I talked about surveys today with a client of mine, Randi Corey of the Hydrocephalus Association. Her nonprofit experience includes working with/for:
- Academic fundraising
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- JDRF March of Dimes
- Hydrocephalus Association
Needless to say, I was qualified to do more listening than talking in this conversation. It was fascinating to speak at length with someone with such a breadth of experience.
She related this story:
“I had an upscale golf event while with JDRF at the Governor’s Club, an upscale venue. Someone in our group had the idea that we could save lots of money by moving to a less expensive, and less prestigious, venue. I was uncomfortable with the idea, thinking it would hurt participation.
To make me comfortable the group said, ‘let’s survey the participants from this past year and ask if it matters to them.’ We did that. The participants said, ‘we really don’t care. Move it if it will save money. We’ll be there for you regardless.’ Well, needless to say, they didn’t show up and our fundraising dropped like a rock. The next year we returned to the prestigious venue and our fundraising went back up.”
Randi’s point wasn’t that people sign up more when events are held at prestigious venues. Her point was that people don’t survey well and often don’t act as they say they will.
Participants sometimes say one thing, but do another.
We find the same thing in our work with incentive/recognition programs. Participants say in our surveys, “I wouldn’t want the gift I would earn for fundraising.” But, when presented with a gift opportunity after earning one, they redeem hand over fist. And, higher fundraisers redeem at higher percentages than lower fundraisers, though the high fundraisers most often say, “I wouldn’t take the gift.”
LESSON LEARNED: Ignore what they say, measure what they do.
(If you are interested in learning more about the psyche of fundraisers, I encourage you to read, “Branded Versus Non-Branded Fundraising Gifts. Which is Better?”