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Oct 02, 2018 BY Rachel Clemens, former Mighty Citizen Research, Fundraising

Hot Off the Digital Press: Donor Survey Guide

There’s a scene in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc where Indy is swapping out a golden idol for a bag of sand. He’s nervous about it, obviously. One wrong move, and it could be devastating. That’s how many of us feel about donor surveys.

For a few months now, I’ve been speaking around the country on designing donor surveys to improve fundraising efforts. Long before these speaking events, I sensed fear in the nonprofit community around sending donor surveys. We’re all on a mission to make donating as rewarding and easy as possible, and don’t want to bombard current or potential donors with too many requests.

The fact of the matter is, if you don’t survey your current and future donors, you don’t know who they are or what they want.

And I promise you, your donors will gladly complete an infrequent survey that’s brief and well constructed if the result is a pleasant year-round experience filled with messages, events, and thank-yous that appeal to them.

It’s not totally wrong to be wary, though, because a donor survey done wrong is a waste of everyone’s time. Please promise me here and now that you will never send out a donor survey just for the sake of it, without knowing exactly what actions you plan to take based on the responses.

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A little bit of artistry goes into crafting surveys, but luckily, they are mainly a science. If you don’t know how to craft survey questions that will give your organization actionable insights, I bring you The Donor Survey Guide! This guide provides some sample donor survey questions, but more importantly (because every organization’s needs are unique), it provides the right questions for your internal team to discuss when you’re getting started.

The first question to ask yourselves is, “Who needs to have buy-in on the survey?” Every member of your organization likely has a handful of questions they would love to ask if you gave them the opportunity, but too many cooks in the kitchen will leave you with a survey a mile long. Which is why the next question to ask is, “What is our goal for this survey?”

Do not try to answer every question your organization has with a single survey. Instead, send your donors a few pithy surveys a year that take only a few minutes to complete. They will remember your surveys are painless when they see the next one in their inboxes and will therefore be more likely to complete them all, versus making it halfway through one mammoth list of questions and giving up.

I hope you find this guide helpful. I love to geek out about user research so feel free to contact me with questions about this, and I encourage you to sign up for our Insights e-newsletter if you want to receive more free tools like this one!

By the way, it all ends just fine for Indiana Jones and it will for you too (with our guide on your side).


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