Can donor surveys really help you raise more money? Yes! Donor surveys are one of the most affordable ways to improve donor retention, build deeper donor relationships, even uncover planned gifts. How? Donor surveys can reveal your hidden gems (aka planned gifts), tell you why your donors gave, what content they’re most interested in, what programs, services, and/or beneficiaries they care about, and what they most want to support. Done correctly donor surveys can upgrade donors and boost retention. Done poorly and you can end up frustrating your donors, having them lapse, and mountains of useless and misleading data.
If donor surveys were easy more nonprofits would be doing them. Think about how often you’re invited to take a survey by the corporate brands you use. You can’t buy a t-shirt at the Gap without being invited to take a survey! When it comes to winning at donor surveys you need to put as much thought into WHAT you ask as HOW you ask it.
Ready to do a survey? First, ask yourself…
- What’s the goal? Why are you doing it? What do you want to learn? i.e. Why they give? What programs do they care about? If we’re showing our appreciation of our donors properly? Are we talking about our services appropriately?
- Who will you survey? Current donors? Lapsed donors? First-time donors? Major donors? Event attendees? Event non-attendees? Volunteers?
- How will you ask? What platform will you use to ask? How will you process the results? Who will do the work? How will you share the results? How will you record the results in your donor database to better serve your donors (event attendees, volunteers etc)? How will you follow up with people who participated in your survey?
The 5 Costliest Mistakes Made in Donor Surveys (and How to Avoid them)
Asking donors preferences when you aren’t ready to honor them
Nothing could be more detrimental to your donor’s satisfaction than asking them to take their valuable time to indicate their preferences (be it communication preferences or other) and you not fulfilling it. Bottom line: if you are not ready to segment based on your donor’s wishes do not ask. Wait until you can honor their preferences and then survey them.
Not having well thought out questions properly worded and tested
What are you asking? That depends on what you want to know. Do you want to know…why your donors give? How to better engage your donors? How you are doing at showing appreciation of our donors? If you are talking about your services appropriately? What you ask also depends a great deal on your audience. A survey of multi-year donors is very different than a survey of 1st-time donors. A post-event survey is very different than a lapsed donor survey.
How you ask your questions will dramatically impact the success or failure of your survey. Are the questions easy to understand? Are the answers mutually exclusive? Are you asking a manageable amount of open-ended questions and do you have the staff resources to process the answers?
Bad subject lines
One of the most important parts of an online donor survey isn’t a question at all. It’s the subject line. If they aren’t inspired to open the email they’ll never take the survey. What email subject lines in your inbox inspire you to take a survey?
Not being prepared to handle responses and do follow up
If you don’t have the staff resources to follow up on responses and leads you aren’t ready to do a survey!
Not being prepared to input what you learn into your donor database
The greatest gift we can give our donors is the gift of being known by us. You took the time to ask. Your donors took the time to respond. Input their feedback results into your donor database and use it to segment your communications and personalize your communications so you can deepen the donor relationship.
Ready to donor survey like a pro? Join Rachel Muir, CFRE and Lynne Wester, The Donor Relations Guru for a 3-part donor survey course loaded with survey guides, templates, tested techniques, sample surveys, and tear-down sessions teaching you how to ask THE RIGHT survey questions the RIGHT way. Learn more at https://www.donorrelationsguru.com/surveycourse
Guest Author: Rachel Muir, CFRE
Rachel has worked every side of the Rubik’s cube that is the nonprofit sector. When she was 26 Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit empowering girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Her career spans running successful nonprofits, leading an online fundraising consulting practice and managing major gift portfolios. Today Rachel delivers keynotes, custom trainings and board retreats that transform people into confident, successful fundraisers. Learn more about Rachel at www.rachelmuir.com