Create a Successful Nonmember Survey

While associations typically survey members, reaching out to nonmembers can also help shed light on ways to strengthen your association. One expert shared how groups can develop effective nonmember surveys.

Associations often use surveys to measure member satisfaction and determine their needs so that they can improve products and other offerings. But there’s also a lot of value in surveying nonmembers.

“If done correctly, a nonmember survey can not only help your association address barriers to joining but also consider ways that nonmembers are involved and provide value to the organization,” said Kristin Richeimer, DES, CAE, president and owner of e7m International Consulting, LLC.

If your association is considering reaching out to nonmembers for feedback, Richeimer shared some tips for getting started.

Involve Members and Partners

Before you draft the questions for your nonmember survey, Richeimer recommends asking for member input. As the main group that interacts and uses your programs and benefits, members will have a good sense of the issues that might be front of mind for nonmembers.

Start by reaching out to volunteer leaders and committee members about issues they currently wrestle with and what questions they’d like to ask nonmembers.

“Involving members will help them feel engaged as volunteers, and if they’re invested in the data, they may be more likely to share the survey with their partners who aren’t members to get more participants,” Richeimer said.

In addition to asking members to promote the survey, associations should talk to their partner societies, sponsors, or vendors who can help get the word out about the survey to nonmembers.

“These partners may potentially help distribute the survey to their members who may be more incentivized to take the survey because it’s from someone they know or have a preexisting relationship with,” Richeimer said.

Remove Barriers to Participation

Once you have nonmembers on board to take the survey, make it straightforward and easy to complete. That likely means prioritizing multiple choice and close-ended questions over open-ended ones.

“[A]s much as possible, you want to standardize responses that you think people will give and offer the opportunity to provide written feedback but toward the end of the survey,” she said.

Logic-based questions can also be useful to include in these surveys since they allow associations to dig into certain areas to learn more about nonmembers. An example of a logic-based question could be: “You indicated that you have never considered joining the organization. Please rank which of the following reasons apply.”

Richeimer also recommends offering the survey in multiple languages to help remove potential barriers to entry. Translated surveys aren’t just useful for international associations but also for organizations that represent different communities and cultures across the country.

“Translation can help increase your response rate and accuracy of the data,” Richeimer said. “You have more confidence in the responses you’re getting; I think that’s extremely important if you’re serving a multilingual constituency or membership base.”


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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