Never assume: Uncover the truth through stakeholder surveys

publication date: Mar 11, 2014
author/source: Alison Keys

Alison Keys photoDonor surveys are often an underused tool that should be conducted at least annually—especially since they are so inexpensive and easy to administer. You can survey different people for different purposes. Whatever you do, explain why you’re conducting a survey and how you’ll use the data you capture, and assure supporters their responses will be kept confidential.

One of the biggest mistakes people are guilty of when it comes to developing a survey is they make it too long. People just don’t have the time—and you’ll deter them from completing it if it takes longer than 20 minutes (and even that can seem too long).

Surveys help you learn more about your supporters and can also be used to:

  • Identify donor’s level of satisfaction, trust and engagement with your organization
  • Determine how much your supporters know about you
  • Help guide the content of your future appeals and communications strategies based on responses
  • Build donor loyalty
  • Gauge volunteer satisfaction
  • Determine their level of satisfaction with a special event they attended

What's in it for you?

By asking your supporters to complete your survey, you make them feel like their input matters and that they play a larger role in helping your organization achieve its mission.

You can include questions about all aspects of your organization, from program and service delivery to donor trust and donor service. This will help you determine what issues are most important and also informs your future direct marketing appeals.

Surveys can help pinpoint areas you could be weak in, and also can help you determine how well you are doing in the eyes of your donors or volunteers.

Stay focused on what you want to achieve

When you’ve decided to go ahead with your survey, it’s important to identify what you want to accomplish. So you may want to focus by asking yourself the following:

  • Do you want to how your donors prefer to give? Why they give? Or why donors stop giving?
  • Have you implemented a new program you need feedback on?
  • How do your donors feel about your work? Do they give to other organizations?  
  • How do they want you to communicate with them? Phone? Mail? Online?

If you’re not sure how to create a survey, you can easily reach out to a reputable agency for help or look at one of the online survey tools such as Survey Monkey, Sogo Survey, or SurveyGizmo.

Online surveys are inexpensive and very easy to use. Reports are generated automatically, except in the case of open-ended questions (those questions requiring a responder to reply using their own words), which will require more analysis and tabulation. In some cases, you may also want to conduct your survey by phone or mail to get a higher response rate. By phone, the survey needs to be quite short, usually five to eight questions at most.

It’s also a good idea to include incentives, such as a random draw for survey participants to encourage higher participation rates. The bottom line here is that you should never assume to know how your supporters perceive your organization and the services you provide—unless you ask.

Alison Keys, president of Keys Direct Marketing and Communications, is recognized as a direct marketing strategist and communications expert. For nearly two decades, Keys Direct has provided high quality tele-fundraising, direct mail, e-marketing and consulting services to nonprofits. Alison serves as a mentor to Keys Direct staff as well as a hands-on partner with the agency’s clients. Contact Alison at

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List