How to Create an Effective Donor Survey

Donor surveys are powerful, inexpensive fundraising and communication tools for charities of all sizes. A well-thought-out donor or member survey is particularly valuable for planned giving or legacy campaigns. Donor surveys are an excellent way to identify legacy prospects and expectants, while also helping you to reinforce your charity’s case for support.

Here’s how to create an effective donor survey

  1. Keep it short. Ask no more than 12 – 15 questions. Long surveys get low response rates.
  2. Consider paying for SurveyMonkey or another survey tool so that you are not limited by the number of questions and design options.
  3. Brand your survey with your charity’s brand colours and a beautiful, inspiring, mission-based image. The design of your survey is critical to connect supporters to your mission and vision.
  4. Don’t make questions compulsory. I feel that it can set a bad tone and may frustrate your donors, making them feel that they have no control. You will get some partially completed or anonymous surveys back, but that’s OK. Those supporters aren’t your best prospects.
  5. Consider starting the survey with an inspiring quote to help get your supporters into the right frame of mind to submit their answers.
  6. Use the survey to remind donors/members of your case for support and core programs and find out what they care about most. For instance, “I support [insert charity’s name] because… then list your key programs. Allow them to select multiple options.
  7. Ask for contact information. Anonymous surveys are useless if you want to identify who your leads and legacy donors are.
  8. Embed the planned giving or legacy questions in the middle of the survey, after you’ve asked people what programs they care about most and before you ask for personal details. Here are three sample legacy questions:
    a. After you have provided for your loved ones, would you consider leaving a gift in your Will to [insert charity name]?
    i. Yes, I would consider it
    ii. Yes , I have already left a gift to [insert charity name] in my will
    iii. I have a will and intend to change it to include [insert charity name]
    iv. Unsure at this time
    v. No
    b. If you answered no, or if you are unsure, would you mind telling us what prevents you from considering a gift in your will at this time?
    c. Are you interested in receiving more information on how to leave a gift to [insert charity’s name] in your will?
    i. Yes
    ii. No
  9. Ask if people are interested in becoming monthly supporters or whether they are interested in just single gifts.
  10. Be sure to ask for stories or testimonials with these two questions below. This is fundraising gold so leave plenty of space for people to answer. These answers will tell you a lot about your supporters and, if they give you permission to use their answers, you can use their testimonials for many purposes such as on your website and in appeal letters. You’ll be surprised at how eloquent and moving these responses can be. Your donors are not burdened by “the curse of knowledge”, that is being too close to the organization’s work, so they can express clearly and in unique ways the power of your mission and vision. Remember you must ask for permission to share their words. Here are sample questions:
    a. Please share your story with us. I support the [insert charity’s name] because:
    b. May we share your words about [insert charity’s name] in our publications?
    i. Yes
    ii. No
  11. Make sure that you add all the survey information into your Donor Management System or database.
  12. Follow up promptly with a warm, sincere thank you for completing the survey and be sure to send donors any information that they have requested, such as the legacy booklet.