Boston Athletic Association: Taming Complexity with Repeatable Solutions

The Form Advocates

Chris Minerd

Salesforce Administrator

Chris Pifer

Principal Consultant

Case Study Snapshot

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) uses FormAssembly to help tackle the massive undertaking of registering nearly 30,000 participants for the Boston Marathon each year. Complex, yet easy-to-use web forms minimize the B.A.A.’s reliance on cumbersome databases and create simplified internal and external processes. Read below to learn how Attain helped the Boston Athletic Association utilize a form solution uniquely suited for their specific needs.

About the Boston Athletic Association

  • Operates as a nonprofit association with a staff of 28
  • The Boston Marathon is the second largest single-day press event in the world
  • Among the oldest athletic clubs in the country (established 1887)
  • Mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running

About Attain

  • A management, technology, and strategy consulting firm
  • Serves clients in government, healthcare, education, and nonprofit markets
  • Founded on several core values, including entrepreneurship and commitment to service

The Numbers

participants will register for the 2019 Boston Marathon with FormAssembly.


largest marathon in the world.

staff members at the Boston Athletic Association.

race-day volunteers are managed by 2 staff members.

The Problem

Outdated Database Management

We had to adapt the solution and think about how you build for a staff that doesn’t code.

Before they began working with Attain, the B.A.A. used one Microsoft Access database for every race dating back to the 2000s. Inevitably, this meant that there were nearly 60 databases with no consolidation. Such an extensive system made it difficult to organize records.

“Each contact could have a record in one of 60 places,” Pifer explained.

Although the previous data management solution was originally custom-built for stability, it was also outdated and mundane. Staff had very little room for innovation or moving forward with data technology. Attain helped the B.A.A. search for the right tool that would create better experiences for staff and race participants.

“We had to adapt the solution and think about how you build for a staff that doesn’t code,” Pifer said.

Attain’s process for helping the B.A.A. focused on specific business needs around the marathon and responding to the internal needs of the organization, rather than focusing on test coverage or technology-heavy implementations. Although Pifer initially imagined a totally custom form solution, he introduced the idea of using FormAssembly for its impressive capabilities.

“This was a fairly complex set of interactions for anyone to ask of a form tool, and FormAssembly was able to do it,” Pifer said.

The Solution

Improved Experience Without the Hassle

In choosing a solution, one of the main goals was to offer an improved all-around experience.

“The Boston Marathon is a bucket list item. We wanted to really prioritize creating a world-class experience for the runners who attend. The first step of that is the registration, and the form provides a seamless experience. For a person like me, who doesn’t have the technical background, I can still deliver that experience,” Minerd shared.

Pifer explained the brief step-by-step process that Attain used to help the B.A.A. leverage FormAssembly to its full capacity. These steps included:

  • Starting with standard objects. The first step was to include basic things like contacts and accounts by utilizing the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack.
  • Looking at the AppExchange for partner solutions. The next step involved looking for apps like Chargent that integrated with FormAssembly. This offered assurance that the new product would have its own lifecycle and remain advantageous for future use cases.
  • Piecing it together with the right tools. Salesforce Lightning Flow brought the project full circle with a guided, integrated process.

“What’s great about solutions like FormAssembly is that we don’t need a coded solution to do the complex logic. We can use these third party apps, these tools, that do the technical work for you. That’s what gives you the ability to innovate,” Pifer explained.

The Time-Saver

Form Repeatability

. . . that ability to just click ‘clone’ means you’ve saved hundreds of hours of work.

One of the key features of FormAssembly that makes a huge difference for the BAA is the ability to clone forms. With cloning, building happens once, and forms are reused with small changes year after year.

Repeatability also encourages innovation. For instance, one registration step is to enter qualifying times from other marathons. Attain built a tool that automatically accepts or rejects a time based on key factors. This year, when respondents entered a time that didn’t automatically qualify, they received a message about further verification with a file upload. The B.A.A. listened to their own staff suggestions when bringing the idea to life.

“We spent hundreds of hours on this form, and we knew it was a pretty serious undertaking. But that ability to just click ‘clone’ means you’ve saved hundreds of hours of work,” Pifer said.

