Creating a Great Survey

A great way to prepare for a campaign (whether an annual campaign or major gift campaign) is to do a survey with your current constituents. This can provide great information – such as what people think of your organization, what things they think you might do better, if they might consider giving (or giving more) to your organization, what is important to them, etc. But, how do you create a survey that people will actually take the time to complete? This article talks about five things to do including: how to distribute the survey, keeping it the right length, proofing and testing the survey, formatting of questions, and increasing participation through incentives.

First, how are you distributing the survey? It needs to be easy to complete the survey and get back to you. There are some great on-line tools that can assist with that. Constant Contact offers a survey tool as part of its communications package. Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey both have free options for small surveys. Whether it is an email survey or a written survey, it should be sent with a brief introduction that outlines how long the survey is and about how long it will take to answer it. It should also include an overview of how the information will be used. Regardless, instead of including it as part of a newsletter or other mailing, send it by itself. Of course mentioning it in a newsletter to let people know it is coming is a good idea as well.

Next, how long is your survey? If it’s too long, people will not be willing to take the time to answer it. If it’s not long enough, you won’t get the information you need. So it is very important to define what you most want to get from the survey and not ask questions that won’t be relevant for your purpose.

Is it well-written and does it work? Poor grammar, misspelling words and run on sentences can easily turn responders off. In on-line surveys, plan on having a small group test the survey to make sure that everything works properly before it is sent to the full list. I recently went on-line to complete a feasibility study survey for a charity that my husband and I support. The survey didn’t work properly and we were unable to complete it online.

Finally, does the format of the question (and answer) make sense? Typically if you are asking someone to rank how they feel about something, it’s generally a good idea to have an odd number of options (if they don’t feel one way or the other about, they can select the neutral (middle) option. With questions that have multiple choices, you’ll probably want to include an ‘other’ selection (and include a line for people to fill in what that ‘other’ means).

Offering some type of incentive for participation can also help. Maybe a free registration to an event that you would typically charge for, or a gift certificate from a local restaurant (in many cases you may be able to get one donated – it would provide visibility for the restaurant).There are many options, but try to find one that relates to your organization.

There is much written about how to write surveys (one of my college classes spent many weeks on this subject), but this should help you get started. Please let me know what you think!

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