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surveysCharitable giving is the backbone of nonprofits. While the driver of each effort is your love for the cause, a passion for change, or the power of doing good, the fact remains that nonprofits need the donation bank. Many people love being involved with this work, so finding donors should not be too difficult a task. The trick is when the need outweighs current donation capabilities. But the answer to how to increase funding so that more good can be done can be simpler than many may think: surveys.

Surveying and analysis of that data is not a new tool for many nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofit’s utilize surveying as a data collection method to understand the impact of their programs and deeper, more meaningful insights into the work they’re undertaking. Worldreader is a great example of a nonprofit, utilizing qualitative data analysis software to analyze survey data. They’re measuring the impact of the work they undertake to champion digital reading in underserved communities to create a world where everyone can be a reader, across a number of programs and initiatives.

At its core, surveying gives voice to ideas, opinions, and experiences that would otherwise remain unshared. Nonprofits who consider using surveys beyond the traditional methods of analyzing just their programs, to hear the voices of current donors, potential donors, and volunteers stand to benefit from the ideas and experiences of each of these groups of people as they evaluate how to continue building successfully funded programs.

Here are the three best practices for maximizing donations through well-designed surveys:

1.       Ask Open-Ended Questions

In today’s statistical world, many people think we can only make sense of surveys that ask numbers-based questions, like, “On a scale of 1-10…” or, “From most likely to least likely…” These types of questions garner easy-to-analyze responses, like 40% of our current donors are likely to give again. The issue with these findings is that they are incomplete. Why are those 40% of your current donors likely to give again? If anything, what would encourage the other 60% to return? The most valuable survey insights that stand to boost fundraising can often only be identified by asking open-ended questions.

Nurture different kinds of donors in order to maximize fundraising results. Ask open-ended questions like, “If anything, what would encourage you to give regularly (Or, increase your donation)?” and, “Of all nonprofit options, why did you chose to give to us?” What you will find is that many different motivating factors exist, but within a few select categories or themes. This way, you can send personal thank you notes to the people who feel personally connected to your work, can send reports to those who feel unsure of the impact their donation makes, and more.

The beauty of this type of surveying is that technology has come to a point where it is just as easy to analyze text responses as numerical, even without a research background. You can use survey analysis tools to see common themes and ideas in your donors’ answers, as well as give you insight into WHY your donors act the way they do which may even give you some new ideas to support your goals that you had not yet considered.

2.      Use Visuals

The donation space is highly competitive. Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allow anyone to fundraise, from large organizations to a person in their living room. In order to stay relevant, take a lesson from the marketers of the world: people like visuals. Add imagery to the platform you use to ask for a survey response. Show pictures of the benefit of the work that you do, fun graphics, or charts. After your research is complete, visualize your responses. People love word clouds and charts. They give a sense of simplicity to the viewer—especially if you have a word cloud of responses from donors about why they donate showing people words like, “amazing work,” “best option,” and “makes a difference.”

Adding visuals is the most cost effective and immediate way to stay competitive among the many requests your donors receive. It is simple to take photos of your work and draw images from the same analysis tools you use to review your surveys.  These tactics help add credibility, appeal, and social proof to your work above others.

3.        Make Multiple Surveys

Surveying is a powerful tool, so do not limit yourself to only one blanketed survey to learn about donations. Reach out to current donors, potential donors, and volunteers separately to understand differing views of your nonprofit. You could ask volunteers why they chose to donate time over finances and if anything would motivate them to donate both. Ask potential donors where else they currently give and why. Ask current donors to share how they feel as part of your team and, if anything, what you could do to better their experience with you.

You may find that people feel more connected to work they perform than work they fund, but those same people would give financially if they could see tangibly what their donation dollars do. How many animals were rescued, towns fed, homes built, or patients affected? You may find that potential donors want more social proof, to know that others are also giving to your organization to feel more comfortable. You could have current donors share their stories online to encourage those that are on the fence. Or, you may find that people simply do not understand that there is more of a need than is currently being filled.

Surveying is one of the best tool for nonprofits seeking to grow donations in 2018. It gives you true insights from the voices of those closely connected to your current fundraising work. Apply these three best practices and you will see the benefits, so that you may do more for the cause.

Chris Astle is CEO of QSR International, a leading global qualitative data analysis software provider, with products NVivo and Interpris. Learn more at

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