If we’re going to ask people for money, it sure helps if they think highly of both our organization and its mission.
Methods to learn the opinions and impressions donors have of your organization can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet.
When conducting a donor satisfaction and donor interest evaluation, I think a few suggestions on how to collect data are in order:
Questionnaires are a good way to collect a lot of information quickly. Unsigned questionnaires guarantee anonymity. They are easy to manage, and multiple-choice responses can be easy to quantify. But you have to be careful not to write questions that bias responses. Questionnaires lack a personal touch, and both survey design and sample selection require a high level of expertise. At the very least, a professional should be involved in the creation of the questions.
Focus groups give you a chance to explore issues in depth with donors. Putting six or seven contributors in a room with a video camera running and asking questions of the group as a whole can yield valuable information. However, it is sometimes tough to get people to commit to giving the time and showing up when expected. The group facilitator needs to be able to establish instant comfort for participants and keep them both engaged and on track. You will probably need a professional communicator as group facilitator. Focus groups should be scheduled on a continuing basis to establish benchmarks and measure change. Since the responses are freeform, it can be hard to analyze results, and that analysis can be quite time consuming.
Interviews give you a chance to talk with donors one-on-one. They can yield some great information due to the give-and-take of the conversational process. However, the interview process is time consuming. The information acquired is often anecdotal in nature and can be very hard to quantify. It is easy for a less skillful interviewer to bias responses unintentionally.
First, take a hard look at what you want to learn and about the uses to which you intend to put the donors’ responses. Although some questions are “standard,” you will be more productive if you develop a survey tailored to your organization’s specific need. Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of other information gathering methods is used, donor survey planning must take into account:
Size and make up of the donor base to be surveyed.
Use or adapt those of relevance and importance to your organization and the survey method.
Next week, read about Acting on your Survey Findings .
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