Survey Says...


Last time, we discussed different ways to gather data in everyday situations. Today, we’re delving deeper into a prime way to mine your clients and donors for data – surveys. We’ve all taken them at one point or another, but what makes a survey successful?

Get their attention.

Open your survey with a quick sentence or two about what you hope to gain, and put it in approachable, positive language. For example, if you’re providing the survey to a group of parents, you might start your questionnaire with something like, “Your responses will help improve the experience for your kids!” Understanding why they’re taking the survey and how it affects their lives will encourage your participants to give honest, thoughtful answers.

Keep it short.

Surveys work best when they’re clear and concise. Remember, getting someone to make time to take a survey is typically an uphill battle; don’t make it any more difficult to keep your participants’ attention!

Get chatty.

Use a conversational tone to create engaging questions that keep the survey taker interested. Additionally, make sure your wording is easily understandable for all audiences. Stick with simple, common words when possible. If you’re using abbreviations, clarify them, even if you think everyone knows what they mean!

Limit open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions require the survey taker to write out his or her answer. A survey full of open-ended questions might frustrate your participants, as they require more time and effort than multiple-choice queries.

Use them sparingly.

Oddly enough… If you’re creating scale questions – for example, asking someone how satisfied he or she is with your nonprofit on a numeric scale – use odd numbers to get the best results. Studies show that 5 or 7 options on the scale yield the most accurate results. With an even number of options, survey takers who are neutral are forced to choose a side. More than 7 options become too confusing and difficult to process.

Name your creation.

Give your survey a clear, attention-grabbing title, especially if it will be attached to an email. You might even want to mention the incentive for completing the questionnaire in its title. 

Test it out.

Before sending out your survey, give it a fresh perspective. Distribute it to a small test group, and see if your participants have trouble with any of the questions. Did they understand the purpose of the survey? Was the wording easy to comprehend? You might not be available to answer questions for actual participants in the moment, so this input is invaluable. Nip any problems in the bud, and you’ll get more accurate, useful results.

Now go forth and survey! If you need additional help, just let us know – surveys are

a) our jam

b) the peanut butter to our jelly

c) now I want a sandwich

d) all of the above.