Survey Course

This Survey Type Is Better Than Almost Anything Else You Can Do in Fundraising

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One of the first things I learned about when I joined Moceanic a few months ago was an amazing fundraising technique we called the Supporter Connection Survey.

I was blown away…

But now I’m even more blown away because I’ve seen it at work first hand.

Listen: If the Ice Bucket Challenge and the LiveStrong Bracelet got together and had a child, that child would be lame and ineffective compared to the Supporter Connection Survey!

When I learned about the Supporter Connection Survey, I blogged about it.

I want to quote extensively from that post, and then tell you how I missed the mark at that time. I simply wasn’t amazed enough!

Here’s that post:

I’ve just learned about an exciting new direct mail fundraising technique. Yes, I’m using the word “new” in the same sentence with “direct mail.” I know we all tend to think everything about direct mail is older than dirt. But this is new.

And it just might blow your mind the way it did mine.

It’s called a Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a direct mail pack that features a survey.

You might be saying right now, “Surveys are not new in fundraising, you idiot!” That’s more or less what I said at first. But a Supporter Connection Survey is different. It’s so different, it’s not really a survey at all — even though it looks and acts exactly like one.

Sean and Paul, the co-founders of at Pareto Fundraising used similar surveys in the UK in the 90s, and Pareto developed them further with charities in Australia from 2003. This type of survey is now common in Australia and New Zealand and used in some form by the majority of successful fundraising charities there.

In short, a Supporter Connection Survey is meant to discover what individual donors think and say about your cause… so you can talk back to them about the things they care about. It’s not unlike an actual conversation!

It also helps you find solid legacy giving leads and other forms of valuable connection with donors. (And this — revenue-wise — is even more important.)

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re an organization called the Australian Animals Alliance. One of the questions in your Supporter Connection Survey might be this:

Which of these projects interests you most (check one)?

  • Saving wombats from spreading urbanization.
  • Providing rescue homes for orphaned echidnas.
  • Rescuing emus that have wandered into cities.
  • Providing medical care for sick platypuses.

Then the money question: Can you tell me why that is important to you? And leave a blank space for them to write an answer.

These are all things the Australian Animals Alliance does. Now here’s the cool part: You’re going to put your donors’ answers into your database. And later on, in direct mail, you’re going to have a paragraph like the following:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey you filled out, you believe in saving wombats from spreading urbanization.

And for some of your higher value donors, you literally repeat back to them what they wrote to your question about why it’s important. Like this:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey, “I really care about wombats because my father was a wombat conservation activist.”

And that’s fundraising magic. Telling donors you know what they care about is a powerful thing. It meaningfully improves future results.

But that’s not all. You’ll uncover some highly valuable donors by asking:

  • A question about bequests.
  • A question about being a high-level donor.
  • A question about being a monthly donor.

This uncovers an almost unbelievable amount of valuable information about donors who are ready to do more! You still have to connect with them and cultivate them, but that first step of finding them is the beauty of it.

A Supporter Connection Survey looks almost exactly like other kinds of surveys, so let me show you what it is not:

It’s not a research survey

You are not going to get useful, statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s not a fundraising “push” survey

That’s the type of survey more widely used in fundraising. This type of survey is also not for research. In fact, you don’t get any usable information from a push survey.

If you were the Australian Animals Alliance and you did a push survey, your questions would be like this: Do you support conserving the unique wildlife of Australia? (Yes or no.) The goal of a push survey is to build a sort of momentum of YES, so saying “yes” to making a donation is easy and natural.

Push surveys work quite well in many areas of fundraising, especially those that have an advocacy flavor, like the environment and civil liberties. They are a mainstay of political fundraising.

But they’re not at all like Supporter Connection Surveys.

Supporter Connection Surveys are all about creating two-way communication between organizations and donors. Done right, they are virtual magic.

Okay, that’s what I said a couple of months ago. Since then, I’ve walked alongside an organization as they created and launched a Supporter Connection Survey. They got more donor interest, more bequest leads, and more major donor leads than our most optimistic projections. A lot more! So many more that they are looking at a future with many times the revenue they get today.

This single survey (and you can bet they’ll be doing it again) will transform the life of the organization. They’ll be able to do more of their good work than they’ve dreamed possible — until now. And they’re dreaming!

Thus the reason I’m telling you this.

Interested in learning more about this amazing tool?

Check out our online course about supporter connection surveys. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel!

Jeff Brooks

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