Online camp registration services are powerful tools, but they do cost money. Google Suite, like Google Forms, Google Sheets and Google Docs, offers powerful tools, and it is free.
On the surface, it seems like this is easy arithmetic: You can manage your camp registration with Google Suite, for free. Right?
That equation is a little over-simplified.
While Google Suite does offer some powerful free services, those services are not designed for registration. As a result, they don’t offer all of the services that you need.
The services that they offer and that you can take advantage of in the camp registration process also aren’t as well orchestrated as those services offered through a registration service like Regpack.
So what are some of the key points of both, and where might they fall short?
Google Forms Vs. Registration Software
Google forms isn’t one of the most popular tools in Google Suite, but it has some promise for people putting together registration packages for their potential campers.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, Google Forms lets you put together surveys and collect information. Like other tools in the Google Suite, Google Forms is fairly easy to use, and it’s easy to share – even with people who don’t have Google Accounts. And, of course, it’s free.
So why would you pay for registration software instead of using Google Forms?
The answer is that in order for Google Forms to be free, it has to be limited. The fact that it is available for everyone and easy to use also means that they had to take shortcuts on a number of affordances that are available to you with more advanced registration software.
One of the greatest limitations of Google Forms, especially for using it as a camp registration tool, is that Google Forms can’t be used for payments. Registration tools like a dedicated online camp registration software however, let you collect payment within the form so that you don’t have to use additional tools and processes.
The integration of forms and payments is crucial to making enrollment quick and easy, for both your team and your families registering. You will create a management nightmare when you receive payments but no registration forms, or forms but no payments. You’ll have to sift through all of your data to figure out who paid and who has an outstanding balance. From there, you’ll have to use another set of tools to communicate with those families with an outstanding bill.
You are getting Google Forms for free, but how much are you losing in you and your staffs time and energy?
Registration software also has some additional resources specifically for forms as well, specifically conditional reasoning.
Conditional reasoning means that the way that a registrant answers one question determines the question that they see next.
Suppose, for example, that you are worried about accommodating campers with disabilities or medical conditions. If you have five questions regarding campers with disabilities or medical conditions, everyone filling out a Google Form will have to scroll through those questions regardless of whether they have a disability or medical condition.
If you make a form with an online registration software provider, you can open this section with a simple yes or no question regarding whether the registrant has a disability or medical condition. Registrants that answer “yes” will be directed to the questions that they need to answer, while registrants that answer “no” will be directed past the questions that don’t apply to them.
This makes forms faster to fill out, but it also makes it easier and faster to design the form and to make sense of its results.
Of course, if you are just collecting basic information, like contact information, you wouldn’t benefit much from advanced tools like conditional reporting. What would you benefit from? Saving money with a free service.
Google Sheets And Registration
Of course, Google Forms isn’t the only tool in the Google Suite.
Google Sheets is another powerful tool within the Google Suite, and it allows for the creation and manipulation of spreadsheets. This is an important logistical tool, but it also has its limitations. For example, the ability to take information from Google Forms and translate them into Google Sheets is not as fluid as one might expect.
It can also be difficult to create dynamic reports from Google Sheets to do things like keep your team posted while registration is underway. Regpack makes it easier to translate information from our forms into reports. These reports can also be generated at any point during your registration process. For example, say that your financial team need an estimation on how many campers you expect so that it can estimate the cost of food over the course of a three-day camp. The deadline for registration hasn’t come yet, but you need to know roughly how many people you can expect. It is much easier to generate dynamic reports using Regpack than it is using Google Suite.
On the other hand, maybe your operation is smaller: the camp only lasts one day and campers are simply instructed to bring a lunch. This is another situation where Google Forms and Google Sheets may provide all of the reporting that you require, while being much cheaper. Also, if needed, you can transport data from Google Sheets to other platforms. For example, sync Google Sheets and BigQuery, export data to Airtable, or else.
Google Docs And Registration
Google Docs is a cloud-based word processing software within the Google Suite. Because it is cloud-based, documents that you save on Google Drive (the platform that allows the organization and access of Google Docs and other Google Suite documents) can be accessed by everyone that you give access to. That can mean that other members of your organization and the parents of campers can all have access to general information, while access to more sensitive information may only be accessed by specific members of your organization. This access is severely limited, however, in the case of individuals who do not have Google accounts.
Regpack does offer resources for storing documents and for making them available to other parties. If you don’t need access to other Regpack services, however, these services are likely not enough to inspire a subscription.
So, Which is Better?
In the end, it’s not a question of which is better. Registration software isn’t meant to replace tools like Google Suite and Google Suite might not be able to replace registration software. It’s really more a question of what your organization needs. A small organization running a free camp for a smaller number of people probably could get on perfectly well using only Google Suite. If your organization has more complex needs like more in-depth questionnaires, payment processing, and reports as you go along, Google suite is simply too limited and will cost you more in the long run. We even did the math for you here.
If you are a with a larger organization with more complex needs, you may still be thinking about using free tools like Google Suite in order to save some cash. You probably could do this, but it might not save you cash. After all, registration packages like Regpack do cost more than Google Suite but when you factor in all of the time and work that it saves you over more basic tools, a lot of those perceived savings from free software start to disappear.