Donor Surveys: Worth it? You Decide
Donor segmentation will help you effectively raise more money — but how do you organize and segment your donors in order to do so?
While you can ask for information and feedback on donor forms, this added step can actually negatively impact conversion rates. That is why donor surveys are a practical approach but are they worth it?
Donor Surveys Offer a Plethora of Information
In 2017, Americans gave a generous $410 billion to charity. Considering approximately 69 percent of the population gives, it’s imperative to understand who these individuals are and why they support the organizations they give to.
You may have a well-established organization that is comfortable hosting events and recruiting board members. However, without your donors, you could not stay afloat.
Whether you are a fairly new organization or have been meeting with major donors for years, it’s imperative to understand that your donor members are changing all the time. This means the demographics of your average donor may also shift. The more you know about these donors, the better you can plan in regard to fundraising events and giving campaigns. After all, you’ll want to host events that have a true impact.
Learn Who They Are
By crafting up a simple survey, you can learn so much about who your donors are. The data you collect can then be used to build a “persona” profile, describing your average donor. That way, when you create campaigns, you can do so with these individuals in mind, speaking to your donors in a way that is much more meaningful.
In addition to learning about who your donors are, you can also learn vital information about why they give. It’s important to involve your donors, so that they feel as though their opinion is valued — and in most cases, they have very valuable things to say.
The last thing you want is for a donor to feel as though they’re in a one-sided relationship. If they feel as though they only interact with your organization to give, they will not be able to effectively communicate what is important to them. Donor surveys essentially bridge this gap, allowing to you learn about your donors, engage with your donors, and benefit from valuable input.
Bottom line: Donor surveys are an incredible tool that will allow you to collect data on, well, pretty much anything related to your donors. Whether you want to learn about your donors’ preferences or seek feedback about a recent event, all you need to do is ask!
Data Allows Organization to Survive and Thrive
There are few topics that are as hot as big data. After all, big data allows organizations and companies to examine a massive amount of information in order to extract patterns, insights, and correlations.
This means that the organizations who are able to leverage their data are the ones who benefit from more informed decision making and greater success. In terms of non-profit organizations, relationship building is key in terms of data collection. After all, relationships are the foundation for fundraising.
Once again, this is where donor surveys come into play. Data on donor demographics will only take you so far. To really optimize data-driven decision making, you need to know why your donors care, what they think about your organization, which mission they are most aligned with, and any other feedback they’d like to provide.
Create a Survey for You and Your Donors
Of course, donor surveys are beneficial because they provide you with greater insight. However, the benefits do not end there. While there are many reasons why you should create a donor survey, there are two core reasons why you should consider donor surveys.
As discussed above, donor surveys provide you with information that can help you maintain long-term success. If you learn how to better satisfy your donors, you can then implement strategies that will allow you to obtain more donors, as well as keep repeat donors.
You will begin to learn about donor motivations and triggers. By learning this information, you can then review and modify your website, change the type of language you use on your landing page, tweak your social media, adjust your newsletter, etc.
Whether you aim to better validate donation decisions or more effectively manage donor expectations, there is so much to learn — but this is just the beginning.
Donor surveys also provide immense value for your donors, creating a community of like-minded individuals who want to make a difference. A truly impactful survey will not ask for money. Instead, it should show that you care about your donors, as well as their opinions.
Fostering a sense of community will be critical when aiming to retain your supporters. This is where the concept of donor-centered fundraising comes from. A simple survey allows your donors to get involved and made their voices heard, which in turn, can help you create much more effective strategies — both in terms of raising money and making a real difference.
If You Think Your Organization Could Benefit From Donor Surveys, Here’s How to Get Started
Up until this point, you may have never considered donor surveys because between fundraising and event planning, there wasn’t enough time. After all, collecting and tracking data is one thing, but interpreting that data is a whole other step.
That is why you should invest in user-friendly, affordable online survey tools. These tools will simplify the survey process for both you and your donors.
Depending on your organization’s budget and size, there are hundreds of options as your disposal. Some of the most popular options to look into include:
- SurveyMonkey — There is a free and paid version of this tool, allowing you to customize based on your needs. As they say at SurveyMonkey, they get answers for 20 million questions daily. Learn more here.
- Google Forms — This is a great option for those who love to automate as many processes as possible. With Google Forms, all answers are automatically saved to a Google Sheet. Learn more here.
