1. Cultivating your base
2. Gathering information, and
3. Educating participants about your efforts.
The best part – they work in the mail, on the phone, and online.
But, before you sit down to write the questions you must consider your goals. Set expectations up front and explain to participants why you are doing a survey, what type of questions to expect, and how the information will be used. It also helps to set a deadline for when the responses are due.
The Questions - Asking the right questions is the key to success. Here are a few tips.
• Try to avoid open-ended questions. While they may provide interesting insights they can be difficult to analyze and quantify. They also require more work for the user – which may decrease the likelihood of responding.
• How many questions? The respondents’ willingness to complete questions will depend on how closely they are connected to your organization and cause, how interesting and engaging the questions are, and how easy it is to move through the questions. To draw a line in the sand, for the purposes of surveys we recommend 5-12 questions.
• Keep It Clear. Numerous response options and complex directions can be confusing to the user. If responding to a survey makes your audience anxious, they may decide to quit half way through the survey.
• Fair & Balanced. To ensure the integrity of the information you gather, be sure to provide balanced response options. For example, these response options skew positive “Excellent, Good, So So” while a more balanced design would be “Good, So So, Poor.” Leading questions that only provide one alternative for consideration or assume a particular response will also skew results.
Beware that the order of responses can also introduce a bias. First responses, especially in a drop down menu, or default options, can unconsciously steer responders.
• The order of questions. To maximize your response rates, begin with easy questions and then move to progressively more complex ones to prime your respondents and get them more invested in the process of taking the survey.
After the Survey
All too often, survey findings are relegated to collecting dust. How you plan to use the information should be a part of your goal setting process. Here are a few tips to evaluate results and map out the next steps:
- In order to turn data into actionable information, first review findings. Do some simple cross tabulations and if possible a deeper statistical analysis.
- After you’ve mapped out next steps, add to your calendar a date to revisit the findings and how they are used a month from now or at a later date.
- Share what you’ve found with colleagues. In addition to the numbers, be sure to share some of the key insights and how you plan to use them in the future.