Inexpensive tools to gain insight from your constituents
Guest post by Eric Leland
Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, journalists, Web publishers, general public.
Online surveys can be a huge help in understanding what your constituents think and how successful your programs are, without breaking your budget. We spoke to five nonprofit staff members to understand how existing online survey tools compare, from features to pricing.
Ever wonder how well received your annual dinner event is? Looking to evaluate a new program? Need to collect data for a big research project? Surveys can be a huge help in understanding what your constituents think and how successful your programs are.
Good tools can be a big part of that. Online survey tools can be a cost-effective way for delivering surveys and collecting and analyzing results through one central system. While they’re not going to be the right fit for every research need — for instance, a paper survey is likely to get a much higher response rate at an in-person event, and provide more accurate data among populations that are not as comfortable with computers — online surveys are great for gathering informal data quickly and easily.
Below we walk through a number of low-cost online survey tools that have worked for others and might work for you as well. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should help your organization get going.
1SurveyMonkey offers a popular online hosted survey tool that works well for basic surveys. The free version might be useful for very small and informal surveys, but allows very little customization of the look of the survey, no downloads of reports or data, and can only collect 10 questions and 100 responses per survey. Under its pricing plans, the Select version ($19.95/month, or $199/year) offers unlimited questions and responses, customizability, skip logic and the ability to export Excel and PDF files. The package’s folder structure and “search by title” feature makes it easy to navigate through many surveys. Reports are minimal, but they allow you to export results to another application to do more serious analysis. Higher-end Gold and Platinum versions ($229/year and $779/year) offer advanced logic features like question and answer piping, randomization, text analysis for open responses, and integration with IBM’s SPSS statistical software.
2SurveyGizmo offers a range of more advanced packages from $75/month or $810/year. Discounted options are available for nonprofit and educational organizations and a free version is available with limited features. SurveyGizmo offers basic piping, fully customizable survey look and feel, and the ability to embed images and videos hosted on your own website. More advanced levels offer many randomization options (question options, questions per survey page, and pages themselves), skip logic, and more. SurveyGizmo offers an API for integrating survey functionality into websites, blogs and other applications, including integration with Salesforce.com.
3PollDaddy offers surveys and polls that can be easily embedded into external websites and applications. The free package offers a maximum of 10 questions per survey and 100 responses per month, plus basic reporting. More advanced versions cost between $200/year and $899/year. Survey features are more limited than some of the other options in this category, with no skip logic or piping, but survey administrators have a lot of flexibility over the look of the survey, by selecting from pre-designed templates, or fully customizing the template by editing stylesheet code. Surveys can be delivered in pop-up windows, and results can be tracked via RSS feed.
Lower cost integrated solutions
There are a number of inexpensive solutions that bundle in additional features outside of surveys and polls. These can be quite useful if you find that your survey needs often overlap with others—for instance, the need to send emails. However, the survey functionality within these integrated tools tends be fairly basic, and they’re unlikely to meet the needs of those looking for advanced survey logic or analysis features.
4Although known primarily as an email marketing tool, Constant Contact offers “Listen-Up,” a hosted survey tool with some interesting benefits. There’s no free option, but fee-based packages are competitive with other lower-cost options, starting at $15/month for nonprofits, depending on the number of respondents who will be answering surveys. Constant Contact offers more than 40 predesigned templates with some ability to customize. Surveys can include skip logic and can be scheduled in advance. The tool also offers a variety of emailing and email management services, including contact importing, list segmentation and basic contact management. Reports are quite basic, but data can be exported for analysis in another tool.
5FormSite offers a tool for building website forms — everything from simple “contact us” forms to evaluation forms. Although the focus is forms for feedback and test-taking, FormSite offers a basic set of survey features, and may be useful to those looking to collect a lot of different types of information via web-forms. Features include multiple page surveys, question randomization, basic skip logic and piping. Surveys can be customized to match your website by someone familiar with HTML. They offer a variety of prices, including a limited free account, and packages range from $9.95/month to $99.95/month.
6Moodle is a powerful open source course management software package primarily targeted at schools and universities — although it’s down for servicing at the moment and hasn’t conveyed pricing information. Moodle integrates website content management and online course management with survey and test-taking solutions. The survey tools are geared toward those gathering feedback from students to assess teaching methods, and several verified survey instruments are provided for this purpose. Moodle may be appropriate for nonprofits running training programs or schools seeking an all-in-one website, course and survey management solution for their programs. The package is free to download, but will require substantial technical knowledge to install, configure, customize and support.
More advanced survey packages
If you are looking to conduct larger-scale research, marketing and feedback analysis projects, a more powerful survey package could provide welcome functionality. These tools offer significantly more advanced question formats, survey logic and data analysis. The more complex functionality makes them more difficult to use without training, especially for those without prior survey design expertise.
7Qualtrics provides advanced survey logic and analysis targeted at research surveys, with a focus on academic institutions. The Qualtrics Research Suite provides data analysis support for cross-tabulation, conjoint analysis, subgroup analysis, time series analysis and more.
8QuestionPro packages range from limited free versions to more advanced $15-$99/month pricing options. The free package lets you re-use questions from one survey to the next, or pull questions from a standard survey template library. The more advanced packages offer unlimited surveys, questions and responses with skip logic, piping, randomization and even more complex survey logic, as well as multimedia and multilingual support. QuestionPro also offers an API to exchange survey data with outside applications, including a module for Salesforce.com integration.
9This is a powerful, free and open source survey package appropriate for nonprofits looking for advanced survey logic and analysis features and who have substantial technology support. Its range of features includes full customization of survey look and feel, support for 40 different languages, piping, skip logic, a library of available survey questions and blast emailing. The tool has a large support community and is under active development. This is an open source package that can be downloaded for free, installed on your own web server, and customized to your needs by a developer with knowledge of PHP/ MySQL. Although the tool itself is free, be prepared to bear the costs for your own web hosting, and the time it takes to properly install, configure, customize and support this product on your own.
10Key Survey is the most robust and expensive of the advanced survey tools covered in this article. Prices range from $1,950 to $5,950/year for single-user subscriptions. It offers a full set of features, including several unusually advanced ones such as LDAP integration to allow single-sign-on models for large organizations, role based permissions, support for “teacher/student” surveys, multimedia questions and much more. Key Survey also offers an API to exchange survey data with outside applications, with a module for Salesforce.com integration.
Choosing the right survey tool
Start by thinking about your needs. If you’re just looking to get your feet wet with a quick survey, one of the free or low cost tools will probably work fine. In fact, a more sophisticated survey package is likely to just be considerably more difficult for you to use. On the other hand, if you’re looking for survey software to support rigorous research, the more advanced packages are more likely to have the features you need.
Whichever type of package makes sense for you, take advantage of the free versions to take the tools for a trial run. While many of the advanced features are not available in the free trials, the vendor may be able to give you access to these features as well.
With a little care, you can choose a package that will make it easy to collect and analyze data. When that next annual dinner or research project comes around, you won’t have to guess what people are thinking — you can find out!
What did we miss? Do you have a favorite survey tool not on this list?
Eric Leland is a consultant with Leland Design and a founding partner of FivePaths. He currently resides in San Francisco, where he is highly involved with nonprofit and technology circles. This article originally appeared on Idealware, was updated by Socialbrite and is copyright Techsoup, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.
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