Internet Inquiry: January 2021 Edition (Volunteer Feedback Surveys)
Updated: Feb 14
This month's Internet Inquiry comes from the Volunteer Pro Insiders Facebook page.
Question: "Anyone have a great end of the year Volunteer Feedback Survey they can share?"
A summary of answers and comments from other leaders of volunteers:
- Multiple colleagues generously shared links to surveys or offered to email suggested survey questions to others
- Even more leaders of volunteers started following the thread and accessing the shared information
- The first person to respond with an offer to share their survey questions mentioned that a volunteer (who is also a retired marketing consultant) supported in crafting the questions. I absolutely love how this leader of volunteers engaged this individual's unique talent to improve their own work- kudos!
I'm proud to be part of a collaborative group of professionals who are so giving of their time and skills. Networks like Volunteer Pro Insiders are so helpful. If you are a volunteer engagement professional and aren't already participating in one of these online groups, I encourage you to do so.
My answer and advice:
I won't be sharing volunteer feedback survey questions here. What I want to explore is the purpose and outcome of volunteer feedback surveys and how we can be more strategic in creating and implementing them. In this exploration, I encourage you to consider the following:
Why are you doing a volunteer feedback survey now?
Really think about this and consider some deeper questions:
a) Is it because you always do a volunteer feedback survey this time of year? (e.g. due to timing of programming, funding requirements, annual report publication, strategic plan evaluation)
b) Is it because you are looking for feedback on a specific experience? (e.g. volunteers' digital engagement during COVID-19)
c) Is it because the organization is seeking volunteer feedback on potential changes? (e.g. new protocols for stakeholders who have received a COVID-19 vaccine)
d) Is it because you were asked by your manager? If so, I encourage you to gain a better understanding of their reasoning through questions a, b, and c.
What is your organization trying to get from the survey data?
There could be one or multiple objectives in play, for example:
To "check a box" and be able to say that volunteers were asked for their feedback (I hope it isn't this)
To improve the volunteer experience and better understand their perspectives
To improve other stakeholders' experiences by better understanding volunteer perspectives
To evaluate the success of a program or project
To report on specific measures set out by funders or partners
To demonstrate volunteer impact to different stakeholder groups, including potential new supporters
To measure team members' performance
To learn about volunteers' interests, why they are engaged with the organization, and other ways the organization can steward their support
To better understand why something isn't working (e.g. a process isn't being followed, a program isn't meeting its goals)
Will your organization implement volunteers' suggestions? If yes, how and when will this happen?
Surveys give people a chance to be heard. What's important for maintaining the organization-volunteer relationship is for the volunteer to feel heard. If your organization plans to ask for feedback, they need to be prepared to have a deeper dialogue about those suggestions.
To manage expectations for everyone, be transparent about the purpose of the survey and what will happen with survey responses. Many times, I have written a survey preamble for this purpose. This preamble, which should also be included in your "call to action" email, maybe just as important as the survey questions themselves.
The key to an excellent survey preamble is the tone: it must be respectful, thankful, and informative. I've provided suggestions on key messages to include below, as well as a sample. If you have any tried-and-true survey preamble language or would like to share your feedback on what I've put together, please feel free to comment! We are here to learn together and I value your feedback!
Preamble Key Messages
- Thank you for volunteering
- This is how your responses will support the organization
- This is how we will use your feedback
- How to get in touch for more information
- Thank you for doing this survey and for your continued support
"Thank you for your dedication to Awesome Organization and your ongoing volunteer contributions. Please take part in our annual volunteer survey to help Awesome Organization improve Awesome Days and collect volunteer engagement data for our annual report. Your responses will be shared with Awesome Days leadership and carefully considered during our strategic planning process in April. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact email@example.com. Thank you for your ongoing support and for taking the time to share your feedback."