Nonprofits: Get usable results when surveying constituents

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To make sound decisions, your organization should periodically survey donors and other constituents. But how do you design a survey to ensure a high response rate and constructive feedback?

Clarify goals

The first step is to define the survey’s purpose. Determine what you want to learn and how you’ll use the data you collect.
If, for example, you’re planning to build a recreation center, ask what activities survey recipients would like to see offered at the new facility. They might give you a wish list of activities, with “swimming” at the top.

But if you already knew swimming was popular and had anticipated this response, your survey results don’t really help your leadership make decisions. Instead, ask more specific questions, such as “What hours and days of the week would you most likely use the pool?” and “How much would you be willing to pay per visit?”

Stay focused and concise

You’ll want to be sharply focused, isolating a single issue or initiative. And keep the survey short. Some experts suggest that, ideally, it should take no longer than five minutes to complete.

Avoid bias and pledge privacy

One of the biggest challenges of survey writing is to draft unbiased questions. Take care not to lead respondents to answers you’d like to hear. Avoid loaded words and strong language, and consider seeking the services of a survey professional to ensure objectivity.

Finally, be sensitive to privacy concerns. Reassure survey recipients that their responses will remain confidential, and honor that promise.

© 2017

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