Balancing topics in your questionnaires

A client working on a project for a non-profit recently sent me two questionnaires:

Version 1
Written by my client, and primarily driven by their contact, the CEO. The survey focused on evaluating the organization as a whole, though a significant emphasis was on communication and fundraising.
Version 2
Written by one of the non-profit's board members. The questionnaire was far more granular, focusing on specific programs offered.

The challenge? How to find the best balance—diplomatically of course.

One way to deconstruct a situation like this is to list all the topics/departments you're evaluating, and then simply count how many questions you have for each one.

  Version 1 Version 2
Overall organization 24 1
Facilities/environment 13 9
Communication 7 0
Fundraising 4 1
Program A 0 7
Program B 0 6
Program C 0 6
Program D 0 6
Program E 0 6
Program F 0 6
Program G 0 7
Demographics 2 3
General Comments 0 0
Total 50 58

They couldn't simply meld the two questionnaires as that would make the survey far too long. However, one can look at these tallies, recognize there's a lot of ground to cover, and say "We can only ask 1-4 questions on each topic." Naturally there are situations where an issue calls for more or less detail, but this can be a useful starting point.

If you really want to look at one specific issue, another option is targeted polls. While you don't want to flood your population with questionnaires, consider having monthly or every other month quick polls that are available from your Website or newsletter. And "quick" means 3-6 questions, not 25.

As always, comments act as a safety net when you're removing quantitative detail in the name of completions.

Need a Hand?

A little help can add a lot of polish—or just save hours and headaches:

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I used one of the tips from class in working with data for [my] seminar and it saved me four hours! You were not a good instructor. You were great.

Steve Bottfeld
Executive Vice President
Marketing Solutions