The Cost of Paper Registration Forms: Details That Will Shock You

Posted on 7/12/18 9:00 AM by Matt Fish

Many community-based organizations, from small business to large organizations, operate with this motto: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Oftentimes, this blanket statement includes the continued use of paper registration forms but, as statistics have shown, they can be even more costly to business than adopting new technology.

Discover the shocking truth about the cost of paper forms: 

Registration form

Holding on to the status quo often means a reluctant or delayed move towards technology upgrades, especially when those in management positions are unfamiliar or uneasy with implementing more and more digital tools into their day-to-day processes. However, at this point, it's basically an inevitability: The availability of online convenience is no longer an added bonus. It's now an expected minimum standard of quality for the majority of consumers.

This couldn't be truer of a recreation staple like registration forms. They are necessary and, in some cases, still being filled out using pen and paper. It's a decision that is being met with more than its fair share of eye rolls from parents and participants alike, who would prefer an app or online form at their disposal.

At the end of the day, it's not just the families standing in long lines during a registration period who suffer either - the community organizations using paper forms aren't any better off. Besides the increased financial cost of having hundreds, if not thousands, of individual pages printed out, there are also negative operational, administrative and environmental implications that arise as a result of sticking with this archaic system.


How Much are Paper Forms Costing You? 

The short answer: Way more than you think.

In a white paper by the ePACT Network, they estimated the cost of handling paper (a process comprised of printing, transcribing, photocopying, collecting and more) as roughly $5 per participant. They then estimated that organizations use about four to five pieces of paper per participant throughout a calendar year.

Here's what that means on a bigger scale:

  • Organizations with 150 participants spend upwards of $3000 on paper forms per year;
  • Organizations with at least 1000 participants are spending over $20,000 per year on paper forms alone; and
  • These costs don't even include storage units, like filing cabinets, or additional office space if it's needed. 

Then there are the indirect costs associated with using all those paper forms during one or several registration periods. Staff wages, electricity and other utility costs, and many other external factors will also be affected as part of an organization's insistence on a non-digital solution.

Additionally, there are negative environmental consequences that arise from continuing to use a pen-and-paper system. Going through that much paper will not only hurt our planet's well-being in the long run but it will also be a bad look for any community organization who ignores those symptoms and presses on regardless. It's not the kind of decision-making any manager, owner or staff member will want to be associated with.

If you're looking for some easy hacks to make your workplace more environmentally friendly, make sure you check out our blog article on this subject.


Paper Forms = Wasted Time

There are non-monetary setbacks that come with using paper forms as well. The biggest one is the amount of time wasted on pouring over physical, handwritten data to find one or two smaller details. An automated digital solution would be able to get the same result in a matter of seconds.

If you're unsure as to how much time you're currently spending on tasks that could be streamlined using online registration forms, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much time do you spend scrutinizing illegible handwriting or incomplete forms, often requiring you to call the participant and clarify the information? 
  • How much time do you spend transcribing the form and putting it into another database?
  • How efficiently can you change or fix the form, especially if there is crucial information missing?
  • How quickly can you update a participant's health/emergency details or contact/personal information? 

Owners, managers, staff members and participants at an organization should never be held hostage by an inefficient administrative process, particularly if the situation could be remedied easily. If you're looking for more reasons to switch from a physical form system to an online registration solution, read our previous blog post.


Paper Forms Could Put Participants at Risk

Another massive risk an organization takes by using paper forms instead of a digital alternative is related to the security of participant data. Of course, no system is without its flaws, but paper forms present unique challenges that put your important activity, class and/or participant data in potentially precarious situations.

The biggest concern would likely be that the data entered on physical forms isn't backed up anywhere, which makes archiving those precious details a difficult task, one that normally requires hours upon hours of manual spreadsheet updating. Furthermore, if there's only one copy of a participant's form and that piece of paper is destroyed or damaged accidentally, maintaining an excellent member experience becomes even more challenging.

Here are some other risks that come with using paper forms for registration:

  • Information kept in a filing cabinet or central database can often only be accessed by certain individuals which means that it cannot be accessed quickly in the case of an emergency;
  • If your forms cannot be easily updated, most of the information you have is out of date. In fact, in a 4-month process, 30% of your information is already outdated;
  • If your staff is entering information by hand, crucial participant information such as addresses or phone numbers can often be missing or wrong; and
  • The inability to customize your forms based on your participants' needs could lead to important information being omitted at the time of registration. This can lead to misunderstandings later on.

The major takeaway here is that physical registration forms tend to leave data interpretation and the potential for lost information and misunderstandings around as a lingering possibility. Updating participants details, including medical specifics, is also a difficult task.

A digital software solution, one that utilizes SaaS technology, can change data in real-time and ensure that your member information is always current and, with advanced online security measures like the ones used at Amilia, always secure as well. Implementing this kind of system also eliminates the strain that is placed on administrative staff members as a result of inefficient operations.


Whether it's the direct or indirect costs, the wasted time factor or the potential risks they pose to participant information, paper forms can no longer offer the convenience and flexibility that recreation organization members need in their lives. Conversely, online forms provide a win-win-win on all those fronts, making life easier for members and administrators alike.

Switching to online forms gives everyone at a given organization more time to focus on growing the business side of things, growing engagement and revenues while also cutting unnecessary costs. More importantly, everyone involved will be able to devote more time and energy to what matters most: serving those in their community.

Amilia provides fully customizable forms along with an easy-to-use client management system ensuring you have all the information you need in one place. Want to learn more about our amazing features? Download our brochure now!


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