We’ve written before about how feedback surveys are a helpful tool to help towards success. This got our wheels turning and prompted us to talk specifically about what you can do to get the most back from feedback surveys.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of research?
In your mind, it might look like writing up reports or conducting focus groups. Fortunately, feedback surveys take the cost out of lengthy and expensive research while providing valuable results in no time. They help you explore the opinions of all your stakeholders, too. So what’s the hold-up?
You need to know why you need feedback before you hit the ground running. If you’re asking questions willy-nilly, then your survey’s going to turn out pretty useless.
Right now, you might want to determine volunteer satisfaction after they attend an event (or something similar). If that information isn’t useful for your organization, then why are you gathering it? If it is useful, then you should be thinking about how to take it up a notch.
We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve for getting your feedback surveys right the first time around.
When it comes to feedback, it’s quality over quantity every time. If you don’t need to know about it, then don’t ask. Make sure every question is useful in some way, and phrase them to ask exactly what you need.
You should be able to back up every question in your feedback survey and explain why it’s necessary. You can use this acronym, LAVA, to make sure your questions will deliver results. Ask yourself, is the answer to this question offering:
Not every question will be a grand slam and meet all of these criteria, but shooting for at least one of these guidelines per question will keep your surveys densely impactful.
Presentation matters. If you’re using a third-party provider to create and send your survey then you won’t have too much control over its look and feel. You can take other steps, though, to ensure your survey starts off on the right foot.
Go with the flow. Take a few tips from successful landing pages by giving the elements of your survey the right flow. Don’t ask too much of your survey visitors too early. Put things in a logical order and keep related questions next to each other.
Have the right attitude. Avoid phrasing questions with a bias toward your nonprofit. Asking unbiased questions will get you the most helpful results.
Don’t take definitions for granted. If you reference a specific person, event or idea, don’t expect that people will automatically know what it is—briefly explain before you ask about it. The same goes for words that might have a double meaning or be interpreted in different ways.
Respect their time. Less is more, so avoid long-winded questions and limit the amount of open-ended questions you include. Your survey shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes to complete.
Sometimes keeping it simple is more difficult than doing the opposite. Now is not the time to spout off oodles of nonprofit knowledge, though. A clear and concise survey will deliver the most useful outcome.
Keep things simple and direct. Just ask one question at a time. For example, instead of asking, “Was our presentation useful and interesting?” split it into separate parts. People can’t answer more than one thing at once, especially if they’re filling in a bubble or rating something on a scale.
Bad: “Was our presentation useful and interesting?”
Better: “Was our presentation useful?” and “Was our presentation interesting?”
Avoid unfamiliar questions and words. Shy away from any nonprofit jargon that you use often. If a survey visitor is confused about a question, they’re not going to shoot you an email and wait for you to clarify—they’re just going to skip over the question. Especially if it’s an optional, open-ended call for feedback.
Bad: “Do you have any suggestions for how we can better move the needle?”
Better: “Do you have any suggestions for how our volunteer outreach program can keep you more informed?”
Use time references. If your question is too vague, then it won’t provide a helpful result. Take the example below: your visitor may have extensive volunteer experience, but that experience might have taken place when they were twelve. Probably not what you’re looking for.
Bad: “Have you volunteered before?”
Better: “How many times would you estimate you volunteered in the last year?”
Once your survey is finished, it’s time to take a second look. You have the general skeleton; now it’s time to excavate each piece just a little further. Look at each question on its own and ask if it’s providing what you need. Is it helping you fulfill your end goal?
While you’re looking at questions with a critical eye, weed out the “nice to know” and even the “interesting to know” from the “valuable to know.” Look for things that (1) yield a deeper understanding, (2) give context on an issue and (3) provide insight into a blurry area. Ensure that even simple questions like, “What’s your age?” are essential to the information you’re searching for.
Now that you’ve got your questions pruned and ready for the taking, your survey should be ready for sending, right? Not so fast. Awesome questions make for a great feedback survey, but testing takes it to the next level.
Testing doesn’t have to be a big shebang, either. Ask someone else in your space to go through and note if they see any red flags. If you’re the only person developing a survey, you might overlook some things in the process. Getting a different perspective on your work lets you know what you’re missing that other people see.
Originally published 1.31.17 — Updated 1.30.18