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Charities fail to engage supporters according to survey

A huge 72% of the UK's largest charities are still using PDF forms on their websites to try and gather details and register donor support, according to a recent survey by web experts GOSS Interactive.

Image representing Charities fail to engage supporters according to survey

This shocking statistic indicates that enormous numbers of charities are not using the simplest online tools to engage with supporters. [1] Considering the financial challenges currently facing charities makes this even more alarming.

Providing PDF forms as a method of collecting donor information, securing donations or applying for jobs is one of the least efficient and most wasteful ways of collecting and working with information.

Clumsy bureaucracy

Forms supplied as PDFs have several drawbacks. Once received by the charity, the form information has to be manually entered into the back-office system, wasting valuable time and introducing the risk of mistakes. Can you imagine trying to book an airline ticket or buy a TV on a website and being made to download a form, print it off, fill it in and return it by post? Or would you be discouraged by the clumsy bureaucracy?   

Efficient solution

A far more effective way to capture supporter information is via online forms that allow website visitors to quickly fill in their details and submit them, though mobile devices, laptop or PC. The information can be processed immediately and instant feedback to the donor provided. Information can be stored, processed, searched and used by charity staff within a Web Content Management system, making significant savings in back-office administration while improving the visitor's experience. For many web users, completing online forms is a familiar and routine experience; not offering this facility risks frustrated site visitors who leave rather than download the PDF.   

The survey also revealed that 94% of all UK charity websites surveyed still hold valuable information such as reports, fact sheets or advice in PDF files. Many PDF files fail accessibility standards, depending upon how they are created.[2]

Rob McCarthy, CEO, GOSS Interactive added,

"The significant efficiencies offered by collecting supporter information digitally are being missed by the majority of charities. This is creating additional and unnecessary administrative costs as well as providing a barrier to potential supporters. I doubt that there are any charities who do not want to reduce administration costs and engage more supporters."

Further information on how websites can utilise forms to make efficiency savings can be found here and additional comment on the survey can be found on our blog post: Charities fail their supporters with poor digital engagement.


[1] The research was carried out on 100 UK charities with annual revenue over £10 million on 26th May 2011. The 74% of PDF forms did not include sponsorship forms, designed for offline use.

[2] PDF files are not recognised as a standard accessible format, as defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline published by W3C. Using them could be deemed an act of discrimination.

Time for engagement

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