Sup­port­er sur­veys: what do your sup­port­ers real­ly think?, part 2

Written by
Jonathon Grapsas
June 25, 2012

Part 2: how to do it – Now I’ll move on to focus on the five key steps to developing an effective donor survey.

Step 1

Ensure everyone within your organisation understands and supports the reasons behind the survey. If they aren't sure or are unconvinced ­­– refer them to part one of this article.

This is incredibly important. Like anything you do, if the people behind it don't agree with what you're doing, the whole thing can fail.

The survey is being done for genuinely good reasons. It will help you get closer to your donors, which in turns will help your donors to get closer to your beneficiaries (the people or cause that you help).

It’s a good idea to ensure that colleagues understand that your survey is not a one-off; that it is an annual supporter survey, to be rolled out year on year. This will allow you to monitor changes in donor attitudes, update crucial information and continue to support other fundraising efforts such as your legacy (bequest) programme. Some of my clients have run four or five annual surveys and they continue to get the same level of response, or even higher, year after year.

Step 2

Develop well-thought through, strategic questions.

This can be a time-consuming and frustrating part of the process because once people are involved they all want their 20 cents worth. People from all across the organisation may want their say about what questions donors should be asked. This could make it hard for you to stay focused.

You need to be incredibly disciplined when discussing potential questions. A simple rule is to ask yourself and your colleagues whether the answer to the questions is going to be ‘just interesting’, or ‘can I use this information in some way?’

I'm not suggesting that you can’t include ‘filler’ questions that deliver ‘just interesting’, but I would limit them to no more than 20 per cent of your questions. An example of a filler question is asking someone what other charities they support. I’ve yet to see a charity actually get any real use out of this question, but everyone finds it – you guessed it – interesting.

You want to ask questions that uncover motivations for support, specific areas of interest, whether someone has a particular association with your cause, what they really think about your performance You should avoid bureaucratic, internally driven questions and make sure you are focusing on your supporters and not on your organisation.

I'll talk more about how to use this information in part three.

Step 3

Make it look and feel like an appeal mailing. In other words, use all the things that work when you send an appeal/renewal mailing. Long and engaging letter, strong copy, a real story (case study), a clear message repeated throughout the letter and a deadline (return date for the survey).

By testing these things you can work out what will work best to encourage the most donors to respond to your survey. I'd also encourage you to test other tactics like the inclusion of images in the design of the survey and the layout and structure of the questions.

Step 4

Ask for a cash/one off donation as well as asking your supporters to fill in the survey.

Think of sending a survey like sending an appeal. You’re helping bring donors closer to your work by allowing them to help you help your beneficiaries.

For this reason, asking them to contribute with a gift as well as their opinions will help you have an even greater impact. It’s particularly important that you explain very clearly why you’re asking them to do both and the rationale must be clear.

We want them to fill in the survey as it allows us to understand more about them, talk to them on a more personal leave and helps us to find more people like them. Ultimately that will have more impact on our work. We want them to make a donation as this will also benefit our work. This must be explained with brilliant and compelling copy throughout the letter accompanying the survey.

With my clients, I have tested the inclusion of a cash ask within surveys and it doesn't suppress response to the survey. However, you will need to ask in an appropriate way. And ensure that there is a corresponding ask in the letter, as well as in the survey.

I'll talk about whom to send the survey to in part three.

Step 5

Promise to give feedback, and make sure you do.

In the covering letter, as well as being really clear about why you are asking your donors to complete the survey, let them know that you will report on some of the findings. Give an approximate date by which you will send them the update. And then make sure you do it.

This feedback can be a donor care letter, that is, a non-ask/feedback letter, or can be given in your next newsletter.

The main thing is to promise the feedback and then give it. Generally, you should aim to do this within two to three months of the survey being sent.

If you follow the next five key steps you're well on your way to producing an inspiring, useful and effective donor engagement and fundraising tool.

About the author: Jonathon Grapsas

Jonathon Grapsas is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes, with a particular bias toward digital and direct response. Jonathon has spent the last decade working with charities all around the world. Initially in the UK, and more recently in Canada and his native Australia.

Related case studies or articles

Supporter surveys: what do your supporters really think?, part 1

The first part of a three-part analysis of the benefits of annual supporter surveys.

Read more

Supporter surveys: what do your supporters really think?, part 3

The final part of a three-part analysis of the benefits of annual supporter surveys.

Read more

Also in Categories