May 25, 2021

3 Ways to Better Engage Your Audience Using Surveys

People using a laptop

Recently, as a small part of a live webinar, we discussed surveys. Small as in maybe one talking point on a slide. From that one talking point came an audience question: “what can you do with a survey?” My reaction: “Really? What can’t you do with a survey?!?” (though I hope my actual response in the moment was a touch less incredulous).

That said, really, what can’t you do with a survey? A survey is a great way to interact with your supporters, find out who they are, what they like and even what they’re thinking. That data you ask for and receive can provide valuable insight, from simple to complex, on who your supporters are and how to better respond to them.

Let’s take a look at three categories of surveys available to use and a few things you can do with them to better target your messaging.

1. The Reaction Survey

Probably the most common usage of a survey is the reaction survey. You host this fantastic gala. Everything you planned went perfectly, you raised more than your goal and congratulations are in order. But what do your supporters really think? To you, it must have been great. It was a success. A small, yet vocal group of supporters even told you how great it was. But what about the rest? Even if the majority of your supporters are the vocal ones praising yur event, are they your only supporters? A reaction survey can be a great equalizer. 

United Way used MobileCause to send out a survey following an Employee Giving campaign

In your reaction survey, be sure to ask attendees what they thought about the event in detail.  What did they love? What would they change? If there are specific elements that you weren’t sure about, then ask your attendees them.

Ask your non-attendees if there was a reason they couldn’t or didn’t want to attend your event. While you might not get many responses from this version, it can provide incredible insight into the “rest” of your constituency. Maybe all your events cater only to a richer crowd, but others would love to participate if there was something with a less expensive ticket price.

Perhaps you have some ideas for an upcoming Day of Giving, run/walk or gala, that just isn’t gelling with your team. Go ahead and ask supporters which options they’d be most interested in.

With ever-changing current events, you may be concerned about the latest COVID variant and how badly it will impact your upcoming in-person gala. Should you pivot to exclusively virtual? Should you go with a hybrid event? Will you get the needed attendees to make your in-person gala worthwhile? Ask! By showing you care about your constituency’s wellbeing, you can continue to gain their trust and loyalty.

2. The Welcome Survey

We’ve talked about segmenting your audience [] and personalizing your lists so you can engage your audience better. This can be simple grouping by type (such as alumni or parents) or complex (such as levels of donations and support to your organization). But do you have that information from their donation?

Advocates for Children used MobileCause to create a survey to send out to their supporters

Maybe you had a Day of Giving or even just a very successful #GivingTuesday where you increased your donor base by a good amount. Now the question is: how do you keep them? Of course, you should ask!

Some donors will put their donation in the format of “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” because that’s the way their account is set up, but let’s say “Mr. John Smith” is no longer with us. If you now start communicating with this donor as “Mr. Smith” or “John” then you’ll quickly lose your influence. Jane will slowly become less interested because it looks like you don’t care about who she is.

The solution? Get that welcome survey out! “Welcome to the Organization’s family! We want to get to know you better.” Ask how they would like to be addressed. Ask them their pronouns. Ask them what other organizations they donate to. Ask them how they prefer to donate (once a year, at an event, every month, via online or mobile giving, only by check, etc.). Ask them how you can best show that their gift is meaningful to the organization. Ask them if they’d like to be tagged in social media.

There are any number of things you can ask to show them that they are more than just a checkbook or credit card to your organization. Collect that information and make sure you act on it. No longer will you address “Mr. John Smith” but you will address your donor as “Mrs. Jane Smith.”

3. Creative Surveys

Hopefully you can see the value of the survey at this point, and if you simply start using the reaction and welcome surveys to engage your audience, then you will be better than other organizations. You can talk to your constituents instead of just talking at them. This is a great start, but now let’s have some fun. Yes, you heard me, surveys can be fun while still giving you insight into the minds of your supporters.

Ask your constituents to name your gala’s annual theme. Have them vote. Do you have a new vehicle to help your beneficiaries? Have your constituents give it it’s name! This can become something inspirational like naming the Mars rovers or funny, like Boaty McBoatface.

Do you have a run/walk planned? Ask your supporters how they train. Ask them for ways to cool down afterwards or how to celebrate. Ask constituents what they are doing over the summer vs. what they’d like to do over the summer. Have several platforms under your organization’s umbrella? Ask your donor base which interests them the most.

What do these types of surveys tell you? Well, for one, you can gauge the enthusiasm of your donor base. In the case of something like Boaty McBoatface, maybe it tells you your constituents want to blow off some steam and lighten the mood. Things like naming the Mars Rover not only can give you ideas of what inspires your supporters, but can also provide shareable content you can use to engage your audience. Post on social media the best names and the best reasons for the names to drive interaction.

By determining what interests them, you can segment your communications better, so they will receive more of what they want and less of what they don’t. You are keeping them engaged, keeping them involved and helping them belong.


As we’ve explored, surveys can be a great way to gain insight. Surveys can also just be fun, something your donors may really appreciate lately. Yet surveys can also be a way for you to experiment.

Are you learning a new web platform, like GiveSmart? Well surveys are great low impact ways to learn how you can personalize your forms. Then, when you have that vital donation form as part of your text-to-donate activity, you can sail through the creation process.

Thinking of a new initiative for your organization or a new event? Check with your supporters to see if they’re up for the challenge. This could be a way to actually ask or even introduce something you’re already planning, all under the guise of a harmless little survey.

Lastly, surveys can dial in your ideas. Test new communication segments. Choose new event activities. Most importantly, get your supporters involved in the process so you know it will be a hit now and in the future.

Surveys are clearly incredibly versatile. If you can ask a question, it can become a survey. So, now: what can you do with a survey?

Request a Demo

Our goal at GiveSmart is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how GiveSmart can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.


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