Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity.

Today’s question comes from a fundraiser whose boss wants them to do a donor survey, but they aren’t sure where to start or what to ask.

Dear Charity Clairity,

My boss wants us to do a donor survey, but I’m not a survey expert. And my technology skills aren’t the best. Where do I start? What questions should I ask?

— In the dark

Dear In the dark,

It’s actually pretty easy to conduct a survey these days using off-the-shelf software such as the always-free Google Forms or the free versions of Survey Monkey and Typeform. You can pay a little more to customize your survey and be able to see more responses (e.g., $25 – $32/month, $35/month, respectively – at least the last time I looked). Here’s a useful article comparing Survey Monkey and Google Forms. And here’s another useful article comparing all three. You can also check out 10 top survey platforms here that range in price, though you can try most of them out for free.

And if you use Bloomerang, you’ve got a built-in survey tool!

The point is that it’s simple, and you can get going right away without any training.

When it comes to asking questions, you’ll want to limit yourself to increase your completion rate. I recommend no more than 10 questions, and you’re better off with 3 – 6. Keep them brief. Multiple choice and/or questions that ask people to rate their answers on a numerical scale are the easiest to score and track. If you’re going to ask for qualitative feedback, be prepared to spend more time evaluating the results. Here are some useful questions:

  • How did you hear about [name of your organization]? (Multiple choice: website search, social media, advertisement, print publication, word of mouth, mailing, other)
  • Which program is of greatest interest to you? (Multiple choice options)
  • To what extent does our mission (vision, work) reflect your personal beliefs? (Rank: 1 not at all; 2 somewhat; 3 moderately 4 very much 5 extremely)
  • Why do you give or volunteer with [name of your organization]? (Blank: Useful if you want testimonials; Also gives you a sense of what values your constituents resonate with so you can put these front and center in your communications)
  • What could we do better? (Blank: Makes constituents feel you care about more than just their money; Be sure to follow up individually, as appropriate)

Grab some other options here and here. See some examples here.

Remember, supporters expect you to remember what they told you!  This means you need to enter their responses into your database so you can search on the data, as appropriate.  For example, you may want to sort on everyone who prefers to be contacted online vs. by mail vs. via text.  Then segment your communications accordingly. If you can’t do this, there’s no point in asking donors their communication preference. The same holds true with area of interest. If someone tells you they’re more interested in cats than dogs, and you then send them email all about dogs, they’ll naturally conclude you aren’t listening.

Hopefully these tips will help you come into the light when it comes to getting important, useful constituent feedback!

Charity Clairity

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Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.
Claire Axelrad