This is the eighth of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters.

Table of Contents

Chapter 8

Sample Donor Survey Questionnaire

 What Do You Know About Your Donors?

If you want donors to be loyal to, and support, your organization—they must know you, trust you, and believe that you are fulfilling your mission and using their contributions wisely. If you don’t know who your donors are and what they think of your organization—you can’t successfully communicate with them.

Donor Surveys Help You Learn About Your Donors

Donor surveys can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-to-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet.


First, take a hard look at what you want to learn and about the uses to which you intend to put their response. Although some questions are “standard,” you will be more productive if you develop a survey tailored to your organization’s specific need.

Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of other information gathering methods is used, donor survey planning must take into account:

  • Size and make-up of the donor base to be surveyed.
  • Survey timeline.
  • Adequacy of resources to perform the survey.

Suggested Questions To Be Presented To Donors
(Use or adapt those of relevance and importance to your organization)

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 highest) how familiar are you with (your NPO)?
  2. Have you formed any deeply held opinions about us—what are they?
  3. What do you perceive to be our mission statement?
  4. Do you see our mission as vital and valid?
  5. Do you perceive us as being successful at carrying out that mission?
  6. Do you believe we are the right organization to address what we declare in our mission statement?
  7. What do you know about us overall?
  8. What do you know about our?
    • Administration
    • Board of Trustees
    • Volunteers / Auxiliaries
    • Staff
    • Facilities
    • Add other components related to type of NPO: i.e., faculty, curriculum
  9. What do you see as our strengths?
  10. What areas, if any, do you see potential for improvement?
  11. Have we earned and maintained your trust and respect?
  12. What priority in terms of community (and your) needs would you place on our (main program, service, or project which drives the organization)?
    High _______ Moderate ________ Low ________
  13. What priority do you place regarding importance to the community (and to you) on the following? (List OTHER key programs, services, and projects known to be associated with the organization. As many as reasonable and practical.)
    High _______ Moderate ________ Low ________
  14. What are your impressions of our financial condition?
  15. What makes you feel good (or otherwise) about your financial support?
  16. Have we been efficient stewards of your donations and resources?
  17. How would you describe the most compelling reason the community should support us?
  18. Which other organizations do you support?
    How are we ranked in priority with them relative to the amounts you give?
  19. Has any controversy been associated with us to your knowledge?
  20. Have you ever had any questions or concerns about any of our leaders?
    About our executive team?
    About our staff?
  21. How do you feel about the various materials we send to you—newsletters, solicitation letters, other communications?
  22. Are we included in your financial estate plans? If not, are you familiar with charitable giving opportunities that offer you income?
  23. May we please have any other of your comments, advice, and recommendations?


Will your donors answer honestly and objectively? The answer is a qualified “Yes.” Some will answer a question not quite truthfully because they wish they were something other than they are. Some may not understand a question thus, will give a “wrong” answer. Sometimes a donor may find a question to be inappropriate, even offensive—and they will not reply.

Acting On The Findings And Recommendations

Once a donor study has been completed and you’ve received a report of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, you’re ready to start the toughest part of the process. Now, you have to listen and pay attention and act. You have a wonderful opportunity to greatly benefit from what your donors told you about the pleasure and satisfaction they derive from their support to your organization, as well as alerting you to their concerns and cares. You work as best you can to “fix” the things that need fixing, according to what the donors told you. And you need to continue and to enhance the cultivation practices which are the most desired and satisfying to your donors. This will surely help in great measure to maximize your chances for a continuation of their giving and it will provide opportunities for even larger gifts in the future.

What if the Donor Study Tells You
What You Don’t Want to Hear?

Make sure that you take the time to go over every aspect of the donor study. Don’t skip over negative things that on first reading seem minor. It is folly to take the time to conduct a donor study, spend the money on it, and then risk alienating people important to the organization by ignoring the study’s recommendations. An organization that ignores some or all of a donor study’s findings is making a mistake that can damage the organization.

Who Should Conduct The Survey?

The principal value of having outside counsel perform a donor survey is the opportunity to obtain candid answers to tough questions. A consultant is not part of the organization’s “family,” and that means the responses from study subjects will be more candid and complete.

However, face-to-face meetings between donors and staff or volunteers are great relationship builders as well as a productive data-gathering tool when structured for listening and learning, instead of talking and selling.

Building Donor Loyalty
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