Thursday, October 22, 2009

Leadership Tip: What Do Your Members Want? Ask Them!

A key responsibility of leaders of any group is to provide its members with what they really want. If their needs and goals aren't met, they'll let their memberships lapse and new people probably will not join.

How can you determine those needs and goals? It's simple: use a survey to ask them!

Surveys provide a way to ask all your members, even prospective members, what they're looking for so you are able to design your programs and services to meet those needs. You can do this with little effort and without spending a dime.

There is a f.r.e.e site you can use: Survey Monkey has a no-cost service that allows for up to 100 responses. It's simple to use. You just set up your account, choose your survey template, enter your questions and then provide a link by email for responses. It's that easy.

While this is a simple process, there are some things you should give some thought to before you send the survey.

Think about ONE outcome you want from the survey. Do you want to know which newsletter title resonates best with your members? Do you want to know which location for your annual meeting they prefer? Do you need to know what educational programs they think would best benefit them?

Once you know the outcome you're seeking, you'll be able to design questions that provide you with insight into their thoughts and opinions.

This is important because you want your survey to be brief and to the point. People are busy and don't want to spend a lot of time answering your questions, nor do they have that time to give you.

Don't overdo it! There is only so much information your members can give you. Don't abuse their good nature by sending surveys every week or even every month. Send no more than one survey every three months. Every six months is really best.

Don't send surveys that are too long. Ask just enough questions to get the information you need and no more. A one or two question survey will be enough if you ask the right one or two questions. If it's short, they won't hesitate to begin it and they'll be more likely to finish it.

Design your questions so that answering them takes minimal effort and thought. You might begin with a multiple choice question, then a simple 'yes' or 'no' question, and the perhaps one open-ended question asking them to share their thoughts.

Don't underestimate the importance of thoroughly thinking through the questions you ask. You want to be sure you get everything you need at one time since you can't send another out the next day when you realize you 'forgot' to ask something.

Review and proofread carefully. Once you've designed and set up your survey, be sure to take a break and come back later to look it over one more time before you distribute it. It's a good to have someone else look at it, too. Mistakes and typos are distracting and diminish the credibility of your survey.

Distribute the survey to your members. This step is as simple as sending an email to your membership list with a link to the survey. Let them know what you want to accomplish with the survey and also let them know how long it will take them to complete it. If they know that there are only "X" number of simple questions that will take them less than "X" seconds to answer, they'll more likely to respond immediately.

What do you do with the results? First, the entire Board should analyze them and then they should be reported to your membership. Your next step depends on the nature of your survey. If it's a survey to choose the name of your newsletter or the location of a seminar, go with the majority. If your survey asks about educational programs your members want or if they will tolerate an increase in dues, remember that they have their individual interests in mind. The Board must determine what is in the best interests of the entire membership.

Surveys can be a wonderful tool for determining your member's needs and goals. If you design your questions carefully and keep them simple, they will tell you what they want. This is a wonderful way to keep your members happy and to attract new members to your organization.

©2009 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available at

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