How can I add forms to my charity website?
Most charities would like to integrate donations & newsletters into their websites but the options can be confusing.
Many charities would like to integrate donations & newsletters into their websites. Alongside this, forms integrations can help streamline the process of transferring data between, say, an individual's donation and a record in a CRM.
There are a number of ways of achieving solutions in this area but they can be somewhat involved. Many technically competent communications professionals will still struggle to understand what the tools are on offer and what third party forms building platforms actually provide. I’d like to attempt to clarify some of the issues to make choosing your forms building service a little easier.
Generic form building services
Platforms such as Formstack and Formassembly offer the compelling attraction of fairly straightforward generic form building capability - build any kind of form you want using drag and drop - along with integration into a CRM such as Salesforce. For example, your donations can be both collected and processed through your merchant while at the same time data will be populating your CRM. This can save you a lot of time if you are currently struggling with exporting data from one platform and then having to manually import it into another. That said, set ups can be complex and you’ll probably want to engage a specialist partner to help you tie your services together. This approach is generally well-suited for medium sized organisations.
Platform dependent forms
Donations platforms such as Donorfy and newsletter platforms like Mailchimp come with their own form building tools that are generally tailor-made to do one job very well - create forms that will integrate with their services. This may well be good enough especially if you are a smaller organisation and don’t have to worry about large volumes of data or have very limited budgets for building out forms. This can be a very good DIY option. However, not all platforms are built equally and it’s very important that you road test your chosen option with your website digital partner before committing yourself as some platforms can be quite restrictive in terms of form layout and styling options. Generally speaking, the only way round these restrictions is to custom build your form using the platform’s API. The API grants third-party developers access to the online service behind the scenes. Using an API approach generally means you can produce any form you want, although the cost of doing this will be significantly higher than if you stuck to using the platform’s form building drag and drop interface. It effectively takes away the savings of he DIY approach. I would normally recommend using a platform dependent approach to smaller organisations and compromising if needs be on some layout restrictions in order to avoid costly form development using an API.
Your CMS (eg Wordpress or Drupal) will have access to many plugins or modules that can make local form building very straightforward. You probably already use one or two standard forms like contact forms on your site and the same tools that build these forms can be used to produce more complex forms, for example for surveys. It’s also possible to use these forms to take donations. This can be a good option for small to medium sized charities who want more options than their existing donations form building service offers but don’t want to build complicated forms from scratch or engage specialist form building partners. Your choice here, however, will depend on the platform you are using and the integration plugins and modules supported by your CMS.