1 min Read
December 20, 2012

A couple of tips for smart surveys

Online surveys seem to be in season right now. I don’t know about you, but as 2013 approaches, I’m getting them on all sides, asking my opinions on everything from websites to products to strategic priorities.

Planning to survey your supporters this year-end? Here are a few quick rules of thumb to help you gather useful responses:

  • Think carefully about who’s getting your survey, and choose questions that are appropriate to how well they know you (and how much time they’ll be willing to invest). New supporters, for example, may not know a lot about your programs yet, and even long-time participants or donors may have only a few minutes to spare for their responses.
  • Make good use of your format. People will be completing your survey online, where attention spans are short and distractions myriad. It’s a good time to ask simple, focused multiple-choice questions–and maybe not such a good time for questions that require a detailed, well-thought-out response. (It’s also much harder to effectively process the data collected from 100 short essays than it is to review aggregate responses–worth keeping in mind for time-strapped nonprofiteers.)
  • Take it all with a grain of salt. Most of the time, when your nonprofit sends a survey to supporters, you’ll hear back from a self-selecting audience: the people who have something to say, whether positive or negative. That means a huge chunk of your list isn’t weighing in at all. There’s still value in giving your community a way to share their ideas and offer insights, but it’s important to remember that you’re only seeing a part of the picture.

Of course, these are very informal guiding ideas–there’s a lot of rigor to smart survey methodology and design. What are your best survey tips and tricks?