Online Survey Research: 10 Best Practices

Created by Yodelpop Team

online-survey-research-10-best-practicesSurvey research is a valuable tool in your nonprofit marketing plan that can impact your organization’s future. It provides you with a window to the soul of your target market. And when done right, it can strengthen the relationship you have with your audience.

Tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms have made it possible—even easy—to get instant feedback from the people you care about. No matter what field you’re in, surveys can help you see into the minds and hearts of the people who keep your organization alive.

That said, there are challenges to overcome in creating a successful online survey—for one, getting enough responses to make the resulting data meaningful. It's no surprise that few people actually enjoy taking surveys. But they'll take your survey if they like you. And it’s your job to make sure they do.

Here are 10 best practices to show your survey recipients that your heart's in the right place and that they should take the time to participate: 

1. Motivate your audience to take your survey.

Why are you conducting the survey to begin with? Will it result in better or new programming? Will you provide better products and services? Will you put your customer service department through rigorous professional development training? Tell your audience what you plan to do with their answers. What’s in it for them?

2. Identify your goals.

What is it you hope to gain from your results? What do you want to know? Goals should be specific and quantifiable. For example, you might want to know how many people had a positive interaction with your customer service department in the last three months. Or the average rating of customer satisfaction in the last three months.

3. Write survey questions that will help you achieve your goals.

No, this doesn’t mean write tricky questions to make people think they were highly satisfied. Instead, write questions that will give you measurable results. If you want an average, you’ll need to use a rating scale. If you want to know the percentage of people who had a positive experience, use multiple choice or “yes or no”-style questions.

4. Write questions that your audience will understand.

The average American adult has an eighth- to ninth-grade reading level. Write short, straightforward questions, not ambiguous or complicated ones. Spell things out instead of using acronyms. Define terms that are unique to your organization. People should be able to easily understand what you’re asking. And ask one thing at a time.

5. Design questions that are easy for your audience to answer.

For example, it may be hard for them to remember exactly how many times they ordered from you in the last three months. Instead, let them select a range (e.g. 0-3, 4-7, 8-10, more than 10). Taking the pressure off will make participants more likely to respond.

6. Make each response unique, but present all of them in a uniform way.

Make sure none of the responses overlap. Keep units of measurement (time, money, etc.) the same. Your participants should be able to read your questions and select an answer with ease.

7. Make sure each response is relevant.

Don’t give participants choices that have nothing to do with what is being asked. Only ask questions that will help you meet your objectives. Don’t get personal unless you have to.

8. Keep your questions (and entire survey) short and sweet.

Don’t make anything overly complicated—including your layout. Group similar questions together. Use headings where appropriate. Provide participants with clear directions.

9. Brand your survey, but not too much.

Add your logo on the first page, and consider using one of your brand colors as the border, but don’t go nuts with design. The purpose of your survey is to collect information. Too much branding can make participants feel like they’re being marketed to.

10. Test it.

Use a small test group to test your survey. Give them the survey, then look at the results: do they provide the information you needed? Then, give your test participants a survey about the survey! Did they understand the questions? Was the survey too long? Was it too wordy? Did every question serve a purpose? Revise as needed and try again until you’re confident you’ve got a masterpiece.

Remember, when people take time to fill out your survey, they like you. Keep strengthening your relationship with your target market. Prove to participants that the time they took to fill out your survey was worth it. Deliver on those motivational promises you made.