As a follow-up to our recently published ebook on season planning for community choruses, one of the seven steps for moving forward is to survey your singers and patrons.
Surveying your community might sound like an easy task at first, but when you start getting into the nuts and bolts of it, it can quickly become overwhelming.
That's why I'm listing a few survey best practices as well as some sample questions for your use.
Writing Survey Questions
Writing surveys is truly an art form that develops with practice. If you're new to writing surveys, here are some tips to help you write the best questions:
- Gather only information you require to make decisions. A good rule of thumb is the shorter the survey, the more responses you'll get. So, keep your surveys brief and only ask questions that give you the answers you'll need. I recommend creating a survey that takes only 5 minutes or less to complete.
- Avoid leading questions. You want honest answers, so try not to lead your respondents to a desired outcome. Keep an objective tone and offer a wide set of answers for respondents to choose from.
- Ask the question once. Don't ask the same question in different ways. Determine upfront how you want to phrase that question and ask it once.
- Have some open-ended responses, but limit them. Open-ended responses require your respondents to put in more thought and effort than other question types. Another general rule of thumb: the less effort it takes to complete the survey, the more likely it will be completed. Give your respondents options to choose from instead of open-ended questions when possible. However, I generally like to add at least one open-ended response at the end of the survey for respondents to add any additional thoughts that they didn't get the opportunity to address earlier.
- Keep your questions optional. Allow survey respondents to skip questions they don't want to answer. This can keep them from exiting the survey early.
- Keep it anonymous. You certainly don't have to keep your surveys anonymous but I have found that you're more likely to get honest answers if you do. There are a few exceptions to the rule. If you choose to incentivize your respondents, such as offering a gift card raffle, you'll want to remember to include fields to capture names and emails so that you can distribute the rewards. If you want to follow-up with respondents one-on-one, you can ask if they are willing to discuss further and for their contact information if so.
Recommended Survey Tools
I certainly haven't tried every survey tool on the market, but these are a few of my favorites:
- SurveyMonkey - advanced functionality; pricing ranges between $25-$75 per user per month with a free basic option.
- TypeForm- advanced functionality; known for it's user experience; pricing ranges between $35 and $70 per month.
- Google Forms - basic functionality, free!
Surveying Your Singers
To write a survey, start first with asking yourself what you need to know. Then, build questions that support obtaining those answers. For singer surveys amidst COVID-19, I probably want to know a couple things:
- Are they planning to remain an active member during these uncertain times?
- Which factors will influence their decision to remain a member?
- What types of new activities might interest them?
- What do they need from our organization at this time?
Every chorus is unique. Your chorus may want to get a lot of general feedback or you may want to narrow the scope around specific ideas. I'm providing a long list of sample questions that you can piece together in your own survey to take to your choristers. But, please, do think about whether these make the most sense for your organization and alter them accordingly!
What do you think is the best course forward for our organization in the next season? Please rank the following choices in the order of your preference. #1 being your most preferred option and #5 being your least preferred option. (ranking scale)
- Wait on a decision until we know more information about the pandemic.
- Postpone season until January 2021.
- Cancel season and plan for 2021-2022 season instead.
- Plan in-person concert season and adjust as needed throughout the season.
- Plan virtual concert season.
- A combination of all of the above.
If we postpone or cancel the season, do you intend to return as an active member when the chorus returns again in 2021? (multiple choice)
If we plan in-person concerts in 2020-2021, do you plan to participate in one or more of these performances? (multiple choice)
If unsure, what will increase the likelihood of your participation? (open-ended response)
If we plan virtual rehearsals, performances, or similar activities in 2020-2021, do you plan to participate in one or more of these virtual activities? (multiple choice)
If unsure, what will increase the likelihood of your participation? (open-ended response)
Do you have the technical capacity to participate in some virtual activities? (You'll likely need a device such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone with a camera and microphone as well as the internet.)
The chorus leadership has identified a number of activities to engage the chorus until we return. Please indicate which of these activities you would likely participate in if given the opportunity. Select all that apply. (multi-select)
- [List any activities your chorus is considering here! Examples below:]
- Virtual choir videos
- Online watch parties
- Sing-along virtual events
- Partnering with a local charity
- Musical workshops (theory, history, etc.)
- Individual voice lessons
- In-person mini choir meet-ups and activities (limited to 10 people or less)
If you have other ideas in ways the chorus can better serve you during this time, please list them here. (open-ended response)
Has the ability to pay member dues and other chorus-related fees been adversely affected by the pandemic? (multiple choice)
If the chorus is able to provide value to you during this time, are you still willing and able to pay full member dues to the organization? (multiple choice)
Is there anything else you would like the chorus leaders to know? Please list out any additional comments or thoughts in the box below. (open-ended response)
Surveying Your Patrons (Ticket Buyers and/or Donors)
Okay, now let's talk about your external audience, or your patrons. Again, let's start with what we want to know:
- If we host in-person concerts, will they attend?
- Will they engage with the organization in other ways if we do not host in-person concerts? What types of activities interest them?
- Are they willing to pay for any of these activities or support the organization in other ways?
Here is a list of sample questions to get you started. (And yes, you guessed it, please do customize these to meet the needs of your chorus!)
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to attend an in-person musical concert in the next 12 months? (ranking scale)
If our chorus planned an in-person concert following all recommended safety procedures for mass gatherings, on a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to attend? (ranking scale)
What factors will increase the likelihood of your participation? (open-ended question)
The chorus is considering planning virtual concerts and activities, are you interested in attending virtual performances or other virtual singing activities? (multiple choice)
If yes, would you be willing to purchase a ticket for some virtual activities? (multiple choice)
Has your ability to purchase tickets from a financial standpoint been adversely affected by the pandemic? (multiple choice)
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to donate to arts organizations next year? (multiple choice)
What factors will influence your decision to donate? (open-ended question)
What types of choral activities would you be willing to fund or support during this time? Select your top three. (multi-select)
- [List some of the opportunities that your chorus is considering here. Examples below:]
- In-person concerts
- Virtual choral concerts
- Commissioning new music
- Virtual singing activities open to the public
- Online musical courses or instructions
- Experimental programming
How can our organization provide value to you during this time? (open-ended question)
Has your ability to donate to arts organizations been adversely affected by the pandemic? (multiple choice)
- Yes, significantly
- Yes, but only partially
May we contact you for follow-up questions? (multiple choice)
If yes, please enter your name and email address below. (open-ended response)
Sending the Survey
Once you've got your survey mapped out in your favorite tool, it's time to send it!
Here are a couple of tips:
- Test the invite and the link to ensure it is working properly.
- Have a couple members on your team fill out the survey and time how long it takes them to do it.
- Keep the survey promotions short and sweet with a clear button/call-to-action linking them to the survey. Be sure to mention the time it will take to complete (ideally 5 minutes or less).
- For your member survey, post it to your members-only site, to your member forums or groups, and in an email to your active membership.
- For the public survey to your patrons, utilize several marketing channels to distribute the survey such as email marketing, website, social media, asking your members to share, etc.
- If possible, use incentives to motivate people to complete the survey. Things like gift card raffles can really motivate respondents!
Once you've received your answers, you will be able to run a full analysis and report for your leadership. If you're feeling generous, feel free to share some of your questions or your results in the comments below to help your fellow choral colleagues.
Good luck and happy surveying!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.