- Typeform — This option creates surveys that are sleek and elegant. Typeform also offers unlimited questions and free data export. Learn more here.
Questions and Mistakes to Avoid
When creating a donor survey, you must be mindful of each and every question. Remember, the goal here is to collect honest information that will help drive results. In that sense, be mindful of the following:
- Don’t ask leading questions — You don’t want to write questions that are misleading in any way. Swaying the reader’s mind frame can lead to bias answers, which don’t really benefit you.
- Don’t ask double-barreled questions — This means avoiding questions that could have two possible answers. For example, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our current monthly donation program and our end-of-year fundraising event?
- Avoid jargon — When asking any question, use words and phrases that your audience will understand.
At the end of the day, a survey must be easy to understand, fast, and even enjoyable. The key is to keep it short, asking only 2-4 targeted questions. You can provide space for your donors to leave more thorough feedback if they choose to. However, most donors should be able to wrap the survey up in a minute or so.
The Biggest Mistakes
In term of some of the most costliest mistakes, be mindful of the following to improve retention rates and obtain more loyal donors — which in turn, will lead to increases in funds raised.
- Do not ask your donors about their preferences if you will not be able to honor them. Meaning, if you are not ready to implement or fulfill something, do not ask about it. Unless you make it very clear that you’re seeking their opinion in relation to a potential future event or strategy.
- Be aware of the audience you’re speaking to, creating well-worded surveys. How you ask questions can dramatically impact overall success. Are you speaking to first-time donors or multi-year donors? Are you discussing an event after it’s occurred or an upcoming fundraising event? Regardless, all questions should be easy to understand and in some cases, the option to answer open-ended questions is appreciated (particularly those who would like to provide more detailed feedback based on their ideas or experiences).
- Do not spend time and money on surveys if you are not willing to learn from the data you obtain. If you are not willing to review your donors’ answers and enter their information into your donor database, then you are likely wasting everyone’s time. By obtaining information about your donors, you can then create various segments that allow you to develop more personalized donor relationships.
Types of Surveys and When to Send Them
As discussed above, donor surveys can be tailored to your organization’s specifications. The type of survey you send out will reflect the type of information you’d like to learn — and will also influence when those surveys are sent out.
In terms of timing, 30 percent of annual givings occur in the month of December and 10 percent of the year’s givings occur during the last three days of the year. Since people tend to be in a more giving mood, open to the concept of charity (and more importantly, they work that you’re doing to make a difference), depending on the information you’d like to obtain, this may be the time to send your survey.
The Big Three
Here are some examples, all of which can be tweaked to meet the needs of your organization:
- Post-donation surveys — Once your donors have sent a donation or have given a gift, this is the perfect time to ask them to fill out a survey. The goal here is to improve your campaigns and overall marketing approach, based on who your donor is and what it is they value. For example, you could ask your donors how they found you, what made them want to give, and what they’d like to see in the future.
- Post-event surveys —Fundraising events are critical to your organization’s success, especially when aiming to meet with donors face-to-face. Although the total amount raised at an event will be an indicator of success, donor surveys can also provide more data about the intangible benefits. Once an event has ended, wait a day or two and then ask the attendees about their experience. The goal here is to collect feedback about what they liked, what they’d potentially change, etc.
- Year-end surveys — Understanding how your year was is imperative to your nonprofit’s success. At the end of the year, a targeted survey can help you learn more about various areas of your nonprofit. This is a time to reflect, so ask donors what campaigns they enjoyed the most the past year, whether or not they are happy with the current relationship and level of communication, why they would like to see in the upcoming year, etc.
Are Donor Surveys For You?
Regardless of the type of organization you run, as long as you would like to attract and keep loyal donors, surveys will benefit you and your core objectives.
Higher donor retention will lead to more money raised! This is because a deeper donor relationship through surveys is the most affordable way to boost your fundraising efforts.
You can also use all of the information collected to create and develop more effective marketing plans. Now is the time to take a whole new approach, focusing on the donor’s needs and opinions rather than the needs of the organization.
After all, giving to a charity or non-profit organization is more than making a financial donation, it is about making a difference — and that is exactly what donors want to do. By working together, everyone will succeed. Build a community that openly shares ideas so that together, you can achieve great things. Make the end goal clear and then work as a team to make it happen.
After all, Kathy Calvin said it best, “Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.”