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6 Fundamentals of Effective Donor Surveys (Sponsored Content)

Stewardship & Marketing: Online Fundraising/Social Media
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Chances are you’re already sending out some type of donor survey each year. The good news about surveys? They’re cheap and easy. The bad news? They’re cheap and easy. 

Yes, surveys can turn your fundraising strategy into a fine-tuned, sophisticated engine of revenue. But surveys are also laden with potential pitfalls, making it easy to never accomplish your goals. So before you whip up your next donor survey, let’s take a look at 6 principles to set you up for success and learn as much as possible about what your current and prospective donors do, think, and need. 

  1. Purposeful: Before embarking on a donor survey, you must clearly understand what you aim to achieve and how to use the information you gather. Each time you ask donors for their input, you’re making a withdrawal from the relationship, so ensure your requests are meaningful. Only move forward with a survey if you’re committed to implementing strategic changes based on the insights you gain. A written survey strategy with clear and measurable goals is a good way to keep yourself on track and determine if your donor survey is successful.
  2. Targeted: Rather than sending a survey to your entire donor database, consider tailoring it to specific segments of your donor base based on the survey's purpose. 

    For instance, if you want to understand why monthly donors commit to ongoing contributions—consider various segmentation options, such as donation amount, frequency, timing, demographics, or preferred donation method.
  3. Short and Sweet: Research shows shorter surveys generally yield higher response rates. Aim to keep your survey concise, ideally with fewer than ten questions. Emphasize closed questions, such as multiple choice or yes/no questions, as they are quicker to answer. The more open-ended questions, the more manual analysis you and your team must dig through.

    If you have a long list of questions, review them critically and be ruthless in your editing. Ask the question, “What will we do with the answers we get from this question?” If your answer is “We don’t know” or “Nothing right now,” then it gets cut.
  4. Delivered Well: Online survey tools are the most practical option for delivery. Platforms like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms offer cost-effective and user-friendly solutions. Ensure that your chosen tool is intuitive for both your team and survey participants, works seamlessly on various web browsers, and is mobile-friendly. 

    When sending reminders, avoid contacting individuals who have already responded to prevent confusion. Doing so appears out-of-touch and may make respondents doubt whether their initial responses were submitted successfully.
  5. Thoroughly Tested: Just as you meticulously edit and proofread blog posts, you should do the same for your survey. Unlike blog content you can update any time, you only get one shot with surveys. A single typo or poorly phrased question can disrupt your data collection.

    Reading the survey out loud is a quick way to identify issues. Hearing potential problems can be more effective than reading them. Additionally, share the survey with someone unfamiliar with it, preferably outside your nonprofit. Ask them to complete the survey while you observe. Note where they encounter confusion or require explanations. These insights will help you refine the survey before release.
  6. Incentivized: While this last principle is optional, incentives can boost your response rate by 5-20%. However, their use should be thoughtful. Consider incentives when your survey is longer, taking more than five minutes to complete, or when the audience might be less engaged, such as lapsed donors.
    Some examples of incentives include gift cards, event tickets, and giveaways. Typically, respondents are entered into a drawing to win a gift card or one of several prizes when expecting a substantial response.

Precautions to keep in mind when using incentives:

  • Avoid incentives that are so large they unduly influence responses.
  • Ensure you can efficiently distribute the chosen incentive.
  • Be aware that offering incentives may compromise respondent anonymity, impacting response quality. Balance the trade-off between anonymity and incentives.

While there are additional nuances to creating a successful survey, such as crafting unbiased questions, optimizing question order, and conducting proper response analysis, these six fundamental principles—purpose, strategy, targeting, brevity, effective delivery, and testing—are your first steps.

For a more comprehensive look into those nuances, check out our on-demand webinar, How to Create Donor Surveys That Improve Fundraising.

By following these basic principles of survey design, you can gain profound insights into your donors' motivations, connect more effectively with your donors, and enhance your mission's impact. Good luck!

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