By Julie Holdaway

Published in the Orange County Register on September 9, 2013

Questionnaire can often serve as helpful tool.

In a previous column, I mentioned I once "quit" a volunteer job. Instead of being honest with the organization about my frustrations, I told them my schedule got too busy. I wondered if I did them any favors by not sharing my reasons for leaving.

Last week I heard from that nonprofit surveying me about my experience.

Kudos to them for asking.

Yet, at the same time, I want to shout, "Now?!" I wish I'd received their survey before I quit.

While this week's column includes tips and tactics to good surveying, there really is just one important lesson: Ask questions when the information you get can still help you.

Skip the exit survey. Instead, know how long the average volunteer stays, and catch them before they quit.

When conducting a survey, be clear about its purpose. Ensure that every question works toward your goal. Be prepared to cut survey questions mercilessly.

There is no magic to the number of questions that work. If your audience is invested, you can get them to take a 20-minute survey. On average, you'll want to keep surveys to about eight minutes.

Send the survey from someone real. Use your name, job title and real email address so the email feels like it came from a human being who cares what they think, not a computer.

Be sure to have introductory text at the beginning of the survey to provide context and assurances of privacy.

End with at least one open-ended question, "Anything else you'd like to share?" For the person answering the questions, it is frustrating to want to share feedback and get to the end only to realize I was not asked that specific question. However, be careful not to overdo the open-ended questions—it is often difficult to manage the amount of information you gather. And an entire page of text boxes will scare many respondents.

Ask any questions that might scare somebody away—personal but sometimes necessary questions such as age, address, race, income—at the end of the survey. Hopefully at that point they'll be more at ease.

And, as with anything and everything in volunteering and fundraising, make sure that you thank your respondents.

Technology makes it easy to reach out to stakeholders. Use that technology, and capitalize on your stakeholders' valuable input. But the most important rule about surveying is simply to do it.

Post a comment

Please correct the following: