Insights On Member Surveys and Feedback Loops

Farhad Chikhliwala 11 March 2015 0 comments

Wondering why more people didn't show up to your last luncheon? Do you know what your members think of your board’s recent initiatives? How are you gaining feedback from your members?

To ensure you provide member value or meet your mission, your non-profit, association or club needs to know what your members or stakeholders are thinking and feeling. Collecting feedback from them offers critical information on their experiences and expectations – information you need to develop or fine-tune programs and services and to set organizational goals.

Conducting surveys and collecting feedback can...

  • Offer stakeholders an easy way to express their thoughts and feelings

  • Demonstrate that you are listening to your members/supporters

  • Provide opportunities to make changes to re-engage members/supporters

One of our Small Membership Advisory Community sessions (discussion forums that connect people in similar roles, facing similar obstacles) provided some useful insights on the power of gaining feedback as well as examples of some of the methods our Advisory members are employing to poll their members.

As one Advisory Community member noted:

“I think it's critical that we try to get feedback from our key stakeholders to help us direct our efforts and prioritize our goals. I need to know what the people I'm working with want, and it's not just my goals, but it's our goals. So that's important to me.”

Our contributor’s ideas have helped them learn more about what their members and stakeholders are thinking, which, in turn, has allowed them to make changes to help increase member engagement and retention. So we thought we’d share some highlights of the suggestions and examples offered by Advisory Community members.

Feedback methods:

Methods of gaining feedback differ wildly, but here are some methods that have worked for our Advisory Community:

  1. Online surveys:  Online surveys are a quick and easy way for your members and stakeholders to provide immediate feedback. They are inexpensive, quick to create and offer various ways to reach your audience. Your online survey can be accessed via links sent through emails and newsletters, or shared through social media. Some online survey systems also provide fairly thorough analytical and reporting tools that will come in handy when trying to decipher and present the responses you collect.

One Advisory Member uses SurveyMonkey; a popular online survey tool that works well for basic surveying. It offers many different types of questions (multiple choice, open-ended, scale based etc.) and multiple reporting and analysis tools. SurveyMonkey allows you to create and send out your survey, and analyze its results all in one place. There are some limitations (notably limits on the number of questions) in the free version of the software. However, the paid versions have premium features like text analysis for open ended answers, question randomization and  advanced reporting tools.

If you're just starting out with online surveys, have a look at our article on Getting Started with Online Surveys

  1. Man on the street: Your budget may be limited, but cost doesn’t have to play a limiting factor – just getting out there and having a conversation with members or supporters can be incredibly useful. One Advisory Member said she sends her Board Members out to mingle during events with instructions to ask members about their experiences and expectations. This informal technique allows them to get a good feel of the room and sense of how their members are feeling. Don’t forget to debrief your Board Members to find out what they've learned, and capture useful feedback, ideas and questions.

  1. Paper/manual: It may seem “old-school”, but creating a survey in Microsoft Word and handing out a printed version to a small group can be very cost effective. Many of our Advisory members have used this method for gathering feedback after small scale events or training sessions. Some things to keep in mind when designing your survey:

    • have a clear layout that’s easy to interpret
    • use multiple choice or scale-based questions
    • make it short enough to get filled out in a few minutes
    • allow for easy collection and analysis

What are your membership peers surveying? Examples of surveys in use:

This particular Advisory Session offered up many ideas from our community on how they've successfully gathered feedback.

One member sent out a survey to gauge the reaction of a potential membership rate hike, she noted:

“It was very simple and very direct. It was – “we'd like to increase membership from $25 for a single person and $25 to $30 for dual membership.” That was it. We also did mention in it that we hadn't had a price increase since 1985, and according to inflation our memberships should be $45 at least. So we thought it was a good value. Basically, very short and very sweet.”

Another member distributed a survey after an annual general meeting:

“we have an annual meeting every year and there's a survey that asks the delegates how they liked the speakers, the content?, did they like the facilities?, that kind of thing.”

One organization used surveys to measure their organization’s awareness in their community:

“We have done surveys having college students go out and just survey on random street corners to see the awareness of our organization, which has been really interesting because we're finding people are more aware in places we thought they wouldn't be aware, and less aware where we thought they already were aware.”

What methods are you using to survey your members or supporters? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional resources:

Getting Started with Online Surveys (Wild Apricot)
Online Surveys - Tips and Tools (Wild Apricot) 
8 Tips for an Effective Online Survey (Wild Apricot)
Need Answers? Try an Online Survey (Wild Apricot)

Image source: Online Survey Laptop Clipboard Concept - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com


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Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot] Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot]

Posted by Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 11 March 2015 at 8:30 AM

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