Article Photo How to Use Online Surveys at Your Nonprofit Surveys can help you measure impact, gain new insights, and even assess your board Vivek Bhaskaran - August 27, 2018 It's important to find tools that will enable you to measure your nonprofit's success, and online surveying can help you do just that. Learn how mission-driven organizations can use online surveys to remove the ambiguity about what their constituents need and how they can more efficiently run their organization. CHECK OUT QUESTIONPROSurveys Measure AttitudesWe can think of data as falling into two categories: the way people think, and the way people act. Surveying helps capture the first category: understanding what people think. That information can also sometimes help you to understand why people behave in a certain way. Anytime you have a "why" question about your organization and how people interact with it, a survey can enable you to answer that question.The big idea behind running a survey is to collect data, and then turn that data into content and action. In this way, you are using data to make informed decisions.Assess Your Impact with SurveysNonprofits don't rely on the same financial and operational metrics that are typical of commercial organizations. And therefore, they face a unique challenge in determining which data to use to guide their strategy. Surveys can serve as a way for nonprofits to determine how they're doing.There are many different types of surveys, including competitive analysis, brand awareness, and customer satisfaction. When thinking about which survey type to use, remember that survey use for nonprofits is all about measuring impact.Two Types of Data CollectionIn research, there are two broad models for collecting data: quantitative (numbers-based) and qualitative (descriptive). Both of these elements can give you insight and can be used within the same survey, but it's important to make sure you're analyzing them as separate entities.An added benefit of qualitative methods is that you can use open-ended questions to address things you may not have specifically asked about. For example, you can add a question like, "Tell us something we haven't asked you, but you have thoughts on." Adding this question to a survey is a way of allowing the survey taker to give you information you didn't know you needed.Choose from a Variety of Types of Questions to Get New InsightsWithin the QuestionPro platform, there are many different question types to choose from. Build a survey to help you answer the topics you are researching. It's important to ask questions that elicit a response that requires survey takers to think about their experience before answering. For instance, asking, "How satisfied are you?" versus "Are you satisfied?" can encourage a longer and more insightful response.Many survey platforms offer survey templates or question libraries that give you predefined questions to work off of when making your survey.Make Sure Your Brand Is Carried ThroughIt's important to bring your brand into surveys by customizing its themes and your logos, and (if applicable) your services. Surveys represent your brand, so it's crucial to incorporate customization tools to ensure consistency. Branding can also increase your response rates.Surveys Are a Versatile ToolThe spectrum of questions that you can answer with surveys is extremely large. You can measure employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, or how well any program is functioning. For example, you could use a survey to measure the quality of experience your volunteers are having.It's important to not be limited by a traditional idea of what surveys can be used for. For example, they can be used as a mechanism to validate some piece of data that was already known (but perhaps not completely accepted by the entire organization). Or, they can validate something that you have a hunch about.Use Satisfaction Data to Show Trends over TimeTo measure success at a nonprofit, we can employ a variety of approaches to address the goals we hope to achieve. The first of these methods is measuring program satisfaction. Simply put, satisfaction measurement is done by asking folks what they think about the work or programs that are being delivered by your organization.It's helpful to create a template survey that can be used numerous times. For example, if you host a series of programs, you can modify the survey based on the specific instance of the event and send it out to participants following each one.By repeating a survey that you've standardized, satisfaction measurement can give you longitudinal data so you can see how success is changing over time. Some questions you can answer with longitudinal satisfaction data includeAre we getting better at this program?Are we doing it frequently enough?If people are less satisfied over time, why?This tool can also be used for post-grant reports and proposals. When funders ask about your goals, you can easily use satisfaction as a benchmark for success from one year to the next.Let Pre- and Post-Tests Help Tell the Story of Your SuccessPre- and post-tests help you determine whether people learn new things over time. The idea behind pre- and post-tests is to give participants the same assessment before and after participating in a program to measure the growth of their knowledge. These tests enable the survey takers, the organization, and anyone who is interested in the progress of the organization to see what kind of growth happens as a result of certain efforts.You can also use a pre- and post-test to measure impact even outside the survey respondents' immediate involvement with your organization. For example, you can give an assessment immediately following completion of a program. And then, you can follow up with the individuals several years later to continue to determine how that program may have benefited them over time.Using pre- and post-tests provides you with powerful information about your impact, and this makes an immediate impression on people who are interested in your work. When you're seeking support or engagement from data-driven people, providing them with this information helps them to understand very quickly that you are effective at what you do.Use Demographic and Evaluation Surveys to Engage People and Improve Your BoardEngaging your board can be a challenge. Here are a few ways to not only engage your organization's board, but also to better assess your board for recruitment and effectiveness.Use quick demographic and simple evaluation surveys to get useful data from your board without taking much of their time.Within QuestionPro, the Board Matrix can be an excellent way to track information about your board and its development. Think of it as an inventory to analyze your current board. You can keep all kinds of helpful information within the matrix, including demographics, experience, and connections to the community.By creating a list of all the known attributes from board members, you can use QuestionPro to aggregate the data to create a summary. That way, you can quickly assess and understand where the gaps are and use that information in board recruitment. CHECK OUT QUESTIONPROAdditional Resources: Surveying for NonprofitsThese insights were featured in a free webinar recently hosted by TechSoup. If you'd like more information, including additional examples, watch the recorded webinar.Check out our article on Tools to Collect and Analyze Field Data. (Please note that QuestionPro is now available to nonprofits through TechSoup.)Learn about the methods that support Program Evaluation for Foundations. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.