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Campbell Rinker provides marketing research services such as surveys, focus groups and database analysis of donors, members, alumni, students and prospects to charities, associations, schools and the companies that serve them.




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Surveys- donor, member, customer, staff, prospect

Why conduct a survey? Perhaps you want to see what your members or employees think of your latest benefits package, or see if your donors or customers are turned off by your president's new tie. Whatever the case, there are numerous ways to conduct a survey.

Internet surveys

Internet surveys are a relatively new methodology for researchers. Beginning around 1993, it took several years for them to go mainstream. Today, they are a common and increasingly sophisticated part of many research plans.

It probably goes without saying, but with an Internet survey, your questionnaire is programmed into a web format using survey software and hosted on an Internet server. You invite potential respondents to visit the Internet survey using a postal mailing, an e-mail invitation or online pop-up announcement, after which people access the survey using their web browsers. Since the respondents answer the questions online, you don't need to do any further data entry. This allows you to see the results in real-time, as the data is collected.

The pros of online surveys include…

  • Fielding costs are typically lower than offline surveys. Online surveys often do not have postal costs, interviewer costs, printing costs, or phone calling charges. Email broadcasting is affordable; delivery costs mere pennies per message or less. Organizations with simple questionnaires can set-up and design their surveys very cheaply with the online survey companies that are currently out there.
  • Results can be collected very quickly. Fielding can take days instead of weeks or even months. However, be careful not to field a survey too quickly! They should stay open for at least a week to minimize the risk of bias (for example, if working moms are more likely to respond over the weekend and your survey was only open between Monday and Friday, you've just underrepresented a group). Also, just as much time should go into designing an Internet questionnaire as would be spent on a mail or phone questionnaire.
  • Internet questionnaires are typically easy to modify in the midst of conducting the survey. Want to add a question or restrict access to certain types of respondents? Not a big deal with most online surveys.
  • Results from an online survey can also be reviewed in real-time online. Graphs, tables, cross-tabulations, etc. can all be generated. This makes monitoring an active survey very easy, and allows easy sharing of data between departments and companies. In some instances there is no further reporting needed, eliminating even more time and costs.
  • In comparison to mail surveys, Internet surveys allow a researcher to efficiently direct respondents to appropriate questions based on their responses. This tends to increase the completion rate and minimize data cleaning, both of which are good for the research.

Cons for online surveys include…

  • Response rates for Internet surveys have dropped consistently since their inception.
  • Some groups are naturally under-represented on the Internet.
  • It may not be possible to obtain email addresses for the specific groups you are trying to reach. In such cases it may be necessary to mail links to the survey in postcards or letters. The response rates for mail to Internet surveys are lower than e-mail to Internet surveys, since with mail pieces potential respondents must make the effort to go online and manually type in the link to participate. If they receive an email invitation, they are already online and only need to click the link.
  • Internet technology is still relatively young and continuously changing. Smaller organizations may find it difficult to maintain the technological knowledge needed to effectively and securely employ online studies.
  • Email address list costs are typically more expensive than the costs of mailing address and phone number lists.
  • Security? Well, it is easier to crash an online survey than it is to steal someone's paper survey out of the mail and fill it out. There is also the problem of keeping respondents from answering your survey multiple times in order to get more incentives or affect the results.

Phone Surveys

With most phone surveys a call center is employed to make outbound calls to a targeted list of phone numbers. Though relying solely on a phone survey to complete a research project is becoming less and less preferable (see the 'cons' below), phone surveying is still a very important survey method.

The pros of phone surveys include…

  • Relatively high response rates
  • Phone numbers are often readily available and affordable
  • Respondents have a real person to interact with (unless using Interactive Voice Response)
  • The elderly are reachable over the phone

Cons for phone surveys include…

  • The cost of phone surveying can be high compared to Internet surveying
  • The turn around time for completing a phone survey can vary greatly depending on how busy a call center is, especially during certain times of the year
  • Graphical elements can not be shown to respondents over the phone
  • Increasingly, younger generations are turning away from traditional phone service, and researchers cannot call mobile phones (though they can send text messages)

Mail Surveys

In this age of the Internet, mail surveys seem almost ancient. But they are in no way antiquated. With a mail survey, a researcher typically mails their paper survey and has it returned by providing a postage-paid envelope. In-person survey distribution, fax-based survey returning, and other varied methods can be blended in with a mail survey format. After the surveys are returned to the researcher, the data is inputted into a software collection program—either manually or using optical recognition technologies.

The pros of mail surveys include…

  • Mail surveys are convenient for respondents; they can complete them when and where they prefer.
  • As with Internet surveys, respondents have the opportunity to spend as much time on the survey as they need, which can result in more detailed responses.
  • Bulk-rate postage, automated mail preparation, large-quantity printing, and printing paper are all relatively affordable.
  • A wide variety of affordable mailing lists are available.
  • Researchers have complete control over what is presented to each potential respondent. With Internet surveys, different computer settings can affect how a survey looks on the screen and every phone interviewer will act differently. But with mail surveys, you can print and prepare the presentation to your exact preferences.
  • This format works well if a large quantity of information needs to be collected, since interviewer time is not being used as the surveys are conducted. Remember to provide the respondents with some sort of motivation for spending time with your survey. The same goes for Internet surveys.

Cons for mail surveys include…

  • It takes much more time to conduct a mail survey than it does a phone or Internet survey. Allow extra time for material printing, mailing piece preparation, mail delivery, and data entry.
  • Respondents are essentially on their own. There is no interviewer to explain instructions, answer questions, or provide clarification. Question-skipping instructions are prone to human error, and respondents can skip whichever questions they do not want to answer. This can result in high levels of abandoned and incomplete surveys. Because of these factors, mail surveys are typically not used for complex issues.
  • Mailed surveys have to compete with other direct mail. Such competition is not exclusive to this format though; email invites must avoid being grouped with spam and phone survey interviewers must compete with telemarketers.
  • Mail surveying can involve outsourcing to numerous different vendors (printers, mail processors, etc.), which requires additional project management time and the potential for external delays.

These are the three most popular survey methods. Campbell rinker can also offer you in-person surveying (mall intercepts, home visits, etc.), text message surveying, and other even more creative methods.

Often an organization's resources and intended audience will dictate what format they use. It is important to verify that the format you plan to use will provide solid data. The most convenient methods are not necessarily the best. Often multiple methods will need to be employed to meet the needs of a particular project.

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Case Study

A community services district was interested in providing new neighborhood parks throughout the city. Local leaders were unsure about what residents would want to get out of the new parks, and to what extent they supported the added expense.

Campbell Rinker conducted phone surveys in both English and Spanish, produced an informative report on the results, and gave presentations on the results to area leaders. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.