What single, magical tool can help you generate revenue, deepen donor loyalty, uncover donor interests, upgrade giving, AND find new leads?

You guessed it: donor surveys.

That’s exactly what I spoke about at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, alongside Crystal Mahon of STARS Air Ambulance. We took a deep dive into how to build donor surveys and how they go so much deeper than capturing demographics. From creating a survey strategy, to writing thoughtful questions, to coding the answers so they don’t fall into the Data Void.

If you didn’t get a chance to join our session, never fear! Here are the 6 things a donor survey can help you accomplish:

Generate revenue

This is true on so many levels. Including a survey in a mailing can help you generate one-time gifts. In fact, Crystal shared in her session that every survey STARS has run has been revenue-positive – by a lot!

But surveys aren’t just great for driving one-time giving. You can use them to increase gift frequency, generating vital second and third gifts from the same donor in a given year. You can put them to work to upgrade donors to higher orders of giving, especially monthly, by crafting program- or outcome-specific surveys. And best of all, you can identify and cultivate legacy leads who have unparalleled potential down the line.

Educate and engage

Sure, you could create an impact insert or video to teach your donors about that cool new program, piece of technology, or service expansion. Or, you could use a survey to help them learn about the need and the outcomes they’re making possible, all while deepening engagement with those very needs and outcomes!

Questions like, “Did you know…”, “Were you aware that…” and, “What do you think about…” are great educational tools that enable you to prime donors with information that they can then react or respond to – so you’re teaching them something new, and finding out their opinions, in one fell swoop!

Delight donors

This one is so simple: people just love to be asked for their opinion. It makes them feel special, valued, expert, exclusive – all those warm fuzzy feelings you’d love them to associate with you and the work you do!

Grow your file

Surveys can be used to identify new leads in your existing universe, or to find brand new folks for your pipeline!

Use digital tools like SurveyMonkey to survey cool leads in your database, like event participants (craft a survey that builds the bridge between the event they supported and the cause they supported) or volunteers (help make the connection between giving time and giving dollars). Or, use specific questions to help you identify folks who might be ready to leverage into higher orders of giving.

If you’ve already exhausted the leads in your database, turn outwards! Invite your target audience to share their opinion by taking a poll, or test their knowledge in a long-form survey, then capture their email address to send their results – and work on converting them to giving!

Shape strategy and content

Use surveys to take the temperature of your donor’s interest in different facets of your work and your fundraising. For example, if you’ve historically relied on events to bring in revenue and you’re wondering what your fundraising will look like post-COVID, try surveying your donors to see if events are something they see themselves returning to and under what conditions.

These kinds of questions can help you identify what parts of your work really make donors tick and where there might be gaps between what they care about and what you want them to care about.

One word of caution: if you’re building a survey designed to help shape your future strategy or content, be ready for all kinds of answers – including, perhaps, ones that make you re-think the path you’re on! When it comes to surveying, follow-through is vital, so make sure you’re committed to action what you learn.

Gather donor data

Last, a survey can act as a good-old-fashioned data gathering tool – whether you’re wanting to capture demographic info to support some generation-based fundraising initiatives or you want a clearer understanding of what prompts folks to support your organization.

If you use a survey to this end, be thoughtful about each question. Don’t ask for the sake of asking! Have a plan to use everything you take away (even if that plan is a long-term one!).


Have you had success using surveys? If you want to know more, check out this case study from The Ottawa Hospital Foundation to discover how we used a survey reply device to lift response to a legacy mailing.