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Q: What is the best way to conduct a reader survey?

Answer: Research is not as easy as it seems. We have first-hand experience getting useless information from a home-made survey and it’s a very big disappointment. That’s why we recommend finding a professional researcher to help you plan a survey and design the questions. If you can’t bear the expense of hiring a professional and must do it on you own, we’ve provided some resources that will help you.

Getting Professional Help You will benefit from professional advice, especially in the design stages of a survey project. Professionals know how to formulate questionnaires that people will answer and how to generate results that you can use. Here are some resources for locating and hiring a professional researcher: Quirks Marketing Research Review is a print magazine that provides useful information about how to conduct research or hire researchers. The Green Book is a print and online directory of research firms and focus group facilities. The American Marketing Association provides articles and tutorials about conducting surveys and working with researchers. At the same site, you will find a searchable directory of researchers. The Market Research Association publishes a directory of researchers called the Blue Book and also offers research tutorials at its website including an ethical code of standards for researchers.

Doing it yourselves You can learn about designing your own survey from these resources: The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) publishes a series of $3 monographs about publishing, and one describes how to conduct a reader survey. You can also find articles about nonprofit focus groups and reader surveys in the magazine Nonprofit World. And you should also check the Nonprofit FAQ listings at, including one about surveys.

Web survey vendors make it easy for organizations to conduct their own surveys by automating the whole process, from questionnaire design to tabulating the results. Expect to pay between $200 and $800 per year for these services:

This topic is covered in depth in our new book from Nolo Press, Every Nonprofit's Guide to Publishing. You can order the book from Amazon. Please email us if you have other publishing questions for us.


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