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End of season surveys can be a great way to collect valuable information and to let your members’ feel like their voice is being heard, but crafting a quality survey can be tough. Surveys that are too long or too complicated may not get completed by a sufficient number of your members, making the data you collect not statistically useful. On the other hand, a simple generic survey may get many responses but the data may not be specific enough to drive your planning for the coming year. Use the twelve tips below to get the most from your surveys.
Your primary objective for a survey is to provide you with data for decision-making purposes. While general “were you happy with your CSA?” questions can provide interesting feedback, if you have specific goals or changes in mind for your coming seasons, you may want to ask questions that directly relate to those items. Write out a list of goals and think about what questions you need to ask to make an informed decision.
For example, if you have several drop-off locations that are difficult to service or that are underutilized and you are considering eliminating them, you may ask, “We are considering eliminating drop-off locations A and B; how would this affect whether or not you sign-up for our CSA in 2015?”
Depending on your goals, you may want to ask a question differently. For example, if you have specific items that you want to grow for your CSA, you might ask a question like “We are considering adding the following crops to our CSA rotation; would you have any interest in the following…” However, if you don’t have any specific future crops in mind, you might just ask an open-ended question like “What vegetables would you like to see added to your CSA?” to get some ideas for what your members might want.
It is important to think about what is the best time to send the survey to maximize results. According to Surveymonkey.com, you are likely to get a 10% greater response rate to an online survey if you send it on Monday. The worst response rates were on surveys sent on Friday.
Although this may be a “End of season” survey, you may not want to wait until the season is completely over to send your survey. For example, if your season runs right up to Thanksgiving, you may find it better to send out your survey earlier in November so as not to bother your members when they may be busy with travel and holidays. Also, sending it out before the very end of the season gives you the ability to remind your members about completing the survey as they pickup their remaining shares.
Don’t try to ask too much on any one survey. There are two reasons for this. First, there are only so many changes you want to make from season to season. Focus your survey on the areas of your CSA that you are most concerned about. If there are major issues in other areas that you are not aware about, your members can add their options in the comments box at the end of the survey.
Second, if a survey looks short and simple, your members are more likely to complete it. Keep the survey to the minimum number of questions and keep your questions short. Try not to overdo the options on a multiple choice questions (i.e., “Which of the following 40 vegetables would you be interested in?”). Look at your survey with your members’ eyes; is it something you would take the time to fill out?
It can be tempting to simply tag your survey along with your weekly newsletter or to put a note in with the members’ boxes. These are of course great ways to remind your members about completing the survey, but your initial request for feedback should come as its own message. These days the simplest way to do a survey is online (see tip #7), so just sending out an email message to your members with the subject “Member feedback requested, please complete our survey” and a simple message is all you need. That message should be short and include the following , 1) “We really value your feedback, please complete our survey”, 2) A link to the survey, 3) Any incentives for completing the survey (see tip #8) and/or the deadline for completing it, and 4) a “thank you” for being members and stress again how important their feedback is to improving the CSA. Then use your other forms of communication to remind your members about the survey over the coming weeks.
For many of your questions you can use either a “on a scale from 1-10” or a simple “true/false” answering system. These type of questions are good to create metrics that you can compare year to year. For example, you may ask “On a scale of 1 (not satisfied) to 5 (very satisfied), how satisfied were you with the quality of your vegetables this year?” which is a useful statistic to compare from year to year. These metrics can easily be used in marketing and talking with people about your CSA. “For the past four years, over 75% of our members have said they are satisfied with the quality of our CSA.”
Certain questions you will want to leave as open ended questions that allow your members to be as flexible as they want with their answers. An example of this would be, “This year we switched from a traditional CSA system to a customizable market-style CSA. How did this affect your CSA experience?” This gives your members the opportunity to comment at length on the question, provides you with unique quotes that you might be able to use in your marketing and gives you a deeper understanding of your members’ needs and desires.
Too often surveys are a last minute thought that get typed up and sent out without proper review. Typos, incorrect words due to Auto-correct, and confusing language are just a few common errors. Before sending out your survey to all of your members, have some farm staff, family members or friends review your survey looking for any errors, confusing questions or to make any other suggestions.
If you are still using paper copies for your surveys, consider switching over to an online option. With online options there is no mailing costs, no printing costs, and the data is compiled online for you. There are online services such as Surveymonkey.com that provide detailed survey services. They allow you to create surveys, collect your data and they provide a variety of data analysis tools for you. Some services offer free versions, as well as paid versions with more options.
Other low-cost options exist including creating a form in Google Apps or your website provider may have a built-in option to create forms These options will allow you to create an online survey and receive responses but data analysis will be up to you.
Often it can seem that the people most likely to respond to your survey are those who are prone to complain or those who are a bit hyperbolic in their praise of your CSA. How do you ensure responses from your average member? Try offering a small incentive to your members for completing the survey. This could be a little something extra in one of their final week’s boxes or maybe just a coupon code to get a discount off their next season’s share. It doesn’t need to be anything big - just a little something that says “We appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey”.
Once you’ve collected your responses and have had a chance to analyze your data, you’ll want to share your findings with your members. It is especially valuable to let your members know if the survey results lead to any specific changes in the CSA for the coming year. This helps communicate to your members the value you place on their feedback, gives you a chance to thank them for participating and encourages them to participate in future surveys.
When communicating with your members, revisit the goals and relate survey responses back to these goals. For example, “Due to responses related to pickup locations, we have chosen to discontinue the Village Market pickup location. The following pickups are closest to that location…” This makes members aware of changes, lets them know why the change was made and provides the affected members with information on their options.
It is always a good idea to put a note in your survey instructions letting your members know that their comments could be shared and used in marketing materials. Even with such a disclaimer, if you are going to use a longer quote or if you want to use a member’s name, you may want to still contact the member to thank them for their useful comments and to get express consent to use their name and comment.
In general you should do a survey annually, but it’s easy to build off your previous survey. You’ll want to keep some of the basic questions the same so you can compare year to year results (i.e. “How would you rate the quality of the vegetables in the average box?”). Your other questions you’ll want to adapt to your new objectives for the next season.
If you do multiple seasons throughout the year, you may wonder if you should do a survey at the end of each. If you have a season that is your main season with the greatest enrollment and in which you put most of your energies , you’ll likely want to do an annual survey for that season. You may choose to do surveys for your other seasons based on specific objectives related to those seasons. Did you just start up a new season? Thinking of adjusting your share sizes for your spring share? Member feedback will be helpful in these cases
One idea you could try is to do short (1-2 question) surveys more frequently through the season. You could do a simple survey for each week’s box that just asks, 1) how would you rate this week’s box on a scale of 1-10, and 2) any additional comments? This would allow you to track member satisfaction over the course of the season and give you immediate feedback that you could use to solve problems and improve future boxes in the same season.
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