Form showcasing qualifying time requirement.

What You Need,
When You Need It

With the last registration we did, the server load at FormAssembly didn’t spike above 11%. It didn’t break a sweat.

FormAssembly’s reliability significantly benefits the Boston Athletic Association, particularly as they plan for high-traffic form responses within a short timespan.

“When registration opens for the marathon, it’s rock concert numbers. Thousands of people on the form, hundreds of submissions per second. With the last registration we did, the server load at FormAssembly didn’t spike above 11%. It didn’t break a sweat,” Pifer said.

Minerd shared that when 30,000 participants registered in September of 2018, he was still able to do and focus on other things, largely as a result of FormAssembly. More direct presence is needed when certain qualifying windows open, but overall, this year’s registration came without having to perform much troubleshooting.

Use Cases

Tens of thousands use the registration form to sign up for the big race.

The Boston Athletic Association’s main use case is for registration forms for the Boston Marathon. With such high traffic registration numbers, the form has to offer simplicity to both runners and staff members who monitor the Salesforce records.

The registration form offers real-time verification, such as accepting completion times from other marathons and authorizing credit cards for registration fees.

Athlete registration form for the 2019 Boston Marathon (click image to enlarge)

Form connectors help staff access trends in data year-to-year.

FormAssembly’s connectors provide the ability to report in dashboards. Previously, information was stored across multiple databases, but now it’s housed within one system. Using Salesforce, staff can easily see registration trends from year-to-year. This allows Minerd, as a Salesforce admin, to be less hands-on when it comes to sharing data. Using dashboard reporting empowers staff with the ability to pull their own numbers and research as needed.

Moreover, the connector setups are saved, even as they clone different forms. This means that staff can save additional time when re-creating new, complex forms.

Student decisions are trackable with enrollment agreement forms.

Maryville also uses FormAssembly web forms to speed up their decision and enrollment processes. Intent forms confirm a student’s decision to enroll at Maryville in an upcoming term. Students can also complete housing applications and submit payments for the Enrollment Advance Tuition Payment required prior to attendance. Using the Prefill Connector, data is pre-populated from Salesforce to eliminate extra time and hassle for the student, as well as prevent duplicate records in the CRM.

Students can also check on the status of their enrollment steps, as they progress through each stage in the process. In particular, Maryville uses forms to streamline the enrollment process for international students, who often need to submit letters of recommendation, resumes, and supplemental documentation. Maryville’s form design allows for these students to easily upload and manage their enrollment materials.

International Student Application Status form

Web forms help support important academic decision processes.

Maryville leverages FormAssembly’s capabilities to creatively streamline some of their internal processes, like scholarship forms and surveys.

At the graduate school level, some faculty members help in the admissions decision process. FormAssembly provides a workaround for faculty who need student information, but don’t have administrative access to a Salesforce account. To address this issue, Maryville uses a two-step form with prefilled data, in which faculty can make admissions decisions directly within a student’s form based upon the populated information.

Web forms also help the university alleviate frustration in the process of awarding scholarships. Most recently, Maryville used a two-step Presidential Scholarship form that current students and faculty/staff used to evaluate prospective student interviews. As a result of the new process, the university was able to deliver scholarship decisions to students more quickly and efficiently.

“Ultimately, this gives prospective students a quick turnaround time,” Heger said.

Decision form for graduate business students

What’s Next?

Attain and the team at the Boston Athletic Association work directly with FormAssembly staff to stay up-to-date on high volume registrations. As events open up and runner and volunteer numbers increase, the B.A.A. looks forward to creating detailed plans for times when extra support is needed.

“It’s been an amazing partnership. I’ve had great access to the FormAssembly staff,” Pifer said.

“From further enhancing our registration platform to new innovations this year that will involve our race operations – every solution is built with the goal of delivering a premier event that meets the highest standards that runners expect of the Boston Marathon,” Minerd said. “With tools like FormAssembly, the B.A.A. now has technical solutions that translate to an amazing experience for our athletes,” Minerd said.

If you loved this case study and want to create your own repeatable solutions, get started with FormAssembly today!

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