But before you create that online survey or send a mail piece, it's best to begin at the end. Before you even begin to craft the questions and set up the survey, think about how you will use the collected responses. Every question you ask should have a use designed to help you better communicate with the responder or help you improve your organization.
How you format your questions is up to you. Multiple choice options allow you to easily group answers together and find the most popular response(s). Open-ended questions allow the responder to answer in their own words and provide options you may have overlooked. And, some questions such as "Why is our mission important to you?" will elicit a different response from each donor.
How can you collect this data? Your website is one of the most cost-effective options. As people join the email list, use the sign-up to gather extra information. Keep the sign-up form brief - if it's too long or asks too many prying questions, it may be abandoned. But a simple question, "How did you hear about us?" can gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
Mailing a survey or including a survey in your mail pieces is another way to reach out to your donors, ask questions and collect responses. Include a survey in your welcome package as a way to learn more about your new supporter and what compelled them to make their initial gift.
Send your current donors a survey, asking why your organization's mission is important to them and what (if anything) your organization could improve upon. The responses you collect will guide how you communicate with your current donors and how to motivate more prospects to become supporters.