Are you asking the right questions in post event surveys? Part 2 | npENGAGE

Are you asking the right questions in post event surveys? Part 2

By on Jun 15, 2012


Last week Jennifer Ashbaugh and I hosted a webinar and posed the question “Are you asking you participants the right questions?”  Post event surveys are a great way to gather information about your fundraising program to help you identify where to invest resources for the following year.

Below are Jennifer’s six BP’s for creating a post event survey and an explanation for each.  Be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Fundraising Questions series at  Click “see full series” to view the session and to download the slides.

What did Big Brothers Big Sisters do?

In 2011, we wanted to evaluate our BFKS website to see what was working and what might need to be updated.  We enlisted 11 agencies, representing a diverse geographic region, to assist us in learning more about our event.

In July we sent out a survey to over 6,000 donors, participants, and team captains and got about 1,000 responses. We went through a similar process in 2012, although with a slightly different group of agencies. Here’s what we found:

Best Practice 1: Involve all the decision makers in the process.

For us, this meant working cross-functionally within our office. We involved IT, Marketing, and Fund Development to help craft the survey. We also worked with a wide range of agencies. And when it came to our agencies, they also pulled in the appropriate people to weigh in.

For example, several agencies pulled in the individuals from their largest corporate teams. For smaller organizations, this might mean that you ask your CEO or your event chair to weigh in. The point of doing this early in the process is to make sure that your evaluation results will have meaning.

I know a few years ago, when I was working at an agency, our chair had difficulty setting up his personal page and he was convinced that EVERYONE had difficulty setting up their pages. In his eyes, this was the biggest problem. If I was doing a survey for my old agency, I would want to make sure we were including several questions about customizing personal pages that way I would have data for my chair about if this was a widespread problem.

Best Practice 2: Only ask questions about things you can change

Asking for advice is a great way to engage your participants, but only if it feels like that advice is being listened to. So don’t waste your time or your participant’s time by asking questions that you can’t change.

For example, our event takes place at a bowling center and for a significant number of our agencies, there’s only one bowling center in town. So asking a question like, “did you like the venue” isn’t a great idea, because there’s usually not a different place to go to.

However, we were considering adding social media elements to our website, so we asked several questions about if they used social media to fundraise, if they wanted to, if they used social media in general, to help our organization understand if this would have a benefit for our users.

 Best Practice 3: Ask questions about things you care about

As a follow up to this, don’t ask questions about things you don’t care about. I call this the “t-shirt rule”. I don’t care if they liked the t-shirt because I can guarantee that the t-shirt will be different next year. And since we know that longer surveys generally have a lower completion rate, don’t waste valuable real estate asking questions that don’t matter to your organization.

Best Practice 4: Plan for segmentation
We sent this survey out to every e-mail address that we had in our system, so we had a lot of questions that were designed to help us better understand who was answering.  We asked them to tell us if they were a Team Captain, Bowler, Donor. We asked them to tell us if they used the website to register or make a donation. We asked them to tell us if this was the first time they had been involved in our event.

So it was very exciting to sort the responses and see that Team Captains and Participants actually had different motivations for participating with us. We could also see that 1st time and multi-year participants had different behaviors.

Also- make these segmentation questions a required answer, otherwise it’s hard to filter.

Best Practice 5: Make the Other or the Additional Feedback write in field work for you, not against you.

In our 1st year of the survey, we had several yes/no questions, but for every option, we gave them the option to tell us more about their answer.

One interesting finding was that we asked them if they changed their personal page.  And then we asked them why and gave them some options like: Didn’t know how, Not enough time, didn’t know I could. But in the other field, we had a lot of right in comments that said something like, it looked fine- didn’t need to change anything. So we added that as an option to the 2012 survey and it was the #1 option.  So as you create your questions and your answer choices, make sure to give people an option to write in an answer.

At the same time, avoid open ended responses, because they can be a pain to categorize. So make your best guess what most of the responses will be and then add a write in option to capture the unknowns!

Best Practice 6: Be clear (internally) about what you hope to learn from each question and make sure you are gathering enough information to be able to take action

Do you want to better understand behavior? (Did you use the website to register? How many times did you log-in to your HQ? Which methods did you use to fundraise?)

Do you want to know more about your demographics? (What is your participant profile? How many years do they participate? Are they connected to you in another way?)

Do you want to understand what motivates them? (Why do they participate? What do they know about your organization? What do they enjoy about your event?

Because I had a clear understanding of what I wanted to know, I was able to frame the question to get my answer. For example, I struggled writing a question and coming up with the multiple choice options until I realized what I wanted the survey to tell me was, “Do people know what it means to be a bowler  or a team captain” because I wanted to know if I needed to add new language on the website or create  training or maybe develop an informational packet. So based on that, we asked “When you registered, how clear were you about your role as a Bowler or Team Captain? Unclear, somewhat unclear, somewhat clear, completely clear.”  In this case, a yes or no question wouldn’t have given me enough information to be able to act.


Amy Braiterman, principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud, supports customers with their peer-to-peer fundraising events with a process she refers to as “data-driven strategy.” Amy’s data driven strategy analyzes how effective event participants are using online fundraising tools and takes those results to develop an event fundraising plan. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Amy earned her fundraising stripes managing events for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Alzheimer’s Association and Share Our Strength. She shares her fundraising know how here on npENGAGE, by hosting educational webinars and speaking at customer conferences

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