10 Essential Nonprofit Survey Questions

It takes a lot of effort for a nonprofit organization to thrive. Unfortunately, some of them burn out too quickly due to the lack of data to make informed decisions. Having enough understanding of what’ is coming and what to expect will determine the success and longevity of your nonprofit.

Why must nonprofits conduct surveys?

Nonprofits must uncover insights into some important questions to keep the show running. Surveys must be conducted and are conducted by nonprofits – big and small, all over the world. Moreover, nonprofit organizations thrive on efficiency. They are known to make the most of the least available resources. Run surveys among the stakeholders – the volunteers, donors, staff, and other supporters to capture their thoughts and feedback to make accurate and timely decisions.

Asking the right question at the right time is of paramount importance to capture ‘true’ feedback. Are you struggling to ask the right questions? What are some questions that you must ask them to obtain actionable feedback? We’ve got you covered. Read on.

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The ten essential survey questions nonprofits ask

Here are the ten essential questions your nonprofit must ask it’s volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders to capture actionable insights. Not only are the questions necessary, but also, the time and place of surveys are critical to collect accurate data.

Let’s take a deep dive into the questions your nonprofit should ask – and also look at the when and the whom to ask aspect.

We’ve broken them down to the following:

  • Donor survey questions
  • Volunteer survey questions
  • Event survey questions

Donor survey questions

The donations received from donors help nonprofit organizations operate smoothly. The money received from donors acts as the backbone that supports the activities of the charitable organization. Nonprofits run donor surveys to have effective communication with the donors, to boost their outreach strategy, to build long-term relationships with them, and to propel donations.

Here are three essential questions you must ask donors.

  1. Why did you choose us?

Non-profits must understand why donors choose them. Reasons may range from donors having the same vision as the nonprofit, or they believe that the organization spends the money wisely and to the best of their potential. Other reasons may include the track record your organization has in serving the community, or to gauge the level of public trust in the nonprofit organization. This question opens opportunities to understand where the organization stands and what improvements can be made to attract donors.

why did you choose to donate to wwf

  1. How likely are you to donate to our cause again?

Ask this question to directly understand whether donations will come in in the future from the present donors. Based on the responses to the question, organizations can plan further fundraising activities to attract donors. If the answer to the question is ‘no’, organizations through the survey itself can find out the reasons why the donor will not donate in the future, or what put them off and take measures to attract donations.donate to our cause again

  1. What matters to you?

It is also essential to know what matters to the donors. Donors donate to a cause they believe in. Your nonprofit organization may be running different programs for the upliftment and betterment of the community, and society in general. Understand what the donors feel about the missions and which mission matters the most to them. Follow up on matters that you and the donor have different opinions on and find common ground to keep the donations coming in by building a rapport.

What matters to you

  1. How easy or difficult was the process of donation?

Don’t just hear, listen. Don’t just read, absorb. Don’t just change, transform. Follow these three principles when you collect donor feedback. It is essential to know the donor’s experience about making their donation. If the process of donation has loopholes, or takes too long, or is a hassle for donors, there are relatively high chances of somebody not donating again. After you receive a donation, make it a point to ask every donor their experience of donation. Make improvements to the process based on their concerns and reassure donors that their contributions are utilized in the right way.
How easy or difficult was the process of donation

Volunteer survey questions

Volunteers are like frontline soldiers of the nonprofit organization. They are the blood that keeps your organization functioning without hiccups. Volunteers belong to different age groups, having different aspirations, and doing different jobs. Together they come as one unit to further the cause of your nonprofit organization. It is your duty as a nonprofit to ensure their satisfaction and keep them happy so that you don’t lose such a valuable resource. Use these crucial questions in your volunteer surveys to maintain your relationship with them and to ensure their satisfaction of giving selflessly to the society.

  1. Volunteer motivation

Volunteers come forward and help further your nonprofit mission because (1) they believe in the same cause, and (2) they are motivated to go to lengths to support this cause to make a difference in the society. Their motivation level plays a vital role in the success of your nonprofit. Nonprofits need to keep volunteers motivated and active to support the activities of the organization.

Volunteer motivation

  1. How many hours of your time have you volunteered with us in an average month?

Nonprofits must maintain a personal relationship with all the volunteers to keep them motivated. It is also essential to understand which of the volunteers have been giving the organization quite a lot of their time and recognize them. Volunteers do not seek money in return for their services. Appreciating volunteers who’ve dedicated their time to your mission will motivate them. The recognition you give them will go a long way in setting an example for the less active members and will hopefully boost your volunteer participation levels.

