, and its mission is to partner with fantastic impact partners who align with our mission—to create a long-term and sustainable impact on education, specifically in the areas of literacy and numeracy for disadvantaged children. We partner with other large education foundations (such as the Atlassian Foundation) that do amazing frontline research and impact measurement to make sure our profits are making a meaningful impact. 

Humantix also bills itself as an "accessible registration platform." What does that mean?
Accessibility helps ensure that everyone, whether they have a vision impairment or other challenges with respect to attending events, has the opportunity to participate in and enjoy events. With this in mind, we've designed our platform to be the most accessible ticketing platform in the world, and a lot of the leading disability nonprofits now use us! We've had some amazing results, including legally blind event organizers for the first time being able to completely independently run their events using our software, as it's compatible with the tools they use (like screen readers). This is something that Humanitix as a nonprofit has the flexibility to focus on and try to solve, and it's what makes us unique from other ticketing platforms.

Why is focusing on accessibility important to you?
We want to provide a way events can run smoothly and can clearly communicate their accessibility options to their attendees. By making their events accessible, Humanitix hosts can attract a wider range of attendees and audiences, which can increase ticket sales, sponsorships, and positive reviews. Moreover, accessibility can also improve the overall experience for everyone, as making an event accessible can also improve things like wayfinding, seating and mobility, audio, etc. Lastly, accessibility is also a matter of human rights and dignity. People with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as anyone else, and Humanitix's focus on accessibility helps to ensure that these rights are respected.

There's a lot more we can do to tackle social inclusion. We have had some good early wins, but by no means have we solved the problem. As we scale, we intend to get better and better, and put more resources into tackling this challenge.

What has the process been like expanding outside of Australia, and particularly to the U.S.?
Expanding Humanitix to a new country like the U.S. has been a rewarding and complex process that involves a number of legal, financial, logistical, and snowsport considerations! We've been building out our fantastic Denver home base with lots of laughs, long nights, and tons of skiing. It's been really amazing to blend our Australian OG team members with our new U.S. group. In the next 12 months, our U.S. team will be bigger than our Australian or New Zealand teams, and that's happened a lot faster than we expected—so touch wood things keep going so well here!

I think the main reason we are growing so quickly in the United States is that ticketing fees in the United States are probably the worst in the world, so a lot of event organizers are delighted to find an ethical alternative. A special thanks to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. They've provided great introductions to event organizers, and provided a five-year incentive to employ people from low- to middle-income backgrounds and create another stream of social impact.

What are your hopes for the future of the platform, and the event ticketing industry?
Ticketing should be like every other online industry: the credit card fees, plus a competitive platform fee that covers the true cost of the service provided.

Our hope for the future of our platform is that it will continue to grow in popularity with event organizers, and have a positive impact on communities around the world. This year, we are on track to give close to $3 million USD to our education programs sustainably, which no one has paid anything extra for—in fact, our clients save money when they switch to us. At the rates we are growing, this should be $40 million per annum by 2028, which would make Humanitix one of the most successful for-purpose organizations in the world. I think at that scale, the big for-profit ticketing platforms will have to change their behavior and stop charging such ridiculously high fees.

This interview has been slightly edited and condensed.