Asking the Right Questions

Asking the Right Questions

By Valerie Romack, Assistant Editor

An Introduction to Surveys

What a member wants, what a member needs, whatever makes them happy sets you free… Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you there. Please forgive my singing. I was just thinking about how members shape the goals of our organizations and guide them into the future. Wouldn’t it be great to know what they want from their membership? Wouldn’t you like to know what they like about you?

The easiest way to find out what your members want is to conduct a survey. ֱ Consulting Services has the experience and expertise to help you create advanced surveys and detailed assessments, but here are just a few tips to help you get started.

Before you ask questions to others, you should ask yourself the following:

  • What tool should I use to create the survey?
  • Who is my survey audience?
  • What do I want to learn from them?
  • How long can we hold their attention to complete a survey?
  • How will the survey be sent and how easy will it be to complete from any device?
  • How will I use the survey results?

Choose Your Tool

There are so many website tools you can use to format and submit a survey. Here are the top 5 survey creation tools according to :

Survey Monkey offers a free version that allows you to send up to 10 questions to a group of 100 or fewer respondents. You can pay a monthly or yearly subscription to unlock more advanced features, such as unlimited questions and respondents, template customization, and data exporting.

This free tool allows for unlimited questions and several ways to personalize your survey to each survey taker. If you’d like a few more capabilities, choose the $25-per-month Pro version.

Google has provided this completely free tool out of the goodness of their hearts. You can add images and videos and even embed the survey into a webpage or e-mail.

This tool only offers monthly subscriptions and limits your respondents, but gives you more advanced data analysis and allows you to capture user testimonials to use on your website.

The free version of this tool limits your questions and respondents, but the monthly subscription removes those limits and lets you go nuts with the customization. It even allows users to take the survey offline.

Select Your Audience

Now that you’ve chosen your tool, it’s time to choose your audience. Who do you want to hear from? You can send it to all members if you’d like to make a change in your organization that involves all members. Alternatively, you could choose a smaller sample if the results of the survey will only affect a concentrated group, such as members of a special interest group.

ֱ Survey questions to ask

Write Your Questions

You have your tool and your audience. Now you need to think about what you want to learn from respondents. Do you want to find out what their favorite conference session is? Do you need to know if they’re satisfied with the amount of products you offer? Would you like to learn how involved they are in their local chapters and communities?

Once you’ve figured out a goal for your survey, you can form questions around that goal. Let’s say you’d like to know which columns of your newsletter are of the most interest to your members. Your survey should start by asking respondents about their background and current occupation to see how their environment and experience influences what they like to read. Then, your survey can ask how readers feel about specific columns and topics that the newsletter includes or should include.

You can use multiple-choice questions to narrow the results or open-ended questions to allow users to respond however they choose. The recommended practice is to use multiple-choice for most questions and leave only questions asking for opinions as open-ended. For example:

Multiple-Choice Question:

What is your occupation?
A. Hospice Nurse
B. Neonatal Nurse
C. Neuroscience Nurse
D. Rehabilitation Nurse
E. Transplant Nurse

Open-Ended Question:

Is there a topic you’d like to see in roundtable discussions at conference?

Set Limits on Your Survey

So you’ve written up some questions, but you’re not sure how willing your audience will be to respond. Some tools like Survey Monkey allow you to decide which questions are mandatory to answer and which are optional. It’s a best practice to not make every question mandatory. The only questions that should be required are those that you need specifically to collect data. Think about which ones your readers are sure to answer, like how many years of experience they have or if they attended conference. Other questions that might be more personal can be optional. The last thing you want to do is make anyone uncomfortable or feel that your organization wants to control the survey results.

Also consider how long your audience will be willing to spend on the survey. Suggested length for a survey is no more than 20 questions. However, having too short of a survey can render the results ineffective. If you only write a few (less than five) questions, you might miss out on collecting significant data about your audience.

Once everything is set and before you send it, you might want to have it proofed and tested to make sure it is user-friendly and typo-free.
The final step in your creation of the survey is to set a deadline for users to respond in a timely manner. Much like your cat escaping out of your back door, if you let a survey out with no boundaries, you may never find it again as it wanders aimlessly in the wilderness. You can set a time limit in your survey creation tool and then ask users to respond by that date and time.

Send Your Survey

Now you’re ready to unleash your survey. It’s important to let your audience know that you care about their opinions and want to better their experience with improvements to your organization. Any incentive to take the survey helps, too (e.g., offering a gift card or other prize to a random survey participant).

You can send your survey in an e-mail or post a link on your website. Most survey tools include an e-blast feature that will allow you to send to an e-mail list that you upload. Send your survey out with a welcoming message to encourage participants, then wait for the results.

ֱ Survey3

Collect the Results

Once the allotted time for your survey has ended, you can reenter the survey tool and view the results. As mentioned before, some tools have more options for data analysis than others. Some will allow you to filter results based on specific answers or user types.

So, what do you do with all of these data? That depends on what you expected from the results. For instance, if your goal was to eliminate whichever newsletter column members find least useful, then the answer is easy to find. If your goal was to create more products, then see what topics or product types your members were asking for in the survey that your organization doesn’t provide. If you don’t offer webinars, but your members want to see webinars, then creating webinars will show your commitment to keeping your members engaged in your organization.

Learning what your members think about your organization and what you have to offer is the key to member retention and recruitment. It is important to show them that you care and are willing to make changes for them. It is true that whatever makes members happy sets you free. All you have to do is ask the right questions.

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