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filling form onlineNo matter the issue, successful grassroots advocacy campaigns share a few things in common: clear and compelling messaging, strategically targeted communications, and a deep understanding of your supporters to inform both messaging and outreach.

While knowledge of your field or industry can take you far, there’s no replacement for hard data when it comes to understanding your supporters. How can you ensure your grassroots strategies resonate deeply and drive impactful change?

Surveys can uncover your supporters’ real sentiments, perspectives, what they want, and who they are. By integrating survey data into your advocacy planning, you can not only boost the effectiveness of your campaigns but also foster a stronger connection with your community.

Read on to better understand how surveys can support your advocacy efforts, as well as best practices for survey creation and distribution — from crafting questions that get to the heart of what your supporters truly care about to analyzing data that guides your strategic decisions.

The Impact of Surveys for Advocacy

Surveys can be useful during the planning stages of new campaigns, providing data you can use to make sure strategies line up with your supporters’ priorities. They can even be used to reveal who your potential supporters are by collecting demographic information. 

Moreover, surveys “can be used at the outset to determine whether the advocacy program even has a chance of success,” says John Nienstedt, president at Competitive Edge Research & Communication. “Getting a ‘no-go’ based on real data — not just a guess or a finger in the wind — could save a ton of time, effort, money, and heartbreak.”

If an advocacy strategy is viable, Nienstedt says a well-designed survey can help you determine:

  • How best to frame the issue 
  • Who the target audience should be
  • Which media to communicate with
  • Where, geographically, resources should be devoted
  • What words, phrases, slogans, and messages are more persuasive

Answering these questions starts with understanding how to write, distribute, and analyze an effective survey as well as what digital tools to use in the process. 

Writing Clear Questions 

Writing strong survey questionsWriting a survey requires some careful deliberation. “No research is better than bad research,” says Niensted, “because the latter leads an organization confidently in the wrong direction.”

To get data that will lead you in the right direction, it’s important to take your time crafting clear, direct questions free of bias. 

“It’s easy to write questions that are convoluted and full of terms that people don’t really understand,” says Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. “The first rule of writing a good question is to make sure that that question is something people understand.” 

In addition to clear, concise writing, consider your target respondents’ level of knowledge. Avoid industry-specific jargon or references to concepts that aren’t common knowledge. 

To ensure clarity, ask yourself if your questions could be interpreted in multiple ways. For example, the question “Do you use Instagram or Facebook?” is more likely to be misinterpreted than “Do you use Instagram, Facebook, both, or neither?” 

Making questions bias-free involves using neutral language, ensuring questions are not leading respondents, and making them balanced by acknowledging both sides of an issue. “Do you support Medicaid expansion?” is not balanced; “Do you support or oppose Medicaid expansion?” is. 

Choose the Right Question Type

When it comes to the type of survey question you use, it’s important to consider what you want to learn in the first place. Multiple choice questions or rating scales can give you more precise data that can be easier to translate into actionable insights. However, they also limit how much you can learn from respondents. Open-ended response questions are harder to summarize but provide richer insights. 

Finally, survey length matters. While there’s no hard rule for how long a survey should be, SurveyMonkey found that completion rates drop when surveys take longer than 7 to 8 minutes.

Acing Survey Distribution

Reaching the highest number of potential respondents is an art of its own and typically involves consistent, repeated outreach. 

Consider distributing your survey via multiple channels (including email, text, phone calls, social media, and a call to action on your website or action center) so all supporters can see it. If possible, it’s a good idea to make your surveys available in multiple languages so you can capture input from diverse populations. 

Good outreach increases participation, but so does good survey design. “Well-designed questions encourage response,” Yost says. “If you’ve got a good questionnaire that people find interesting, they’re more likely to participate and more likely to finish it. You can’t separate out the design elements from the response.” 

Ensure your survey is accessible, simple, and easy to navigate. Mobile-friendly design is important, too, as 64 percent of traffic to action centers comes from mobile.

Translating Data into Action

Survey insights for advocacyOnce you’ve collected responses to your survey, it’s time to analyze your results. Survey data analysis requires some basic statistics knowledge and the focus and discipline to ensure you’re seeing what’s really there.

“Sometimes advocacy professionals struggle with combining their personal values with what data tells us about the population. But it’s essential to be clear-eyed when analyzing your data and not be misled by what you want to believe to be true,” says Chris Jackson, senior vice president and public polling lead at Ipsos Public Affairs. 

Of course, analysis isn’t useful unless it can be translated into action. To do this, it’s important to return to your original goals for conducting the survey. “To be effective, you’re going to have to have some general sense of what’s important to know and how you might use that,” Yost says. “You have to do the work up front to understand what you need to know so that at the back end, you have a sense of a natural next step.”

For example, if you’re creating educational campaigns for your supporters, it’s important to have an idea of where the gaps in their understanding are so you can do impactful outreach. After surveying supporters on their knowledge of the issues, the natural next step is to develop educational materials about the topics they’re least familiar with.

Without a clear, specific goal behind a survey, turning data into action becomes much less intuitive. 

Simplify Survey Creation with VoterVoice

Designing, distributing, and analyzing a successful survey requires care and attention to detail, but using software for survey creation can streamline the process. VoterVoice’s survey features help you easily build and distribute your surveys. With an intuitive interface and easy-to-use menus, you can input your questions into a survey in minutes. 

VoterVoice then helps you distribute your survey to supporters over multiple forms of outreach. Results are collected in a streamlined dashboard that lets you glance at aggregated results and drill into individual answers.  

VoterVoice enables organizations to have a two-way conversation with advocates, says Maynard Friesz, vice president of policy and advocacy at Cure SMA. 

“The survey tool is easy to use on the back end, and we’ve found that it’s easy to use from the grassroots perspective as well,” Friesz explains. It makes it easy for advocacy leaders like Friesz to learn from the experiences of people affected by the organization’s issues, needs, and challenges. 

Get a demo of VoterVoice’s survey tool

VoterVoice’s survey features help you easily build and distribute your surveys. With an intuitive interface and easy-to-use menus, you can input your questions into a survey in minutes. 

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