Unlocking the Power of Online Forms in Sphere | npENGAGE

Unlocking the Power of Online Forms in Sphere

By on Jan 15, 2010


You have probably spent countless hours and dollars in designing, implementing and updating your organization’s web presence. And for what?! To look professional, disseminate information, grow your brand, but most importantly to engage with your constituents. At the heart of nearly any online constituent engagement is a web form that you are asking a constituent to submit (and hopefully enter their credit card information).

It is for this very reason that Blackbaud Sphere provides a variety of form building capabilities that cater to different user skill levels and provide greater flexibility of form layout and design.

Form Designer

The form designer is the “go to” answer for easily publishing online donation forms for specific campaigns or capturing online registrations for events. The form designer has a simple point and click interface that provides extensive capabilities to customize a form for donations or registrations.

The Form Designer also contains reports that display data from each time the form is filled out. If you have that created a form you like, you can easily duplicate the form to use for future campaigns or events.

User Skill Level Helpful Recommendations Major Capabilities
Business User  Recommended Sphere Training:


  • Utilize the “Duplicate” function to copy existing forms for new campaigns or events
  • Publish Online Form
  • Create Friendly URL
  • Process online donations or registrations
  • Select Form Fields
  • Reports
  • Match Existing Website Look & Feel*

*Requires knowledge of HTML

Forms in CMS

Any form that you create in the Form Designer can be pulled into a Sphere CMS website. Once the form is linked to your website Sphere will automatically apply the look and feel of your website to the form, with no HTML knowledge required.You can also easily control the placement of the form within your website using CMS. CMS can also authenticate constituents via username and password allowing forms in CMS to be auto populated with constituent information that already exists in Sphere. Not only is this convenient for constituents but it also provides the opportunity for the constituent to correct any information you have on record.  For donation forms that will be live for an extended period of time, it is worth the effort to additionally customize the online confirmation that is displayed to website visitors after the forms are submitted.

User Skill Level Helpful Recommendations Major Capabilities
Business User  Recommended Sphere Training:


  • Use the Form tools in CMS to pull your forms into CMS
  • Setup an advanced online confirmation in CMS
  • Everything within Form Designer and
  • Custom Confirmation Page
  • Match Existing Website Look & Feel

Custom Forms in CMS

Custom forms in CMS provide the capability for users to completely customize the HTML, CSS, & JavaScript of the form. This allows for ultimate control over the form layout & design. This will allow forms to be separated into multiple columns or steps.

Take a peek at what some customers have done with their online forms using Custom Forms in CMS:

User Skill Level Helpful Recommendations Major Capabilities
Web Developer

  • HTML and
  • CSS and
  • JavaScript (ideally)


People that can help:


  • Use the Custom Donation Form tool in CMS
  • Deactivate the WYSIWYG editor so you can code directly in HTML, switching back to WYSIWYG editor may “clean” your HTML code with undesirable results
  • Everything within Forms in CMS
  • Ultimate control over form layout & design

Form API
Some people just don’t like limits. For those people Sphere comes equipped with an API that is specialized for building online forms. There is a token based security model for authentication to limit the number of calls required to initially draw the form. Additionally, you can pass any event id to return all the fields that have been activated for that form in Sphere. You can even retrieve the donation form customization options that you have configured for the form in Sphere. Cool stuff!

User Skill Level Helpful tips Major Capabilities

  • HTML and
  • CSS and
  • JavaScript (ideally) and
  • PHP or .Net


Technical documentation:

People that can help:

  • Everything within Custom Forms in CMS
  • You are only limited by your own imagination and your ability to develop code. Sky is the limit…


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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