Audiences can offer vital extra information to charities looking to use data to drive improvement and change
Charities already have a raft of data at their disposal, through their social media accounts, registration information, and on their CRM systems.
This can be used to gain vital information into donor and supporter behaviour, as well as helping to target more beneficiaries to broaden a charity’s ability to support communities.
But there is always room for more insight from data to help charities improve, especially by asking their audiences.
Here we will look at some of the additional ways charities can collect data to make a better data set. We will also look at the importance of obtaining consent.
The most efficient way charities can gather data is through using digital survey tools to find out anything from how its services are performing to views on marketing and campaigning.
These can be quantitative, offering an insight into the proportion of supporters and stakeholders with positive or negative views. It can also be qualitative, offering a more in-depth insight into a charity, which can be particularly informative in meeting challenges, such as making sure the hardest to reach communities are being supported.
Luckily there are a range of survey tools to help construct a questionnaire, many of which offer a cost-effective way of gather data.
This includes Survey Monkey, which is widely used by charities and includes a free plan and paid-for options that depend on your needs and the breadth of the survey.
Others include Smart Survey, which also has free and paid-for plans and is used by charities including Parkinson’s and Anthony Nolan.
Online form builder Cognito Forms is another option. This can be used for registration and sign-up forms, as well as for surveys. Cognito Forms offers a range of templates designed for charities looking to survey their communities.
Another way of gathering data from audiences is by asking for responses to emails. This can be included in existing email marketing campaigning.
As well as informing audiences of the latest campaigning and news, these emails can also be used to ask questions and gather further insight.
This form of surveying can offer vital feedback data to help charities maintain and attract donors, encourage volunteering, and ensure supporters feel involved in charities’ decision-making process.
Having the right platforms, software, and systems in place to quiz audiences is only one part of the challenge in gathering further data. Asking the right questions is also key.
It is vital that charities ask questions that offer the charity valuable information and ensures it is not bogged down with less relevant data.
Questions that are poorly phrased can also confuse audiences. Make sure they are clear and concise.
The book Effective Data Storytelling offers a useful four-step guide to ensuring the right questions are being asked.
In planning a survey or questionnaire charities are advised to ask themselves what challenge the charity is looking to solve. This could be a campaign or resource that is failing to engage. Questions should focus on gaining a deeper understanding of why and what can be done to improve. Offering a range of options for improvement can give a good insight into how the problem can be solved.
A key question charities should ask is what is their goal? Be realistic. Don’t ask questions that focus on unrealistic goals. All charities would like to spend millions of pounds on improvement in areas of the organisation, but more cost-effective solutions may be needed. Questions need to be steered towards achievable goals, not impossible dreams.
Assess the likely actions that could arise from gathering further data from audiences. Do they represent value for money? Will those actions engage supporters?
When measuring responses, it is vital that charities are focused, even if they are gathering views around several areas of their organisation. If the marketing team is looking to improve their campaigning, for example, focus on data around areas such as social media engagement and how much and how frequently supporters give. The policy team may want a completely different data, perhaps around lobbying, to help them improve.
Consent is required from those taking part in surveys, emails, and questionnaires. This is an ethical requirement around transparency but also a legal one, bound by the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU legislation that has been adopted into UK law following Brexit, as well as the Data Protection Act.
According to the UK Data Service: “A failure to property address issues of consent may restrict opportunities for initial use of data, the publishing of your results, and the sharing of the data.” It specifically highlights the need to obtain consent in surveys.
When personal identifiers are not collected, the survey should clearly state that consent for the data for specified purposes is implied when taking part in the survey. Charities should also offer assurances that they will not be sharing any personal information.
When personal or sensitive data is collected, charities should use written consent forms to ensure compliance with data legislation. The UK Data Service has an example survey consent statement for guidance.