So listen up guys, we are fully in the 21st century. Can you even wrap your head around the fact that just yesterday we were worried whether computers could handle changing the date from 1999-2000 and here we are 16 years later and there are self-driving cars and cell phones without pull out antennas and DVR?
And yet, there are organizations out there still using paper forms for registration to collect participant information and accept payments, instead of an online registration software.
Now, I don’t mean that to sound harsh. There isn’t really anything wrong with paper, is there? I mean, it works and why pay money for software when paper is free?
Well, what if I told you that this perspective is seriously flawed? What if I told you that paper is actually MORE expensive than software?
And that organizations suffer more than applicants, who sigh deeply when they see a multi-page form that requires opening, saving, printing, using a pen to fill it out, scanning, emailing back (or folding, envelope, writing address, finding address, finding stamp, stamping and mailing). Whew. That was the longest sentence ever, as well as the longest process ever.
And should I continue? I think I will.
I recently got a packet via email from our religious community for my son’s religious school registration. 9 pages.
First, I had to dust off my printer, plug it in to my computer and print off the documents. And note I said documents. Each page was it’s own attachment, instead of at least a fillable PDF form, or a regular PDF form.
Then I had to write my name, address, phone number and email address at least 4 times of four different forms. Check a box for payment, write in a credit card or go find my checkbook and write a check. Then find an envelope. I paid with a credit card, but there is no way I was going to email a form with my credit card information as an attachment, so much snail mail it. Got a stamp. And walked it to the mailbox.
Whew. Then I had to hope it made it to the office since I never heard whether or not it was received until I called to check-in.
I think you see where I’m going with this. The only “good” thing was that the form accommodated multiple children, so I only had to do one set of forms, and just add both of my children.
I did, however, have to calculate what I owed on my own since each of my children are in different levels that have different amounts due.
So that’s the applicant side of things. And yes, before you ask, I have offered to have them use Regpack!
Now for the organization side of things…
What happens once all these paper forms *hopefully* make it to your office?
- Someone has to open the envelope (or open an email, open and save the attachment, then print attachment).
- They then have to read what it is and open the file on the computer.
- Then they have to open up an excel document or whatever method they use to view all their registrations for a program. This includes manually typing up everything, hope no mistakes are inputted,
- Then they either scan and make a file on their computer. Or they take the paper and go to filing cabinets (which cost money, and take up valuable office real estate, which also costs money), file it and then what?
Ok so maybe that takes 10-15 minutes. But that’s PER applicant. And then…what if there is a change in info, an updated form, a mistake in the excel file? Back to printing, emailing back and forth, phone calls, printing a new paper, going to the file cabinet…
So, I think you still see where I’m going with this.
Let’s forget for the rest of this post that people prefer filling out forms online over paper. And let’s have a chat about the real cost of managing registration with paper vs. an online software with cloud storage that you pay a monthly or yearly fee for.
How much do paper registration forms really cost an organization?
First, check out this handy and quite amazing calculator I found online.
The calculator is geared towards real estate, but you can fill in a few of the fields based on your organization’s paper usage and get a very stark picture of just how much money you are spending to print, copy and store all of the paperwork you use.
In addition, it includes the calculation of how much you are spending in staff time managing so much paper vs. going paperless.
In case you don’t want to mess with the settings, I did a basic calculation for an average small organization.
- Say you process 10 applicants on average, per month (120 applications a year) and the average number of pages you print for each applicant is 10. That’s 1,200 pieces of paper per year.
- The average cost to print 1 page is $.03. The yearly cost to print 1,200 pages is $36. Ok, not so bad. But wait…
- If you need 1 new file cabinet per year to store all this paper, and 1 file cabinet conservatively costs you $200 (they are usually more, but I’m trying to be nice) and that file cabinet takes up $1 worth of your real estate per month in space (again, I’m being really generous here), that’s $308 per year on storing your paper.
- Now what about the time your staff spends on paper related tasks. Again, I’m being incredibly generous on how much time you are ACTUALLY spending filing and doing paper admin tasks, but let’s just say your staff spends 45 minutes a day filing, 10 minutes extra a month looking for misfiled paperwork and your average admin is paid $15/hour. Per year, you are spending $2,970 to manage your PAPERwork.
