A Complete Guide to Digital Forms for Parishes
Imagine your clergy and parish staff spent months planning an annual event. You would surely want people to attend, and you would need volunteers to serve. On top of all that, it takes finances to host an event. You wouldn’t want the numerous planning hours to be wasted with a program that fell flat.
There could be a variety of reasons why there may be a lack of volunteers, attendees, and money—such as poor communication or little promotion; but what if there was a simple way to engage parishioners and streamline the registration process to increase engagement?
Well, there is, with forms! Online giving and registration forms are a great way to instantly collect donations, sign up for events, and obtain volunteers. You can also use forms to gather information or data and allow people to register and pay for religious education classes. Plus, with an integrated church management system, the information and money received through the forms is seamlessly incorporated with your other parish software—saving your staff valuable time.
In this article, we will discuss what forms are and why your parish should use them. We’ll also share the various purposes, features, and best practices to help you get the most out of your digital forms.
What are forms?
A digital form is a list of fields that a user will input data or information into. It’s then electronically submitted to your parish.
These fields can range from an open text box to a button to a dropdown menu. Each section is filled out on a person’s computer, tablet, or phone. It’s just like a paper form, but it saves time for both the user and the admin, particularly because nobody has to transfer the answers from paper to the computer because it’s done automatically!
Parishes can use forms for many different reasons. We’ll go into detail below, but in general, digital forms are great for collecting donations, payments, and information, as well as allowing people to register for events, classes, or volunteer opportunities.
Why use forms?
Aside from ease-of-use and saving time, digital forms are a wonderful asset for ministry to run smoothly. They are helpful because of their versatility, simplicity, and automation.
Many parishes are only using one or two forms. But you can build as many as you like. In fact, you can create an unlimited number of forms for just about anything you can dream of! Welcome guests, register for events, submit prayer requests - and that's just the beginning! They’re versatile in that you can also use forms for surveys, sign-ups, facility rentals, and of course, donations. Get creative and get to building.
The form builder is easy to use—with customizations, drag and drop features, and templates. You can use a single form tool for every area of ministry. All your forms can be easily shared on your parish website, via email, text message, social media, and your mobile app. Plus, every submission can be auto emailed to whomever you wish and is saved within your integrated church management software.
Use workflows to save time and better engage your community. Form submissions can trigger communication like a text or email, assign a follow-up task to a team member, add an important note to a profile, and much more. Automation can help ensure that no task - or people - fall through the cracks.
Use forms for parishioners and community members to register for events. You can have a limited capacity, so registration closes once the event is full. Send confirmation emails after people have signed up. If your event requires a fee, a payment button can be included.
With youronline giving platform, a donation form can accelerate generosity and make it easy for donors to give. Create a giving form to help raise funds for special projects, missions, year-end giving, or disaster relief. During the offertory, let parishioners know they can donate online, via text, or in your parish app by easily filling out your digital giving form.
Forms create an easy way for volunteers to sign up for different opportunities. You can recruit, coordinate, and communicate with all your volunteers. In the form builder, ask for as much information as you need, such as the volunteer’s availability to serve at a specific event or service. Utilize workflows based on form submission, which allows for immediate email or text communication and assigned interactions.
Use contact forms to get information from new visitors. Save administrative time by having parishioners update their own contact info. Include a section on the contact form for people to digitally submit prayer requests or check which next step is right for them.
Religious Education Classes or Tuition Payment
Forms can be used to sign up and pay for religious education classes. People can also pay for tuition.
There are many features and benefits to utilizing online forms for your parish. Below are some features you may not know about that can help save you time and money, as well as simplify the process for users, possibly creating an increase in attendance and donations.
Produce Unique Tickets for Events
Need tickets for people or groups for an event? Ticketing is fast, easy, and an included feature in Forms. If enabled, registrants will receive their tickets via their confirmation email. Each will bear a unique QR Code for easy check-in. They can print their confirmation or simply bring their smart phone to the event. In the case that a ticket is misplaced, managers will also have access to ticket information in your comprehensive Form Responses.
Allow Coverage of Processing Fees
Often, donors or registrants are not even aware that there are processing fees for parishes to accept electronic payments or donations. Even more so, they don’t know they have the option to help cover that fee. In many cases, once givers or registrants become aware of the processing fee, and the option to assist in covering it, they're happy to help! Not sure how to communicate this opportunity to your donors? This Sample Script will help inform your givers and thank them for their generosity.
