Take Your Member Survey Online

by Elena Veatch

Member Survey and Coffee

Online Member Survey Tips

A member survey can be a useful tool to get a sense of how your members feel about specific issues. Traditional phone surveys used to be the only option to keep tabs on the pulse of your organization. Luckily, it’s often easier and more cost-effective to poll your members online these days. Below are some factors to think through in executing a member survey that will achieve your goals and reach the right people—all without breaking the bank.

Know your goal. Why are you polling your members? Have a clear answer to this question before you pay for a poll. Are you testing various messages before finalizing the language of a ballot measure? Are you surveying hard and soft support for a ballot measure or a piece of legislation? If you can’t put into words what information you hope to glean from a member survey, you probably shouldn’t move forward with one just yet.

What is your budget? Have a sense of what you’re looking to spend on a member survey. This can be a range, as long as you have some sort of ballpark dollar amount. This way, you can get real quotes from vendors on what is achievable within your budget. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A quick-and-dirty poll will cost less, but the data it provides may not be as reliable or illuminating. The good news is: An online survey is typically more affordable than a traditional phone survey.

Who is your audience? Are you looking to survey your entire membership, or are there subsets of your membership (such as women or members from a specific sector or geography) that you’re most interested in engaging? You won’t always be able to drill down to the level of specificity you’re interested in—it’s often a matter of scale—but a pollster can only get you there if they know your priorities to begin with. Flagging this for your pollster will also help inform how they present the results of the survey to your team.

Do you need room for variation? If you suspect you’ll need a couple points of variation in your questions (depending on who you’re engaging), you’ll have an easier (and cheaper) time doing this through an online survey. Maybe you want to ask half of the respondents one question and reframe that question for the other half. You can specific questions in a phone survey, too, but the process is typically more expensive.

How many questions do you want to ask? You have a bit more flexibility in terms of survey length when you’re executing an online survey versus a phone survey. On the phone, a survey participant may hang up unexpectedly or terminate the survey early if the timing isn’t convenient to their schedule. With an online survey, participants generally have greater flexibility to answer questions at their own pace and on their own timeline. This means you can generally make online surveys a bit longer without making your completion rates taking too big of a plunge. That said, keep in mind that brevity is still a best practice both for your budget and the sake of meaningful responses.

Are you worried about accuracy? One of the major down-sides of a phone survey is that you’re putting your messaging in the hands of whoever is reading the questions and answer options aloud to survey participants. Mispronunciations or connection issues may make it difficult for the survey participant to fully hear or understand the questions and answer choices that are posed to them on the phone. Online surveys put all the information right in front of the participant, helping to mitigate some of these common misunderstandings.

How open-ended do you want to be? Most of us aren’t great on the spot. If you’re looking to ask open-ended questions in your member survey as opposed to questions with multiple-choice answers, administering your survey online will help you gather better data. Participants will give more thoughtful answers when they don’t have to spitball on the phone. As a result, you’ll get better information out of the process and your members will get to avoid the feeling of being cold called in class. It’s a win-win!

Where are your members located? While access to the Internet feels ubiquitous for those of us living in a remote-work world, remember that not everyone can get online so easily. If your membership resides in a largely rural state where broadband access is on the lower end, this is something to think about. An online component may be workable in your geography, but just make sure you’ll be reaching a diverse enough sample size that is reflective of your membership.

There you have it! An online member survey can be an effective, easy, and cost-efficient method for engaging your membership. Next time you’re in the market to survey your membership, ask your pollster if an online survey makes sense for your goals. If you have no clue where to start, feel free to reach out to The Campaign Workshop team for more recommendations.