Recruiting and organizing volunteers with Google Sheets + Forms

In this guide, I’m going to share how to create a basic web form using Google Sheets + Forms. You might use a web form to collect information from your community—such as basic contact and interest information—either from your website, or by emailing the URL to prospective members. All the information entered in to the forms is saved in a spreadsheet in Google Drive, which you can then analyze, run reports on, or add to your existing CRM.

Let’s start very simply by creating a form for volunteer recruitment.

Creating a new form for a sheet

  1. From Google Drive, click NewGoogle Sheet
  2. Rename the sheet to something more meaningful than Untitled Sheet
  3. From the top menu, select ToolsCreate a form

A new tab will open with your form.

As of writing this, you’ll be prompted to try a new version of Google Forms (the purple banner). I recommend you X out of this (on the right) or ignore it.

The reason? Add-ons are not available with the new format yet, and you will likely need or want to use Add-ons at some point (in fact, we’ll go over that in the next post of this series).

Form settings

For the Form Settings (the first toggle at the top of your form), you have three options. Starting with Show progress bar at the bottom of form pages. You can leave all of those unchecked. If you are opening up your form to public respondents, you should make sure the second option is unchecked—so those without a Google account can fill out your form.

The next toggle is the first page of your form, and it begins with the form title —which is the same as the sheet we created), and a Form Description. You can edit the form title and add a description if you want, but whatever you add will be visible to everyone who sees and fills out the form.

Creating questions

A sample question has been created for you. Hover over the question and click the pencil icon to edit it.

Under Question Type you can change whether your question will be multiple choice, checkboxes, a text or paragraph input, a scale or grid. When you’re selecting your question types, keep in mind how the answers will be stored in the accompanying spreadsheet.

For the purposes of group organization, I find the first four question types work fine for 99% of the information I’m trying to gather. For example, the Text type is useful to gather a respondents first and last name, phone number, address, email address, and URL.

Paragraph type is perfect for collecting feedback, comments, and testimonials.

Multiple choice can sort your volunteers into their preferred interest group, while Checkboxes will let respondents select more than one option.

Tip: You can drag and drop, not only questions you’ve created into the order you want, but the answer options as well. Mouseover the icon that looks like two rows of dots, click and drag where you want it.

You’ll build your form using these questions types, adding question titles and help text (which explain choices or give instructions to your respondents), and adding answer options.

Finishing and sending your form

When you’re finished creating the questions for your form, you have additional options at the bottom of the page. First, customize the confirmation—it’s the text box that says Your response has been recorded. I recommend you uncheck the box Show link to submit another response unless you want respondents filling out the form again. And leave the second option, Publish and show a public link to form results, unchecked unless you want all form submission information to be public.

Clicking Send Form at the bottom will pop up an overlay with your form URL, along with various ways to share the form. I recommend you click the checkbox Short URL, which will transform your long Google url to a very short one.

At this point, you can copy that URL and send it to anyone you’d like to have fill out the form. It is “live” on the web. To see the form, paste that URL into a browser window, or X out of the overlay, and click View Live Form on the form editor toolbar at the top of the page. You can always find the link again by clicking the Send Form link in the upper righthand corner of the form editor.

Here is the live form I’ve created for this tutorial:

Tips to improve your form

Section headers and page breaks

Consider adding section headers and page breaks from very long forms. For example, if you’re creating a community survey that includes more than just a few questions, consider breaking the questions into pages by topic. You’ll find the options for section headers and page breaks in the File menu under Insert.

Embedding a form into a webpage

When you click Send Form, you are given the option to select and copy an embed code that puts your form inside an iframe on a website. The code looks like this:

<iframe src="" width="760" height="500" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading...</iframe>

If you want to embed this form on your WordPress website, you can switch to the Text editor (as opposed to the WYSIWYG/Visual editor) and paste in the code. The resulting embed looks like this:

It’s not the best experience though, so I would advise against embedding the forms directly on your page. There are several plugins in the free WordPress directory that integrate WordPress with Google Forms—with varying degrees of elegance. I have used the Google Forms plugin in the past1.

Viewing and sharing form results

Once your form is live and you have community members submitting their information, you’ll want to view and save those results.

To access form results, open the sheet we created from Drive, or from the edit form screen, click View responses in the toolbar.

The information collected is sorted into a spreadsheet that looks like this:

Depending on your spreadsheet savvy, you can now export, sort, and analyze this information. To share the spreadsheet with other members of your committee, click the blue Share button in the top right corner.

You can either share your document by entering in someone’s email address, or copying and sharing a clickable link. Keep in mind the permissions you set when you share. If you want a collaborator to be able to edit (and even possibly delete!) your spreadsheet, give them the ability to edit. If you’d prefer they only be allowed to add comments or read, you can set those permissions before sharing.

Now that you’re familiar with the Google Forms and Sheets interface, it’s time to make some magic happen. In the next post, I’ll share some tips on using Add-ons to make your organization’s forms even more useful.

Notice an error in this guide? Please let me know.

  1. For forms embedded into WordPress, I highly recommend Gravity Forms for an all-in-one solution. I can go over this in another post—but there are reasons a community organizer might opt for Google Forms + Sheets though, namely, the portability and collaboration features.

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