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5 Tips for Creating a Survey

Surveys are fantastic tools for evaluation! They help your organization determine what is working, what can be improved, and provide information to tell your story of impact. Surveys also allow for more complex analyses using descriptive and inferential statistics. This blog provides 5 tips for creating a survey when your organization is
ready for evaluation and has determined this is the best approach (see 4 data collection methods).

1) Define the Purpose of the Survey
To start, first think about the survey’s purpose. What is the question that you are trying to answer and how will it help your organization? Try speaking with staff or relevant stakeholders to get their input on the topic. Also, learn from past efforts. If your organization has already collected data, it may not be necessary to include those questions in the current survey.

2) Consider Qualitative versus Quantitative Questions
Next, as you create survey questions, consider how participants should respond. Do you want participants to provide open-ended feedback (i.e., “In what ways did this service benefit you?”)? Or do you want them to answer close-ended questions (i.e., “How would you rate this service?”)? If the goal of the question is gain insight into the participants’ unique experiences, consider creating a qualitative question. If the goal is to capture trends numerically or compare findings within individuals, between groups, or across time, consider creating a quantitative question.

3) Determine the Flow of the Survey
When developing the survey, first include an introductory paragraph, informing participants of the survey’s purpose and asking for their consent to share information. Then, order your questions by topic, such as engagement with the service, recommendations for improvement, and final comments.The flow and duration of a survey are also critical. If the survey is very long, participants may become fatigued and may not complete the survey. If the questions bounce around from topic to topic, this may confuse participants. The survey should have an order that guides participants through each topic and similar types of questions should be grouped together.

4) Include Incentives for Completion as Needed
How can you encourage more people to complete the survey? Consider providing incentives. For example, entering participants into a raffle to win a prize or providing small payments such as a gift card are all good incentives. By making participation easy and rewarding, people will be more willing to participate. Sometimes incentives are not needed, especially in the social sector as many individuals are grateful for the support they receive and want to give back.

5) Test the Survey
Once you have created your survey and are confident with the questions, it’s time to proofread. Make sure the survey is free of spelling or grammatical errors. Also, go through the survey to make sure the questions make sense and appear in the correct order. Complete a practice survey online or on paper to ensure your responses are captured as intended. If you have the resources, share the survey to target audience members to solicit their feedback.

In sum, applying these survey tips will help your organization collect quality data! If you have any specific follow-up questions to this blog post or any other research and evaluation needs, please contact Dr. Annette Shtivelband.

Special thanks to Katherine McNeely-White for writing this blog post!