As a director, you never think too much about the form. You’ve got your basic info, name, date, etc . . . and then you forget it.

But thanks to a week spent doing data entry for a nonprofit I was once on the board of, I learned that it was actually a lot more important to design a form properly, the right way, and consult the stakeholders while you do it. Form design isn’t just a means to getting info – it is a means to designing information flow.

Our original entry forms were spartan – maybe a logo, some non-fancy word formatting, and we had a separate waiver form, resulting in a LOT of extra paper being wasted (that we had to pay for).

So last year, I designed a really simple mail in entry form for a nonprofit event and realized over the course of the year (especially after having to take day of entries and then later input the data) that I needed to do it for all of our events as well.

I submit to you our basic event form template:

Some elements to note:

1. Since the western eye moves left to right, I put the waiver on the right side of the form. This single-sided method saves us so much money in copies, it’s not funny. Yes, the waiver text is small, but people barely read it anyway.

2. Clear logo header with date and location as bold as can be – if we give you one or you download and print it, then forget about it, this is one way to ensure that when you’re going through your piles, you remember what it is.

3. Quick summary of the event for easy memory jogging with check marks for attention grabbing.

4. Category selection with check boxes. Circling things can get pretty confusing.  Handwriting is sometimes atrociousness. This keeps it simple and clear.

5. Team name: since our registration and timing is grouped by team name, not individual name, it makes sense for this to go first. Anyone doing data entry will have an easier time.

6. It’s important to check with the stakeholders who touch this form: your registration people who NEED people to give contact info,but not necessarily optional stuff like “where did you hear about us” are going to want the neccesary stuff up ahead when people are still engaged. Your timer may have his/her own software and the order of entry could be easier if you follow his/her software.

7. Clearly state rates with discounts and where to mail it to.

8. The most important addition this year is the credit card payment info. I cannot tell you how many times confusion sets in at this stage – we don’t have a credit card machine that’s efficient for day-of events so this has to do. When we write the info on the form, on the fly, it ends up somewhere inconsistent and missing key information for us to enter later – this way I don’t have to make a jillion calls to get the info and hope everyone is on the up and up. (They always are, by the way, which is cool.)

9. While this method makes it aesthetic, more importantly, it also makes it more simple to find what you need. At the end of the event, I often enter 500 or more of these into a spreadsheet. Shaving a couple seconds off each form’s processing time makes a huge difference not just in time but in energy and enthusiasm.

So there you have it.