Customize Payment Options
You have so much control over payment options through forms! Allow donors to contribute or pay with credit or debit cards or even electronic checks. You can also give your event registrants the option to "pay later" if they'd rather pay by cash or check. There are multiple Payment Fields as well, that are used to collect payments differently depending on the goal of your form. Amount buttons, for example, are ideal for sponsorships or suggested amounts, while “user amount” allows the giver to determine the amount they'd like to give. There are also per-item payment fields that allow you to price items and track inventory—ideal for selling merchandise like books or t-shirts.
Create Responsive Forms
Thanks to Conditional Formatting and Steps, you can format your form to only show a few fields at a time and only if they're applicable. For example, if the first question they respond to is yes or no, the form would populate another question based on which response was chosen. Essentially, you have the option to "hide" any questions that aren't applicable based on the very first and only visible question. Multi-step forms increase the likelihood that your form will be completed up to 300% because those using your form aren't initially overwhelmed with a large number of questions.
Need to schedule volunteers for service times? Plan a potluck? Sign-up Slots are the way to go. Use the Sign-Up Slots feature in our forms management system, so people have an easy way to register to serve. The form will collect the volunteer’s contact info, allow them to choose which area they prefer to serve, and provide them with all the information they need about the event.
Essentially, there will be a number of available “spots” to sign up for. Whether it’s to be a greeter at an event or to bring potatoes to the next potluck. As people sign up for a particular slot, the number of available spots will decrease on the form.
Forms Best Practices
Online giving and registration forms are beneficial, and you may even be using them currently. But sometimes forms can be too complicated or overwhelming for the user and there may not be as many people filling them out as you’d hope. Below you’ll find some best practices for using forms.
Simplify Your Forms
Less is more when it comes to forms. Many fields can be a security hazard and intimidating to donors. It is crucial to keep online forms as simple and clean as possible by limiting the number of form fields. Create forms with no more than one column. Consider using conditional formatting or multi-step fields, too, so questions only show up once a response has been given.
Keep a Logical Layout
Group common information and provide a logical progression of questions. Forms should be easy to navigate with a reasonable flow of sequence. Grouping questions into sections will help break up the form and make it less daunting. Provide headers for the various sections, like “Contact Information” or “Personal Information.”
Provide a Recurring Giving Option
Accelerate generosity throughout the year by providing a recurring gift option on your form. Recurring donors tend to give 42% more annually than those who give one-time gifts. Plus, stabilize your parish budget and drive predictable financial consistency with recurring giving. You will be able to better supplement dips in giving because recurring gifts allow you to know what can be expected financially.
Optimize for Mobile
Keep donors engaged with a mobile-friendly layout. Because many people who are giving online do so from their phones, your donation form should be accessible from any device. This will improve donor experience and can even enhance generosity because it’s easy to give from anywhere.
Make It Easy to Find
Your form can be perfectly polished and mobile optimized, but your parishioners need to be able to find it in order to give. Make your donate button obvious and provide the link to your giving form in your online communications. The last thing you want to happen is for people to miss out on the opportunity to give because they can’t find where to donate.
Suggest Donation Tiers
Offer suggested donation amounts for various campaigns. Research shows that giving people options with suggested gift amounts leads to an increase in gift size. Rather than asking them to enter any dollar amount, recommend various giving levels. For example, a gift of $20 will provide a certain number of supplies for a project, $50 will feed a family, etc.
Allow Gift Assistance
Like we mentioned earlier, provide a checkbox in your donation form for users to click if they’re interested in covering the small processing fee. Many people are willing to do this, they just might not know it’s an option. It will also help save in overall costs for your parish. Don’t forget to display the amount of the processing fee.
Embed on Website
You can quickly create embeddable forms directly on your church website. This will allow your organization to collect donations directly from your site without having to click multiple links or leave your page. The fewer times donors must click to reach your giving form, the more likely they will decide to contribute.
Create a Branded Form
A generic online giving form can actually deter people from giving. When a donor lands on a branded donation page, they’re more likely to give and give generously. So, make your digital donation form consistent with your parish branding—customize the color scheme, messaging, and logos to match your parish.
Incorporating Forms at Your Parish
Accomplish more with your parish software by capitalizing on custom, online forms. Get more people to your next event, save administrative time, and see generosity grow! ParishSOFT is here to support your parish’s mission and serve your needs.
If you’re ready to leverage the power of ParishSOFT forms, contact us today to get started.