Ask More Questions

By Kate

How often, during regularly scheduled meetings, does the following phrase get repeated?

“I wish we knew the answer to that, but we’d have to ask our audience. Let’s make a note to be sure to include it in our annual survey.”

Our guess is that it’s come up in the last month or so, if not the last week. The truth is that most nonprofits—or really any advocacy organizations operating through the lens of a theory of change—share the sense that the needs of our community members are shifting as quickly as the ever-shortening news cycle. (Sidenote: Can it get any shorter? When will “ever-shortening” short-circuit? We’re just wondering.)

While programs and priorities are often set during annual budgeting processes, the actual content of what’s delivered—media, actions, events, etc.—needs to be as flexible and as relevant as the lives we all lead. But with such a crowded digital landscape, how can you know what’s most important to your community this week, or today, or even at this very moment?

Simple: Ask.

But when? It’s not like someone on staff has time to constantly be conducting an audience survey, right? And since we’re asking you so many questions, it’s only fair that we offer you an answer (with a question):

Why not put an evergreen survey in your email welcome series?

Think about it: You’ll catch the newest people coming to your organization who are excited to more deeply engage with your work—and you’ll offer them a meaningful way to share their thoughts about how your organization can make an impact right now.

Will you always be able to take action with those insights? No, of course not. Will those insights be statistically relevant every single time? As with nearly everything, our answer is: It depends. But at the very least, your team will accomplish three things:

  1. You’ll have a general sense of how and why new folks are interested in joining your organization,

  2. That data will aggregate over time and tell a story about shifts in engagement, needs, and focuses of your community, and…

  3. You’ll know what your organization can focus on to make an impact in their lives.

Your ongoing survey doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and it doesn’t even have to pop up in the first welcome email: You can always prompt new subscribers with a question in your second, or even third, automated email. Simple questions like “What do you expect to gain from joining our organization” and “What’s the most important news story on your mind today?” allow your staff to keep an ear to the ground, using anecdotal feedback to inform timely (or even long-term) decisions. With easy Slack integrations from tools like Google Forms and Survey Monkey, data from your new members can be delivered to staff just as easily as any other organizational communication. After all, often the biggest struggle with using data as a day-to-day barometer is actually integrating easy access to that data: When it’s as simple as checking Slack, there’s really no excuse to ignore it.

No matter how you decide to time a simple survey, make sure you take advantage of a critical moment in a new relationship to show that your organization values mutuality. The more often you find your organization listening, the more meaningful of an impact you’ll make.

Adding a survey to your welcome series: It’s worth considering, right? (See what I did there?)