Signup sheets, but 21st century
August 9, 2019 7:49 AM   Subscribe

The non-profit I work for collects names and emails at events. Is there anything better than paper signup sheets? Complication: we may not always have network access.

At exhibitions and other events we have a signup sheet for names and emails of people interested in volunteering or being on the mailing list. Quite often, these paper sheets are illegible, and keying them is a task of last resort for the team. Despite these issues, they're still about the most reliable way of recording details.

We've tried Google sheets forms on Android tablets, but got little takeup: sometimes we don't have wifi, sometimes people give up after just entering their email and they don't stick around to see the required field verification.

We've got Android tablets and a few iPads. We have in-house admin able to produce custom Gravity Forms on our website. We can't always guarantee we'll have a network connection, though we've usually got something. We don't have a lot of money, so suggesting a SAAS or something that doesn't work with very basic Salesforce services is not really an option.

(We know of our CASL requirements to explicitly ask permission to contact, etc.)
posted by scruss to Technology (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve used Excel/Numbers for this before. Format a given name, surname, email column and whatever else you need. Easy to import into a system later, doesn’t require network access. Downside is that it’s not as secure as a personalized sign-in form but you have that issue with paper sheets too.
posted by curious nu at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

We've tried Google sheets forms on Android tablets, but got little takeup: sometimes we don't have wifi

Semi-echoing the above, I'd make a Google Sheets spreadsheet, which can be used offline (unlike Forms). If you have someone posted by the sign-in sheet, you could even have them lock rows once they're entered to prevent accidental deletions or tampering, unless the volume of sign-ins prohibits that.

sometimes people give up after just entering their email and they don't stick around to see the required field verification.

In your database, does this mean the email alone can't be entered as a new record? If so, I'd recommend changing that policy. An email without a name is still valuable.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:03 AM on August 9, 2019

We need name and location in addition to contact details in order to meet our funder's needs.

I do like the idea of Sheets offline, but I see it only works in Chrome. It might be difficult to ensure the "Yes I give consent" checkbox that Forms can enforce. CASL can become unpleasant if proof of consent isn't clear.
posted by scruss at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

We need name and location in addition to contact details in order to meet our funder's needs.

In that case, I think that whatever technological solution you use, you probably need to have a person or people stationed by the sign-in sheet who can say "please fill out your name, email, and location before entering."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:24 AM on August 9, 2019

I'd do two things:

- Have a tiny card to give people with a simple URI for them to go to later to fill out the info. When you give it to them, ask them when they'll do it and something like where they'll be, or what they'll do right beforehand. There's a study that shows that getting people to describe how/when they'll do a task increases the chances they'll do it.

- Get one or two volunteers to talk to the people who are interested, ask them questions, and fill out the form for them -- you can choose people with good handwriting, and this also extends your time with the new volunteer, both so that they'll feel more connected to the organization and also so that the "interviewer" (so, so brief) can get an initial sense of the person, their interests, and their interpersonal style. This might even make it quicker to get the newbie connected to the right area/coordinator in the organization. It's extra time at first, for sure, but it could save a lot of time later in missteps and clumsy communication.

You could also:

- Just get a name, phone number, and good time to call, then interview them over the phone for more detailed information.

There are lots of beneficial side effects of non-automated ways of connecting in new people, and the importance of those are hugely underestimated. You have a huge opportunity to make your organization stronger.
posted by amtho at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2019

For a somewhat similar use case, I use the Sign Now app on an ipad. Basically, you create a form (so you would have fields for name, contact info, location, whatever), and then sign now exports the data from the forms into a csv. This also allows you to have a field for signing to indicate consent.

You'll need a network connection to export the data from the app to a csv on your computer, but as long as you make sure the form is registering properly in the app before you lose network connection, a lack of network connectivity shouldn't be an issue while people are signing during the event.

It looks like it costs $8 per month for the software, so it's not free like google forms.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:44 PM on August 9, 2019

I don't think there is a better solution than paper, honestly.

I would concentrate on making the paper forms more legible. There is probably a UX-ish reason why the paper signup forms are not working out well.

E.g. are the lines too close together? That will lead to cramped handwriting and illegibility. Reduce the number of spaces per page, clearly delineate the lines, and leave whitespace between them. Even if you only have 12 or 15 spaces per page instead of 30+, 12 legible entries is better than 30 illegible ones.

Give people 3/4" or more per line, and you'll get much, much more legible handwriting than if you only give 1/4" that I have seen on some forms. Paper is cheap, don't be stingy with it!

You can also try doing a letter-box style form (where there are vertical tickmarks to delineate each letter, rather than just horizontal boxes). This discourages cursive writing and encourages block letters... but it can also backfire by making some people's handwriting more cramped. It might be worth testing out, though. Again, make the boxes big.

You can do pretty decent forms in Excel, although it's tedious. But I like the results better than those done in Word, personally.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:18 PM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the UK we now have the GDPR, which means that our old sign-up sheets didn't pass muster: people could see the contact details of everyone who signed up before them.

We moved to A7 cards (basically 3x5 cards) that get dropped into a sort of ballot box arrangement.

There is also an app that our central office uses (we're a local branch of an area charity), and we've been encouraged to move to it. Particularly as we have to keep those A7 cards in a safe or destroy them very quickly. I haven't looked into taking this up yet because the card slot thing works so well for us.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:28 PM on August 11, 2019

Thanks for all the responses! To your comments:

Get one or two volunteers to talk to the people who are interested

There's usually just me on a stand. While I usually get to the talk-through process, sometimes people walk up while I'm with someone else and leave their details.

I use the Sign Now app on an ipad

Sounds good, if rather expensive. Also I'd need to guard work's iPad all the time because things get lifted and we don't have one of those lockbox stands to stop people walking off with the iPad.

I would concentrate on making the paper forms more legible

We get 8 lines per page on this form: MMC Signup Form. The columns are non-negotiable (we need them), as are the footer details (required by law). Each line's about 14 mm high.

The main problem is that I never got around to keying these forms before we had someone whose job it was to key them, then they got promoted and it's not their job any more. TBH I think I'm stuck with maybe adding a Please write legibly as this form is keyed by volunteers guilt trip on the bottom.
posted by scruss at 7:16 AM on August 26, 2019

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