Using a Donor Survey to Better Understand Your Audience
by Mike Montalto
September 12, 2019

This isn’t one of those posts about the latest, greatest thing in fundraising. If you work at a nonprofit, you already know a donor survey is an important tool for gathering feedback on several aspects of your organization.

But it takes a lot more than writing a few arbitrary questions and sending out an email blast to get a better understanding of your audience.

When planned, researched, and executed effectively, a donor survey can be one of the most important tools nonprofits use for building better communications. Developing strong donor relationships is the first step in generating long-term success, which is why collecting data from your target audience is critical.

But in order to fully take advantage of the data points you garner from your survey, you will need a donor management system that can organize the information and that works for your organization’s specific needs.

Keep your donor surveys short and fun by asking no more than three questions

Donor Surveys Can’t Be Work

First things first, filling out a donor survey needs to be fast, easy, and enjoyable for your audience.

Your donors will be doing you a huge favor by answering your questions. Their answers will teach you about the motivations, preferences, and concerns of your donor base. Everything you learn can be used to help you communicate more effectively in the future.

So, don’t slam your recipients with a long list of questions asking them how strongly they agree or disagree with a statement.

Keeping your donor survey short is essential. So, we recommend asking no more than three questions anytime you reach out. It should take your donor less than a minute to answer everything.

Questions with open-ended answers allow donors to tell you what they really think. This is more engaging for the donor and gives you more insightful information than multiple choice.

Finally, be sure to thank your donors for taking 30 seconds to provide you with their valuable feedback. Then, let them know how their answers will help your organization come up with more effective ways to make a difference.

Coming Up with Questions

We can’t share a list of the “top 5 donor survey questions for nonprofits.”

Every organization is unique in so many ways. No two are facing a challenge with a universal solution. So, donor preferences vary and can’t calculated into a formula or boilerplate template.

The questions you need to ask will come from within. Think about the challenges your nonprofit is facing. Or, look into your data to identify areas of improvement.

For example, let’s say your organization is struggling to retain monthly donors after the first year. Ask donors if there was a particular reason they decided not to continue supporting the program!

But don’t make all the questions about you and your organization. Ask your donors things like if they enjoy receiving your print appeal or would rather go paperless.

Be transparent and let them know you’re asking these questions so you can improve their experience.

Segmenting your audience will help make your donor survey questions feel more personal and relevant.

Different Donors, Different Questions

It might have clicked while reading the last section that a great question for one donor may not be relevant for another. Failing to segment your audiences can create a disconnect for your donors.

Take the monthly giving question above. If a donor was never enrolled in monthly giving, this question would be extremely confusing on a donor survey.

“Wait, did I sign up for monthly giving?” can quickly turn into “What organization is this from again?”

These are not signs of a strong donor/organization relationship!

All of your communications should strive to be personal and relevant. Your donor survey is no exception. So, it’s important to look at your audience segments and come up with unique questions for each group.

For example, you can create a new donor survey to learn more about your acquisition process, and a major donor survey to find similarities among your most valuable supporters. Send a separate survey to recaptured LYBUNTs to find out why they renewed their gift, and use another to follow up after your events.

Make It Personal

Want to take personalization to the next level with your donor surveys? You can set up an email campaign so gathering feedback doesn’t feel like a survey at all!

Ditch the fancy layouts, image heavy design, and branded fonts. Instead, send a plain text email from someone the donor is familiar with and ask one straight forward question.

An email that feels like it was typed moments before it was sent and asks a specific donor for their help by answering a quick question creates a deeply personal experience.

It takes your approach to a one-on-one level and shows the donor they are valued.

When donors feel important, they will take the time to write a meaningful response to your question. It’s a win-win for your nonprofit. Not only are you gaining valuable information, but you’re also building the relationship between the donor and your organization.

With this approach, it is important to set up a reply email with a quick line thanking the donor for their feedback. Saying you value their opinion is one thing, but you also need to let donors know that you’ve heard them!

Like what you see? Stay in touch!