You are a member based community services organisation and you want to know more about what your audience thinks about you, your work including services to members, your ideas/programs and what you should be doing.
Before you rush into doing research it is most important to understand the purpose of the research and in particular what type of information you need. More about this in our free publication Quick Guide to Audience Research, you can download it from here (and refer to pages 45-48) . Different methods can be used to extract desired information.
A key opportunity for many community organisations, in particular charitable entities and not-for-profit groups, is to implement some form of ongoing monitoring of audience/stakeholder comments and behaviour. This is not hard to do and can provide useful regular feedback, often more practically useful than occasional surveys.
Below is a list of information-gathering exercises your organisation can do periodically/as required, most don't require a lot of research skill and costs can be contained by using volunteers, students and online survey services.
1. A 'street-corner' face-to-face survey of people in your target demographics (as example, women aged 18-30, or persons aged 65 or over) who are not involved with your organisation to learn about their awareness of your organisation, groups they're involved in and other things. The data collected can be entered into an online survey service that provides data summaries. More about designing in-depth interviews.
2. A formal survey of members, perhaps with a bias to particular types of members, perhaps conducted via an online survey service, to learn about their experiences and views of the organisation and extract ideas and comments on specific items. You can read more about conducting surveys from our book Know Your Audience.
3. A group discussion with important organisational stakeholders/sponsors (perhaps 15 or so) to understand what consensus exists with respect to issues for target audience and what needs to be done or done better by the organisation to address. The outcome should be a list of statements that most stakeholders agree with.
4. An in-depth discussion (more like a moderated focus group) between the organisation (including some board/committee members) and a select group of influential motivated organisational stakeholders/sponsors about specific strategies/service ideas, to help resolve priorities, feasibilities and required actions. This requires more skill and can be assisted by a skilled moderator familiar with running focus groups.
5. Analysis of suggestions, comments (content) and other data received by the organisation that sheds light on what stakeholders think and feel about the organisation, such as via phone calls, emails, website visitation (stats) and drop-ins (who/about what), aim being to identify patterns/themes. You may like to visit our page on response cultivation to learn more.
What research method should you choose for your information needs? Here is a guide that may help.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask us.