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Approaching Survey Design As Storytelling

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Approaching Survey Design As Storytelling

For nonprofit and public service organizations, survey design may be considered uncharted territory. If your organization focuses on community-based initiatives, you need to take steps to understand better the community that you are working and surveying can help. But how do you build a survey?

Think about survey design as telling a story. There should be a flow between topics and personal questions to build trust with the person being surveyed and get the best results.

Factors to think about when organizing your survey: 

  • Why are we conducting this survey? This speaks to the goals of the organization — your survey thesis
  • What kind of data do I hope to get?
  • How many questions should we be asking participants?
  • What types of questions should we be asking to meet our data goals?
  • Think about biases within the questions
  • Who is this survey for?

With Felix, once our team uploads your survey, you can review your survey, track question versions to see how everything has changed over time, and efficiently train your surveyors to survey via our mobile app. Plus, once the surveys are submitted, you can see the instant analysis report on the Felix dashboard.

Survey design is very similar to writing a book, says New Story’s Impact Data Manager Kamini Iyer. Surveys should have an overall structure, flow, and theme. They should be well-organized by sections that guide the aid recipient and the surveyor to acquire the most accurate data. 

For example, a survey where a nonprofit would like to get to know the current state of the community may follow this order:

Introduction — ask demographical information about the person and family

Access to essential resources — ask about their access to drinking water, food, and education. This is also an area where you can find out more about the state of their current home.

Ask about their current mental health and hobbies — how do they feel about their community or the future; do they read? Do they open their windows during the day? Do they trust their neighbors?

Always leave an open-ended question at the end. Always leave a space at the end for the family to share anything else about their situation. Then another question for the surveyor to submit their thoughts too.

As we can see, it is helpful to outline the questions you ask your participants into sections.

If you are selecting families out of need-base, or are interested in how local community members feel about current grocery prices, then design your survey to match those issues or topics. 

Ask about how far do they travel to get groceries, how many times a week do they need to go, how much do they make a week and how much do they spend on weekly groceries, where do they shop, how often do they cook at home, how many family members do they have, what kind of meals do they cook, etc.

You truly want to get a full picture of how many people the head of household feeds with their income and how grocery store prices may affect how much and how often the household eats. (Make sure to avoid these mistakes in survey design). 

Survey Design is an iterative process

A lot of trial and error achieves good survey design. It is a rapidly iterative process. You may start with a survey with a total of 150 questions that may take an average of 40-60 minutes to take.

After the first round of surveying, circle back to the surveyors for feedback. You can quickly realize that the long survey is causing survey fatigue among all parties involved. Review the survey and see if you can split into two surveys or reword the questions to eliminate a few.

Going back to the analogy above, writers and survey designers alike can draft until perfection to have the best outcomes. 

For surveyors, connecting with and understanding your aid recipients’ needs is crucial.

Having a strong survey design can lead to a more reliable data impact program that can help you make informed decisions and strengthen your relationships with donors to increase your fundraising and impact.

When you onboard with Felix, you get our expertise in surveying too—interested in learning more about how Felix can help your data strategy and analysis? Request a demo.

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