A volunteer survey helps you get important feedback from the people who are supporting your mission. This feedback is valuable for several reasons.
First, volunteer feedback is essential to improving the experience of your volunteers. If you don't know what your volunteers like or dislike about their experience with your organization, it's challenging to make improvements in the future.
Second, a solid volunteer survey helps you discover what opportunities would appeal to potential new volunteers at your organization. This enables you to create an effective recruitment strategy for attracting new members who will provide value and support for the mission of your group.
Finally, asking for input from your volunteers shows that you value them and their opinions. You are indicating that you support them. Being asked for feedback, and then having action taken on your behalf is a huge encouragement to your volunteers.
Before you create your survey, decide what you want to get out of it and how you will use the results. You may want to measure your volunteer satisfaction and identify how you can make changes internally to improve your program. You may want to collect data to share externally with potential donors who are interested in supporting your mission. Or maybe you want to learn what's important to your volunteers so that you can effectively recruit for more help!
What to include in a volunteer survey
Tell your volunteers why you are conducting a survey, and thank them in advance for completing it.
"We're collecting feedback from volunteers about their experience so we can improve our program. We are interested in learning about your favorite parts of volunteering, as well as the biggest challenges that you face. Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey, we value your response immensely."
Ask participants for their names so you can follow up if necessary. You may feel tempted to allow for anonymous surveys since they potentially facilitate more authentic feedback, however, this is rarely constructive. Anonymity leads to a lack of accountability and further frustration by the inability to follow up.
"What is your name?"
It is important to ask each participant how long they have been volunteering. Someone who has been volunteering for 2 years has a completely different perspective than someone who just started last month. You may even consider asking unique questions to people who have been volunteering for less than a year vs those who have been for over a year.
"How long have you been volunteering?"
a. less than a year
b. more than a year
In addition to knowing how long each person has served, it is important to know where they have served. This will allow you to really hone in on where changes need to be made in your program.
"What volunteer roles have you served in (select all that apply)"
The final qualification question you should ask is how often each person volunteers. This will not only give you insight into the volunteer's perspective but will also help you get a pulse on how involved/committed your volunteers are overall.
"How often do you volunteer?"
Start out positive
Ask participants why they serve with your organization. This will tell you what their motivation is and will help you effectively recruit for more help. Additionally, ask what they like most about their experience. Then you will know what NOT to change in your program and what to do MORE of. Both of these questions are best to have open-ended.
"Why did you become a volunteer?"
"What do you enjoy most about volunteering?"
Ask about their challenges
Now it is time to collect constructive criticism. Volunteers can be shy about writing their own challenges, so it is a good idea to offer options.
"What challenges do you face as a volunteer?"
a. Lack of resources
b. Lack of training and not feeling confident in your role
c. Being overwhelmed by tasks
d. Lack of recognition and feeling discouraged
e. Other ____________.
Follow up that multiple-choice question with an open-ended question that allows volunteers to get straight to the point.
"What would be your #1 recommendation for our volunteer program?"'
Get an overall pulse
It is a good idea to check in on your volunteers' overall satisfaction frequently.
"How would you rate your overall experience? 5= positive, 1= negative."
You will also want to know how impactful your volunteers feel that their roles are. If volunteers do not feel like they are making a difference, they will quickly burn out. They will become discouraged and de-motivated. There are many things you can do to encourage your volunteers if you know that they feel this way.
"How impactful do you feel your role is to the organization? 5= significant, 1= insignificant. Please explain why."
Finally, as the last question in your survey, give volunteers the opportunity to share any last comments or concerns. This ties up your survey nicely and allows your volunteers to get in a final word.
"Do you have any other comments or concerns we should know about?"
Volunteer survey tips & best practices
- Keep it short and sweet- this will get a better response rate
- Send reminders to volunteers to complete the survey
- Avoid vague questions
- Include the "other" option when the question is multiple choice
What to do with the results
1. Look for consistencies. You aren't going to be able to make every single change that is suggested to you, but you can look for trends and make the most important improvements.
2. Compile the results for sharing. You do not need to broadcast all of your negative feedback, but you can share constructive criticism you received that you are putting into action. You can also share positive results compiled into a chart, graph, or infographic. This information is best shared with your board, stakeholders, and potentially your social audience.
3. Follow up with your volunteers. Delegate supervisors to thank each volunteer again for their input, and to compassionately address concerns that they may have raised. Your volunteers need to feel appreciated and heard.
Volunteer surveys can serve many different purposes and should be conducted frequently. They can help you improve your processes internally and reach more people externally. It is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization and to continue to do better.