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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Morgia

Survey Sessions, Part 3: Building your nonprofit's super survey team

Updated: Apr 18

So you have your research questions, you've clarified your audience, and your project proposal has been approved. Nice! So it's time to start writing survey questions, right? Almost, my friend, almost. But first, let's build your survey team.

Avengers Assemble!

In my experience, organizations can get tripped up on survey projects because they don't realize the number of steps involved. In addition to writing the survey, organizations need to think about their communications strategy, how they will protect personal data, who will analyze the data, and how to disseminate the findings. It can be a lot to do at once, and it's easy to let pieces slip through the cracks. But by delegating tasks to a survey team, organizations can:

  • Increase project efficiency

  • Create clarity and accountability; everyone on the team will know who is responsible for what and when tasks are due

  • Identify and fill any resource gaps before you get started

So, who should be on the team?

1) Survey designer

The survey designer is responsible for the survey set-up. This person should have a deep knowledge of the topic and understand what questions must be included to answer the organization's research questions.

In addition to drafting the survey questions, the designer is also responsible for:

  • Gathering feedback on the questions from the survey team

  • Finding people within or outside of the organization to test the research questions for clarity and common understanding

The survey designer may also be the person who chooses the survey tool if the org does not already have a subscription to one. Once the team approves the survey questions, the designer may also be the person who inputs the questions into the survey tool and tests the tech to make sure it is working as expected.

2) Outreach guru

The outreach guru ensures that your target audiences are responding to the survey. Their key tasks include:

  • Creating the contact lists

  • Choosing the best methods to reach your target audience (e.g., newsletters, phone, social media)

  • Writing communications, like emails or phone scripts, to recruit people to participate

  • Developing backup plans if the survey response rates are low, such as conducting more personal, individualized outreach, purchasing email lists, or some other strategy

3) Data Privacy Protector

It is best practice to share your organization's privacy policy with survey participants, especially if you plan on collecting personally identifiable information (e.g., names, addresses, phone numbers, certain demographic information). Someone on the survey team should contact the IT department or general counsel to obtain a copy of the policy. IT or legal can likely share the policy with you and explain the details. Use the information to ensure your data collection practices and communications align with the organization's policy.

4) Data Analyst

The data analyst is the person who takes all the survey responses and translates them into key patterns and trends. This person should have a quantitative and qualitative analysis background, especially if the survey includes open-response questions. Like the survey designer, the analyst should understand the organization's research questions for the project and find the answers within the survey data.

Pro-tip: Sometimes, nonprofit organizations give the analyst role to the youngest person in the office who is most comfortable with technology. Please don't do this. Why? One, the staff member may not be interested in data analysis work. Also, being comfortable with technology is not the same as having data analysis skills. Any staff member interested in learning data analysis should work under someone with data expertise who can guide them through the process.

5) Results Champion

The champion's key task includes finding ways to share the results with key stakeholders, whether that's through newsletters, webinars, or in-person events. This person may also run logistics for any events and help prep leaders with key talking points for presentations.

Pro tip: Always include participants in the dissemination plan. It is one of the best ways to thank volunteers for their time and show them that their input makes a difference.

6) Project Coordinator

The project coordinator keeps the train on the tracks. This person works with the team to create deadlines, develop workflows, and schedule check-in meetings. The coordinator may also be the person who liaises with organizational leadership and other stakeholders to keep them informed about the project. Finally, the coordinator is the point person for team members if they have questions or need additional support.


Other Team Tips

If you work for a small organization, don't fret; often, one person can serve multiple roles. For instance, your survey designer and analyst may be the same person. The communications team may be able to guide outreach and dissemination. Just be careful not to overload the staff as you are assigning roles. Board members and volunteers can also serve as another source of expertise.

Finally, if you need help filling spots on your survey team or need guidance on any of these steps, please contact me to schedule a free consultation call. We will figure out the best strategies together!

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