How many hours of your time have you volunteered with us in an average month

  1. Have you been offered formal training?

Many jobs performed in the organization requires some kind of training. Training builds efficiency, and efficiency is what nonprofits thrive for. The main motive being cost reduction. Trained volunteers will be able to perform tasks quickly and with high efficiency. Volunteers who haven’t received training may tend to get demotivated due to the lack of understanding of the job and may even quit. Maintain training levels for every volunteer so that they can give to society with the best of their potential.

Have you been offered formal training

Event survey questions

Events are one of the best platforms for fundraising for any nonprofit. When planning fundraising activities, survey data from previous events act as inputs and guidelines for future planning. Run pre-event surveys to collect the expectations of potential attendees. Run a mid-event study to understand the in-the-moment issues or shortcomings of the event and send out a post-event survey to all the attendees to collect data that will enable you to fine-tune future events.

  1. Event attendees – What was your biggest takeaway?

Nonprofits run events to showcase their mission and to attract donors, volunteers, and sponsors. Survey attendees after the event to understand their biggest takeaway, and match it against your event goals. Did the event go as planned? And was your message sent out loud and clear to the attendees? These questions help you gauge the effectiveness of the event and assists in taking steps to tailor future events. You also assess whether your message has reached the attendees.

What was your biggest takeaway

  1. Event sponsors – Would you be interested in partnering with our organization?

Nonprofits organize events to attract donors and sponsors. Organizations planning to get their hands involved in CSR and other social activities attend such events. This is one of the most important questions to ask to understand the level of investments and donations coming in. Generally, partnering means locking down for a specified period. This question directly helps nonprofits grasp the monetary security that might come in from partnerships.

Would you be interested in partnering with our organization

  1. Would you consider the event “successful?” Why?

This question is a great one to pose to everybody who attended the event. If the respondent answers ‘no’, he/she can further be probed to understand what was lacking from the event. Organizations can collect feedback on what needs to be done to improve future events. Respondents answering ‘yes’ can also be further asked to specify the areas that they liked and seek inspiration from those prosperous areas. This is a crucial question you must ask all the attendees – the volunteers, staff, donors, partners, and other stakeholders of the nonprofit organization.

Would you consider the event “successful?” Why

5 question types you must use in surveys for your nonprofit organization

Asking the right questions is one part, but posing those questions in the right question type is another important part. Let’s take a look at the basic questions-types you must use to capture accurate information easily. These questions aid you to make better-informed decisions.

  • Semantic differential scale
  • Likert scale questions
  • Rank order scaling questions
  • Matrix table questions
  • Comment box open-ended questions

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1. Semantic differential scale

The semantic differential scale is a question that prompts the user to rate an idea or a statement while measuring the connotative meaning of things. This rating is done on a multipoint rating system. The answer options are at opposite sides of the spectrum with an option to have three, five, or seven answer options.


Question – Please rate our staff on the following traits

Answer options

  1. Cheerful ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Uncheerful
  2. Active ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Passive
  3. Helpful ___:___:___:___:___:___:___ Unhelpful

2. Likert scale questions

A likert scale is used to capture the attitudes of respondents. Attitudes like agreement levels, satisfaction levels, and the level of helpfulness are gauged through this question. It is widely used to measure the opinions and attitudes of the respondents.


Question – Rate your satisfaction level of the food received at the event.

Answer options – 

  1. Very unsatisfactory
  2. Unsatisfactory
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfactory
  5. Very satisfactory

3. Rank order scaling questions

The rank order question enables respondents to rank their answer preferences in the order of their choice. This question is used to gauge the level of importance the respondents have for each answer option. The respondents have to rate each answer option based on the importance it has.


Question – Please rank the following in order of satisfaction

Answer options – 

  1. Location
  2. Timing
  3. Food
  4. Speakers
  5. Accommodation 

4. Matrix table questions

A matrix table question is arranged in a tabular form with the questions listed towards the left side of the table and the answer options listed at the top. Radio buttons are used, and only one answer option may be chosen. 


Matrix table questions

5. Comment box open-ended questions

This question is probably the most important question type. The challenge is using it effectively. An open-ended question can be used after any question to capture additional comments or may be used as a stand-alone question. Use this question type at least once in every survey to capture in-depth feedback from respondents.