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How to Develop Volunteering Survey Questions: Top Tips

Feedback from volunteers can help us develop stronger volunteer management practices, within every part of the volunteer 

lifecycle, from recruitment to long-term impact analysis. Crafting volunteering survey questions is challenging, however, even for the most practiced professionals. 

Surveys are challenging because the volunteer experience is so multifaceted. According to Jurgen Willem’s Volunteer Satisfaction Model (2013), there are five different levels of volunteer satisfaction, from joy in completing a task to more aspirational goals. Measuring that type of complex satisfaction is tricky, but it is every volunteer manager’s aim. 

It is intelligent to default to best practices for survey questions and also utilize tools, like . Here are some top tips to ease your survey development process, including how to utilize tools like volunteer software solutions to simplify processes.

What are Volunteer Surveys?

Volunteer surveys aim to derive useful data for a volunteer manager to better advance organizational goals. They could be fulfilling any of the following objectives:

  • Collecting basic data. Volunteer managers may send a questionnaire or survey to new prospects to collect their contact information, availability and relevant details from curriculum vitae. 
  • Task-matching survey. These questions focus on interests and passions so that volunteer managers can better match available jobs to their volunteer pool. It can also help volunteer managers design new roles that are in demand within their available work pool. 
  • Market research. Sometimes, organizations will utilize a pool of volunteers to help establish demographics and brand feedback for their marketing team. These types of surveys are often considered “engagement” surveys, as they provide a forum for volunteers to express their opinions on general program strategy.   
  • Satisfaction survey. Volunteer managers will send a list of questions about the satisfaction of an experience either directly after an event or at certain intervals of time (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.). These are critical tools to improve volunteer experience. 

5 Benefits of Volunteer Surveys

Volunteer surveys can benefit organizations in multiple ways. Here are just a few examples. 

  1. Streamline data collection. Asking volunteers to complete an intake survey can ease administrative processes. Think about sending a volunteer recruitment email that automatically directs intakes to a platform like Golden to enter their pertinent information into your systems, onboard, perform any necessary background checks, and even receive basic training to get started as quickly as possible. 
  2. Show you what’s working - and what isn’t. You may think volunteers love a particular program or prefer in-person events to flexible online work. Sending an anonymous survey about satisfaction and preferences can clarify which programs are preferred within your volunteer opportunity list. 
  3. Improve productivity. Volunteers likely have ideas on how to improve your processes, especially on how to apply their particular skills. You won’t know unless you ask! Surveys demonstrate that feedback is desired and provide an open forum to discuss open-ended ideas that can lead to program improvements. 
  4. Show appreciation. Just sending a survey and telling folks you care about their opinions is a form of appreciation. You can never thank volunteers enough! 
  5. Provide great material for analytics. Collected data can be generated into demonstrative impact reports for your leadership and the broader community. 

Considerations for Creating a Volunteer Survey

Before designing your volunteering survey questions, you must consider logistical components behind the proposed feedback resource. These include the following questions. 

What tools will help you streamline your survey administration? 

Online survey and polling tools can help improve response time and collate data. Volunteer management platforms like Golden have these built in as program features to help you develop questions and communication mediums to reach your volunteers and volunteer prospects. 

Golden can also help you use that data afterwards with integrations to the top CRM tools, like Salesforce, to improve contact management. With Golden, you can also use entry survey data for new volunteers to determine gaps in readiness, to direct volunteer prospects to onboarding tools and background checks. The data will become useful in the future to help you generate reports for time logged and to send satisfaction and engagement surveys going forward. 

How will you distribute your survey? 

Your volunteer management platform or other online systems (email or social media) likely have the lowest administrative burden for your survey distribution. You might have some volunteers, however, who will need paper versions in the mail. Others might respond best to a verbal interview in person. In that case, you will want a brief question list and a staff person available directly after a service event. 

What should your volunteer sample size be?

To perform accurate surveys, you need to have a high percentage of responses from a large enough group. The general rule is to survey at least 100 participants and expect at least a 10 percent return on surveys. 

If your volunteer group is smaller, however, you can still survey them! Aim for a more meaningful survey experience in this case. You have the added benefit of being able to make the survey or questionnaire more intimate and meaningful. 

How are you going to convince volunteers to participate? 

There are a few tricks that will ensure a higher level of participation from your survey group.

  1. Make sure you convey how important it is to get the results. Let volunteers know that certain funders require the survey data, or that your board of directors will not include the project in next year’s budget if you do not receive feedback. Also, tell them that you are asking for the information to benefit them personally, to be able to make the experience more meaningful for them or other volunteers in the future. 
  2. Offer an incentive. Some organizations offer an entry in a prize raffle or other similar incentive to convince people to fill in their survey. Make sure that incentive is time-bound, for responses received by a certain date. 
  3. Ensure anonymity. People are more likely to be honest if you indicate that their answers will not be shared. Offer a box to check on the top of the survey form for that option. 
  4. Send it more than once. Re-send the survey to volunteers multiple times. People forget to complete extra tasks! 

    One of the five ways volunteers seek satisfaction is through social opportunities with their service.

Sample Volunteering Survey Questions

We can break down some top questions for surveys by the type of survey you are sending. What data do you hope to retrieve? 

