Getting People to Take Your Online Survey

Sarah Durham of Sarah Big Duck

Sarah Durham of Big Duck is presenting this week’s webinar, Focus Groups and Surveys: Easy, Affordable Research for Nonprofit Marketers, on Tuesday, July 12 at 1 pm Eastern (10 am Pacific). Knowing your audience is the first rule of good marketing and fundraising, so join us for advice on getting to know yours better!

Guest Post by Sarah Durham, Big Duck

Who doesn’t love online surveys? I sure do. Tools like Survey Gizmo ( and Survey Monkey ( make it easy, cheap, and downright fun to gather information that would have been a total pain to gather years ago. And once your members, clients, donors (etc.) have completed it, you can slice and dice the data to compare responses, quantify, and make some pretty fancy pie charts. (Oh, data! How I love thee!)

But what if they don’t take the survey in the first place?

Here are five tips to help ensure that the email you send inviting people to take your survey gets good results.

1. Personalize it. If you upload your recipient’s names and email addresses, most online survey tools can mail-merge so the email is personalized. An email that begins ‘Dear Sarah’ is much more likely to get me to respond than one that says, ‘Dear friend’. Not to mention, many programs can send ‘nudge’ messages to folks who haven’t completed the survey yet.

2. Provide an incentive to complete it. Got a $25 Itunes or Amazon gift certificate you’re willing to give away? Tell them about it. They’ll be more likely to complete and enter their information if there’s something interesting in it for them, too. Just let them know that completing the survey enters them automatically in a raffle for the gift.

3. Set a deadline and tell them up front. A subject line such as, “We’d like your opinion about XX  by August 1st” let’s them know up-front what you’re asking for, and makes the action you’re asking them to take more explicit.

4. Tell them what you’ll do with their ideas. A sentence like ‘your input will help us make sure we’re investing our limited resources in the right places’ or ‘your input will help us shape our work moving forward’ lets them know why you’re doing the survey, and might make them feel more connected to your work.

5. Send it from someone real. Use your name, job title, and real email address so the email feels like it came from a real human being who cares what they think, not a computer.

Want more? Join us for Focus Groups and Surveys: Easy, Affordable Research for Nonprofit Marketers.

P.S. We are doing a survey of our own right now at Nonprofit Marketing Guide . . .  Share your thoughts on what belongs on our webinar schedule by this Friday (including which webinar we should do for free) and you’ll be entered to win one of 10 free webinar passes.

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  • Tobi Johnson

    Another thing to think about is the number of questions to ask and the complexity of the questions.  The shorter and more simple the survey, the higher the compliance.  Also, if you include a completion bar at the top of the page, that indicates how far the participant has progressed, it helps.  I think most software allows you to include this feature, survey monkey does.

  • I use surveymonkey and constantcontact surveys for our families. Great feedback, especially with a coupon for $10 toward an upcoming program! Moving toward focus groups with clickers or similar response systems to keep the conversation moving. Thanks for sharing.

  • We agree with Tobi. It’s also helpful if you mention how
    much time it will take to finish when you send the survey out –  people are much more likely to take short,
    concise surveys, especially if they know it won’t take too much time. 

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