Question formats for donor surveys
For those who have conducted donor surveys – do you find it best to have choices/drop downs for certain questions, or do you go with all free-form text responses? E.g. “What other philanthropic areas do you support” – would you recommend checkbox options with an “other” option – or open text? As we are working on introducing more donor surveys to our communications and engagement strategies, I am tempted to go with more pre-loaded options in order to be able to capture cleaner data, but I am also concerned about limiting our donors’ ability to share authentic feedback.
Its a great question. By asking it you are prioritizing intentionality over mere data collection. To give a short answer – it depends. It depends on the purpose of the questions, the kind of actions you want to take from the response, and the ability to analyze the raw data you will receive in the response. For example, say an organization has done very few/no surveys so far. If they choose to do a comprehensive donor survey and want to ask identity-related questions, a better approach is open-ended text question – that way they share the power in that response to their donors. They also send out a message through that design that the identity information will be included in the reports as-is to honor the community. On the contrary, say a question like – “what motivated your first gift to us?”. That question’s response can help this organization for actions in outreach, engagement, communication etc. more effectively when asked as drop-down/multiselect approach (as opposed to text-box).
In your case, my suggestion would be – for the question “what other philanthropic areas would you support?” – if you intend to take specific actions from the response (e.g., build something into newsletter, create volunteering programs etc.), use drop-downs. You can always include “other”/”I also support___”. That will also allow you to segment this response by donor categories during the analysis. However, if this does not have any specific action associated just yet, and it is more a good-to-know-basis question, then you can leave it as open-ended to capture direct responses.
Hope this helps.