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8 donor survey questions every nonprofit should ask

March 10, 2022
This smiling woman is completing a donor survey from a nonprofit.

Wish you could get into the minds of your nonprofit organization’s donors? Donor surveys can help. With the right survey questions, you can measure donor satisfaction, understand donor motivations, and evaluate and improve your fundraising efforts.

Moreover, asking a donor for their input is a crucial step in the stewardship process and a great way to get them more involved with your nonprofit organization. When you know what your existing and potential donors value, you can improve their giving experience, raise more, and acquire new supporters.

Sample donor survey questions

To get you started, we’ve compiled a core set of sample survey questions to ask. You can use these key questions across a variety of surveys: online surveys, in-person interviews, and registration questionnaires. In all cases, these questions will help you collect valuable input and show donors that you care about their feedback.

1. Why do you support our nonprofit?

Sometimes the most obvious questions are the most important to ask. Asking “why” gets at the motivation behind a donation. You might also frame this in the retrospective: Over the years that you have generously supported us, what motivated you to give and get involved?

2. Of the programs and services your gift(s) support, which are the most important to you?

Additionally, ask this follow-up question: Which programs/services do you care about the most? To prompt responses, you can list your core services or programs beneath the question.

3. To what degree do you feel your gift(s) have made a difference? How so?

You can understand how well you’re demonstrating impact to donors by asking how they feel about what their gifts have accomplished and why they feel that way. Here, you might also ask: How can we better show that your gift is meaningful?

4. How do you prefer to give?

Break this question down by asking about donors’ preferred frequency of giving (one time, annually, monthly), preferred type of giving (in-kind, cash, stocks, auctions, event tickets), and preferred method of giving (check, text-to-give, online, peer-to-peer).

5. What other organizations or causes do you donate to?

Look to other organizations to see what methods they’re using to engage donors. Then, determine if and how you can incorporate their methods into your own donor engagement strategy. Under this question, you might also ask: Which organizations do the best job sharing the significance and impact of your gifts? How so? Of all the gifts you’ve given, which have given you the most joy? Why?

6. How would you rank your level of satisfaction with giving to our organization?

Use this question as a way to determine your donors’ overall level of giving satisfaction. Consider framing this question on a scale of one to five, with five being very satisfied and one being very unsatisfied.

7. What types of communication would you like to receive? How often?

Ask donors about their preferred communication channels (email, phone, mail, social media), frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, annually), and content (newsletters, opportunities, reports) they like to receive. You can also break this question down to ask for specific ways donors found past communications helpful, accurate, illuminating, responsible, and meaningful.

8. What have we not yet discussed that would increase your level of satisfaction as a supporter of our organization?

Often, supporters have particular ideas and topics on their minds that you can’t predict. That’s where this catch-all question comes in. You might also get an answer to this question by asking: How can we enhance our efforts? How can we better show our appreciation?

Additional questions for your fundraising survey

Looking for more questions to dig into your supporters’ minds? We’ve got you covered:

  1. What guiding principles do you use to make your philanthropic decisions?
  2. As you consider your giving and volunteering, is there a common thread or value you look for in organizations you choose to support?
  3. What do you expect from the nonprofit organizations in which you are involved? To what extent are we meeting those expectations? How could we enhance that?
  4. How well would you say you know our board and CEO? If not known, what impact would knowing our leadership have on your relationship with us?

Now that you’ve reviewed the many questions you can ask your donors, it’s time to build your survey. Let’s look at how to assemble these individual questions into an impactful survey.

Next steps: designing your donor surveys

Considering the range of your survey’s goals, you’ll likely need more than one survey to meet each of your distinct needs and audiences. As you might expect, each survey will leverage different questions tailored to a specific subset of donors, what you want to know about them, and how you’ll use that information. 

For example, do you want to learn about your small donors, new donors, recurring donors, major donors, or lapsed donors? Do you want to learn about their motivations for giving, communication preferences, or funding interests?

Answering these questions will help you determine which survey questions to ask and how to deliver them. Generally, there are three main considerations to take into account when designing surveys:

  • Live vs. asynchronous. Live surveys allow for more in-depth, off-the-cuff conversations and the ability to immediately follow up on answers. On the other hand, asynchronous surveys can adapt to respondents’ schedules and allow them to think through their answers.
  • In-person vs. remote. In-person surveys can set the stage for robust and long-lasting donor engagement. Remote surveys, such as those sent by mail, conducted over video calls, or filled out online, can reach a broader range of respondents.
  • Open-ended vs. closed-ended. You’ll likely want to include a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions. Often, multiple choice, checkbox, and ranking questions are quick to complete and lend themselves better to asynchronous surveys. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, support longer, in-depth responses.

Give yourself ample time to define your questions and review them with relevant stakeholders from your marketing, fundraising, and engagement teams.

Prepare to listen and implement donor feedback

In addition to continuing to survey your donors regularly, plan to listen and respond in a meaningful way to the feedback (both positive and negative) you receive.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing