Starfish Impact team member Jen Barth shares her insights for the most useful research resources this year.
As we settle into 2016, many organizations are gearing up to launch new programs and campaigns for the year ahead. Before diving in, though, have you carefully considered how much you know about the communities and stakeholders you serve?
Conducting some simple, low-cost research through the creation of an online survey is a simple step you can take to gather critical insights that will help inform outreach and engagement efforts, and ensure that the marketing, communications, and programming resources you will spend are closely aligned with your community’s top needs. Research is also a powerful tool to employ during the strategic planning process, to help your organization better understand the diverse audiences impacted by your work, vet early stage concepts, and begin to identify new opportunities for impact.
With multiple free and low-cost tools available today, there are many great options to consider. A few notable ones include:
- SurveyMonkey, one of the most popular online tools. While the features in the free version are more limited than some others, SurveyMonkey offers a great library of templates, and robust analysis tools for the data you collect. Other similar tools to look into are Survey Gizmo and Zoho Survey.
- Many organizations have moved to Google Forms in recent years for it’s simplicity of use and easy integration with other Google Apps, such as Gmail, Google for Nonprofits or Google for Education.
- Typeform is a newer tool on the research scene, with a strong emphasis on design to encourage more audience engagement.
- Depending on the nature of your survey, consider specialized tools such as Survmetrics, which offers photo-powered surveys, and LoopSurvey, specializing in mobile surveys. Zapier’s Ultimate Guide to Forms & Surveys is a great place to learn more about these tools, and others, and compares features between them.
Free or Low-Cost Options: Which Is The Right Fit For Your Organization?
While free tool options do offer many benefits, its important to consider closely the expanded features offered in paid versions, as they may help streamline staff or volunteer time during the analysis phase, and offer enhanced visuals to incorporate into Board and committee presentations. Some key enhanced features in the pro or premium levels typically include:
- A greater number of questions and respondent options
- Additional levels of data manipulation—such as skip logic and branching, different question formats, and more export and analysis options, and
- Branding and design controls, including customizing the survey with your logo and brand colors, and more robust integration on your organization’s website
Once you make your selection, there are many great resources online to help jumpstart your planning process. A few good reads include Prichard Communications’ 5 Steps to Conduct an Audience Survey, The Red Rooster Group’s Conducting Market Research for Your Nonprofit (PDF), and The Denver Foundation’s Gathering Information and Conducting Research. I have also shared some broader tips for both qualitative and quantitative research in another post, 6 Simple Steps to Understanding Your Audience Through Research.
To impactful insights ahead!
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