Also think about whether you want the question to be open-ended (as in they respond with a short answer), or closed (offering a range of multiple-choice options for a response or a scale). With online surveys, you can offer a drop down menu for most “open-ended” questions. This will help you streamline the data collection and analytics later. 

Onboarding/Intake Questions

  • How did you come across our volunteer program? (Sample drop down menu options are: 1. Online search, 2. Referral, 3. Work, or 4. School, 5. Other) 
  • What types of volunteer opportunities are you interested in? (In a drop down menu, you can list your top opportunities.) 
  • When is the best time for you to volunteer? (You can link directly to a calendar app in your volunteer management software and ask them to select the best days and times.) 
  • How do you like to communicate? (A drop down menu might include options for 1. Phone, 2. Email, 3. Social media, 4. Mail)
  • How can we improve your registration experience?

Follow-Up Questions to an Event

  • Do you think you made a difference with your volunteer work? (For an open-ended question, add on “Can you share 2 or 3 sentences on How?”. For a scale response, add: 5 = It was amazing; I feel the world shifting. 4 = I had a great time and felt I made an impact. 3 = It was as good as other volunteer experiences. 2 = It didn’t have much of an impact. 1 = It was a waste of time.)
  • How can we improve upon our volunteer experience? (Ask them to add 2 or 3 descriptive sentences.)
  • Would you recommend the program to your peers or family? (“Yes or no” works here.)
  • Can we contact you in the future? How often? (Offer a scale of 1 = Never, 2 = Every few months, 3 = Monthly, 4 = Weekly, 5 = Whenever you like!) 
  • How likely are you to continue volunteering with future opportunities? (High, Medium, or Low). 
  • How would you rate your overall experience? (5 = Excellent, 1 = Bad)
  • By which means did you register with our organization? (You can offer a drop down of your top marketing channels or keep the question open-ended.)
  • Was the project description accurate? (Yes or No)
  • Do you know how to put volunteer work on a resume? (Yes or No, with an option “I would like more information about this.)
  • How long did it take for us to contact you? (Immediately, Soon Enough, Too Long) 
  • How would you rate your experience with staff and other volunteers? (Very Helpful, Helpful, Neutral, Unhelpful, Very Unhelpful)

Volunteering Survey Best Practices

Make sure your survey has a clear objective and will help you collect data and/or analyze your impact in a productive way. You also need to make sure the survey actually works and adds value to your programming! Here are some tips for success.

  1. Keep the survey questions related to a specific topic. Are you collecting intake information, or are you trying to assess their satisfaction? Is the point to learn about where you can improve your experience going forward? The questions should all relate back to the topic goals. 
  2. Remove bias. Make sure all of your questions are objective and do not lead your volunteers towards answering favorably. Bias can skew results. 
  3. Mix your open-ended questions with scaled questions or drop-downs. You want to include at least one open-ended question, to offer a space for volunteers to be more expansive. You might end every survey with a simple question like “Is there anything else you want to add?”. 
  4. Keep it very short. A survey should not take any longer than 5 to 7 minutes. 
  5. Ask someone to test it first. Send the survey to a staff member or trusted volunteer to test before you send it to your bulk list. It might be too long, or a question might be confusing. 
  6. Choose the right audience. Do not send a detailed feedback survey on the onboarding experience to seasoned volunteers. On the other hand, you probably do not want to send a “how satisfying was the event” survey to volunteers that have not worked with you for months! Tools like Golden can help you ensure your contact lists are organized by the right type of volunteer, or go even farther and automate sending the right survey for each volunteer in your pool. 
  7. Send your survey at an appropriate time. Satisfaction surveys need to go out directly following an event. You would not want to send an engagement survey in the middle of your busy volunteer season, either, when your volunteers might already be feeling overwhelmed. Set a calendar on your volunteer management platform to automate your surveys, to ensure they are sent at the right time, to the right people. 
  8. Store and analyze your results. Volunteer management systems can help you store information for longer periods of time, in compliant ways. They’ll also help you create meaningful reports, including comparative analysis from your stored data, to help you consider trends over time. 
  9. Thank your volunteers for participating. It might sound simple, but make sure you thank your volunteers for participating in some way. It can be as easy as adding a pop-up window that says “thanks, you’re the best” with a confetti spray. Or go out of your way to send a personal text or email letting you know you received their input and appreciate their service. 

Sometimes, an in-person interview with individuals or a small group is a complementary survey strategy to using online tools.

Key Takeaways from Volunteering Surveys

Recruiting, training, engaging, and retaining volunteers can be a challenge. Surveys are a fantastic tool to streamline the onboarding process and help you recruit the best volunteers for the most appropriate roles. They can also help you better understand your own processes and make room for vital organizational improvements within your volunteer management systems. 

The best volunteer management software - Golden - can help you streamline the survey process from recruitment to marketing analytics well after events.   Golden can help you write questions and set up personalized schedules for each volunteer to receive surveys to their preferred communication channels. 


It can also help you generate integrated reports that compare feedback data in the short term and over time. That way, you can see exactly how your programs and opportunities are improving, in both satisfaction for volunteers and in community impact.   You will gain a new level of confidence in your volunteering survey questions and administration.