Tips for a Successful Survey

Getting people to respond to surveys is always a challenge.  You can improve your chances of maximizing participation and achieving a representative sample of your target audience by following a few basic best practices:

Identify and understand your feedback objective.  Spend some time thinking about your goal for the survey.  That way you can zero in on the questions that will provide the exact information you seek, and build a survey that works.

Keep the survey simple and focused.  A shorter survey with a clear purpose will have more participants and greater likelihood of useful results.  Questions should be direct and connected to the underlying theme of the survey.  Numerous studies show that keeping the survey as brief as possible—30 or fewer questions and under 10 minutes in duration—maximizes responses. 

Questions should encourage balanced, thoughtful responses.  Avoid leading or antagonizing questions, or questions that are overly complex.

Respect participants’ time.  Use a concise, clearly worded invitation that gets quickly to the point and lets survey subjects know why you need their help and the value their responses will provide.

Don’t over-survey.  Stagger survey solicitations so that your audiences do not receive an endless stream of survey requests.  A good rule of thumb is a maximum of one survey solicitation per month per individual.  Coordinate survey activity among departments or committees to ensure that you keep the number of survey requests at a reasonable level.

Offer to share results.  Let participants know that you will share aggregate data so they can see how their response compares to the congregation’s input. 

Let them know when their feedback results in new policies or initiatives.  That way they can see that you are listening to their voices and that their feedback has genuine value that leads to improvements.

Click on sample surveys to see templates for a variety of surveys that were created using these best practices.

Click on case history to read about the ways churches use surveys as an integrated measurement, evaluation and improvement tool.

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