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Survey Questions to Uncover Your Donors’ Passions

survey questions

7 Welcome To Church Speeches For Your Next Event

People are besieged by surveys every day. When you buy a taco, your fast food worker asks you to take an online survey for the chance to win $500. If you order a pair of jeans, there is often a request to fill out a satisfaction survey tucked in with your purchase. The survey questions you ask your donors, though, can prove invaluable for you.

Surveys are an essential tool for cultivating and maintaining your relationships with donors. These surveys must be meaningful and well-crafted in order to elicit donor response. Your donors will be close to survey fatigue, which means your survey needs to get the information you need without being too time-consuming.

When creating a survey, you will need to use various question types that will give you basic information as well as insights into donor motives and barriers. Below are some of the categories that you should pursue.

Demographic Information From Survey Questions

All surveys must contain certain demographic information to be meaningful. You need to identify how different genders give as well as different age groups and income brackets. Your survey needs to lead with these questions before getting to the more in-depth questions.

You should ask the following:

  • Birthdate – Age matters. You need to know donations levels by age so you can fine-tune your generational pitches.
  • Gender – Donations vary by gender. For instance, wealthy women are more likely to contribute than wealthy men.
  • Geographical location – Geography and cultural differences go hand in hand.
  • Occupation – This information is key to appealing to new donors.
  • Income level – You may hesitate at this question. Consider its value versus its potential to offend.

Once you have this basic information, you can begin to dig deeper.

Organizational Involvement

A donor’s level of giving has been repeatedly tied to their level of organizational involvement. You are more likely to receive donations from those who volunteer time, attend your events and even read your newsletter. Questions on participation are essential to assessing your donor relationship health.

Consider asking the following:

  • Do you volunteer for our organization?
  • What was the last event of ours you attended?
  • Do you read our monthly newsletter/emails, etc.?
  • Did you volunteer for us in the past?

These questions only require brief answers and yet give you a view into the donor’s involvement level.

Donor Motivations Within Survey Questions

When trying to discover donor motivations, you may use a combination of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. You need to find out why they began their support and why they are continuing it. For instance, you can use the following:

What inspired you to support us? Check as many as apply.

a. Attending an event

b. Volunteering

c. Friend and family involvement

d. A passion for our ideas

e. Personal history

You may choose to follow up with an open-ended question such as ” Please explain your biggest reason for being a donor.” You can purposely keep the response box small to avoid overwhelming your donor.

Personal History of Donors

Fundraising specialists urge you to ask about personal experiences that lead to donation. Donors, they find, want to explain why they are drawn to your cause. Many have deeply personal reasons for participating. When you ask, “Did a personal experience lead you to donate to us?” you give them an outlet to express their emotions and feel valued for their participation. In this way, you help fulfill their needs, which is a part of any donor/recipient relationship.

Once you have this information, you will want to reference it in future communications with the donor if possible. These personal connections are invaluable to you both.

Satisfaction Level of Donors

The survey should also address barriers to giving. One excellent way to accomplish this goal is to inquire about donor satisfaction levels. You may want to address this issue through several types of questions. A few possibilities are:

How involved to you feel with our organization?

A. Very

B. Somewhat

C. Not much

Do you get enough information about how your donation helps our efforts?

What aspects of our organization are most satisfying to you?

Would you list ways you feel that we can improve our efforts?

By using a combination of multiple-choice questions, open-ended questions and even yes/no questions, you’ll get a better picture of your donors’ satisfaction levels, a key metric for any nonprofit’s success.

Organizational Improvement

Donors all have ideas about improving your organization, and they should be allowed to share them without feeling intimidated. A survey is an excellent way to encourage feedback, both negative and positive. You don’t want to simply ask, “What are we doing wrong?” You can include several questions that help you spot perceived weaknesses in how you operate.

One way is to encourage comparisons with other nonprofits. First, you can ask your donors, “What other charities do you support?” Then you ask some of the following:

Which nonprofit best uses your donations?

Could you list a few differences between our organization and your other choices?

You should also directly ask for feedback by including questions like the following:

What about our organization do you find most satisfying?

Where do you feel we most need to improve?

While some donors may skip these questions, the ones with real concerns will take the time and give you the truth – which is sometimes difficult to hear but necessary to evolve.

Future Plans

When you survey your donors, you are trying to find out whether they will remain donors and at what level they will be giving. It’s a good idea to ask about their future plans in a survey. That way, you have a sense of what revenue fluctuations to expect.

Once again, you can elicit this information by constructing several different types of questions. Here are some suggestions:

How likely are you to contribute to our organization in the next three months?

A. Very

B. Somewhat

C. Unlikely

If you do contribute, will the amount likely be:

a. Less than $100

B. Between $100-$500

C. Between $500 – $1000

D. More than $1000.

You should adjust the amounts depending on your survey’s purpose and audience.

Another helpful question is, “What would motivate you to raise your donation level?” This would be an open-ended question that can be answered briefly in the space allowed.


A subset of the “future plans” section would be asking for bequests. This section is extremely sensitive and would probably be asked of your larger donors only, if at all. Discussing someone else’s will is probably the most uncomfortable subject imaginable, but it can be quite important to your charity. If you decide to go for it, consider using some of the following questions:

Have you considered leaving charitable bequests in your will? If so, would you consider our organization as a recipient? If not, could you explain why?

When you ask this question, you may receive a few harsh answers, one being, “None of your business.” Still, nonprofits frequently benefit from these bequests, so it doesn’t hurt to gently pursue them, even if it’s through a donor survey.

Reward Your Survey Takers

You don’t have to give your donors a gift card for taking your survey, but you do need to make them feel good about donating their time. Be certain to thank them for everything they do for your organization and specifically for taking the survey.

You can make them feel further appreciated by giving a brief update at the survey’s end of what your organization has recently accomplished so that they can take ownership of your success. Share information like “In the last six months we have provided housing for 12 families and financial assistance for 200 more ” Then go on to say, “Your personal contributions have helped change these people’s lives, Thank you for your continued support.”

That type of information rewards donors for their empathy and also serves to raise their self-esteem. Plus, they deserve to know how much of a difference they’ve made.

Customization and Testing

To create an effective survey, you should reflect the mission of your particular nonprofit. So take these general questions and customize them for your needs. They will be most effective if you take the time to ask only for the data that you need and leave out any gratuitous inquiries. Make certain that the questions are easy to understand, grammatically correct and brief.

Once you have a draft of the survey, practice taking it yourself. Time your efforts and edit if the survey takes too long. Then have a friend or colleague take it and get their feedback as well. Only make the survey available to donors once you are sure it is perfect.

Once you’ve completed a donor survey or two, you’ll become expert at asking the questions that help you better operate your organization. You’ll also get a better sense of what motivates your donors. Armed with this information, you should be able to keep your donors happy while increasing your nonprofit’s donation revenue.

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