- Now in the “other costs” column, I’m going to be nice again and put ZERO for everything except for $10 a month in mailing costs, which again, you guessed it, is pretty generous. That’s another $120 a year you are spending to mail documents that you could otherwise send online, or have e-signed with a software, etc.
So what’s the total?
$3,434 a YEAR spent on paper registration forms!
Not only is this such a huge waste of your hard earned cash, think about all the cash your staff COULD be generating if, instead of filing and managing paper, they were focused on improving your products, creating a better service experience for your clients, and other marketing projects.
Note that I have not added the cost of updating information, of getting incorrect information and worse yet, trying to generate a report or some sort of aggregation of data when everything is on paper. The cost is sometimes so high that you simply do not do it. Period.
What happens is that in order to solve the issue described above, most organizations that use paper opt to get the paper form, inputting the information into excel sheets (which there is always a good chance of error) and then try to run reports from that file.
But how much time is wasted on all of this manual work? And even worse, you might have a few people working on this massive data project and then they are sending files back and forth between each other to make sure everyone has the most up to date information.
So the cost of $3,434 a year is very conservative and does not take into account all costs.
It might be triple or 10 times that, but I prefer to be conservative and show that even if you are just registering 120 people, your employee costs are very low (please send me people that cost $15 an hour to California!).
And you are not taking all costs into account, you still come out ahead with online registration software!
How much does online registration software cost?
It’s easy to show a big number on the cost of paper but it means nothing if software costs double or triple that. But does it? It doesn’t.
Depending on your needs, going online can be free! While I wouldn’t recommend this for pretty much any organization, it can be done.
Google is a great resource for simple forms and PayPal can accept payments for you online.
Those resources won’t solve your admin problem of time wasted on manual inputting data and making sure files are updated. These resources will just correct mistakes like typing information from hard to read paper forms. And they allow you to offer a way to pay online vs sending a check or handing in cash.
A basic registration software can cost as little as $49 a month, or $588 per year. $588 vs. $3400? Which would you choose?
So why do organizations still use paper registration forms?
That’s a great question. The most common reason is either the incorrect belief that paper is “free” and software “costs money”. I think I’ve just proven this is false.
The other common reason is organizations can often times be very slow at implementing change. Especially if many people are involved in a decision to move to software, there can be many hoops to jump through in order to finally get approval to move online.
Add to that, the initial work and time it takes to learn a new software, or learn any process that is new to the organization. Plus the manpower it takes to do that. This, however, is an initial cost that goes away after the first few months and the ROI on this time spent is huge!
I asked one of our clients recently: How has Regpack helped save you time?
“Taking lunch breaks! Our department is super busy and we experience what most education programs everywhere experience: doing a lot with a minimum staff. So to answer your question, the ability to get work done! There was a time where it was hard to take a lunch because there was so much to do and it took so long to do it.
Also, peace of mind. I can take breaks here and there and I’m not sitting here with 200 paper forms that have been faxed to me. I’m creating my next field trip spreadsheet now, and I’ve already got it almost done and it took me maybe 30 minutes. It’s just miraculous!”
While he laughed when he said “taking lunch breaks”, he was being serious. When you really sit down and calculate the amount of time you waste (and pay for) using paper registration forms, and how little time it takes to accomplish the same tasks with software, making the jump online is more than worth it!
The real goal of software is to automate processes that once took much more time. Instead you can focus on the real core of your organization’s mission.
Is making the switch from paper registration forms worth it?
Yes! The first few months can be more time consuming due to setting up your new system and the learning curve associated. However, you still come out ahead in less than a year.
If you want the real costs of the first months I wrote a post just about that!
Online software can:
- Automate your emails.
- Automate your payments.
- Allow you to offer several different online payment methods.
- Ensures data accuracy.
- Can be accessed anytime, anywhere – especially useful in an emergency situation.
- Keeps your data up to date at all times. (Thanks to the cloud.)
The cons of paper are endless. They are time-consuming, inaccurate, inefficient, inaccessible unless you are physically in the office and as I’ve just proven, expensive.
These days there are tons of software out there to choose from! And they are all easily customizable, and affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.
The world is your oyster! Shop around, do some demos and break free from the shackles of paper registration!