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Guide: Planning Your First Parent Survey of the Year

by | Jun 14, 2022 | PTA Management | 0 comments

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Requesting surveys from your community after an event or an event season will not only let your community know that you value their opinion, but it will also give them the opportunity to help you make the events better the following year! 

Here is a guide on what to consider while making your survey, when is the best time to deliver it, and how you can use that info for the following school year and events to come.

Writing the Survey Questions 

electronic survey

Identify the Purpose 

Decide what objective you’re trying to achieve and what answers you’re trying to gather from surveying your parents. There are also a few formats that your survey can take: your parents can respond either anonymously or with their name and other identifiable information. 

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to both types of survey. If you’re looking for an honest opinion about how your families felt about the events, then an anonymous survey may be the way to go. If you’re looking for names of people who may wish to volunteer in the future or people that have particular skills, a named survey is your best option. 

Consider the Timing 

The best time to conduct a survey is when the events are still fresh on the parents’ minds. This means that if you want them to review the year as a whole, asking them to report their experiences via survey late spring as the school year winds to a close will give parents the opportunity to rate the past year’s activities while they still remember the details.

If you would like their opinion on a singular event or activity, don’t be afraid to ask for a survey as they leave the booth or activity in question. 

Just be aware of the length of the survey: the longer the survey, the less likely it is to be filled out in its entirety, and the more surveys parents are asked to fill out the faster they’ll tire of doing them at all.

blocks with smiley faces

Ask Well Thought Out Questions

Ask a few open ended questions on the survey to get more useful information from your survey takers. Instead of the question “Did you like ____ event? Circle Yes or No” try, “What was your favorite part of _____ event?”. If you must ask a yes or no question, add “Why or why not?” to give them an opportunity to expound on their thoughts. 

Also, don’t forget to check in with your parents and families frequently to make sure the PTO is meeting their needs as a club. One of the main objectives of the club is to serve the families and give back to the community so you want to make sure everyone feels seen and knows that their contributions are valued.

Keep the Survey Short and Sweet

As stated earlier, the longer a survey, the less likely it is to be completed and returned. 

A best practice is to think of 3-5 questions to include on the survey with 3 maximum as open ended questions. Only ask the most pressing questions and combine questions if you can. 

As an example, you can take the two part question of “Did you attend the event?” and “What did you think of it?”, combine it into a single question by asking “If you attended the event, what did you like and what would you change to make it better for next year?”

Compiling Your Questions and Sending Them to Your Target Audience 

4 laptops in a team meeting

How Will You Get the Survey To Your Parents and Back For Analyzing? 

There are a few ways that parents can fill out their surveys and get them back to the club to go over. 

The PTO/PTA can give parents a link or a QR code to scan that will lead them to an online version of the survey, or they can give parents a paper copy of the survey to either fill out at the booth and hand back in or to take home and fill out at their leisure and return as soon as they can. 

The easiest and most efficient way is through an online, mobile-compatible survey. These results will also be easier to categorize and analyze for those tasked with compiling the survey results. While his way can be easiest for parents, it’s also the easiest to forget. The club may want to keep a few paper copies on hand in case any of the parents are more comfortable with that type of response. Consider providing the parents space so they can sit and fill them out and hand them back or take them home to fill out and return once they’re finished.

Tools that may be helpful:

graph with ruler

Use Your Connections 

Don’t be afraid to talk to the school about adding the end of the year survey link to the school newsletter or email blast. Share it on Facebook and the school’s website if at all possible. If you have the system already set up, check with whoever runs the school text tree to see if they can send the survey out to the parents via text.

Improve Your Response Rate

Ways to improve your response rate include: handing out paper surveys to those parents with unstable connections, and either letting them take them home to fill them out or giving them a space at the school/event to fill them out and return them once they’re done. 

You can also turn it into an event where everyone who returns a survey gets their name entered into a drawing where they could win a prize for participating.

Processing the Feedback 

activity graphs on a computer

Be Ready for the Feedback 

Leaving an open call for people’s opinions is always a bit of a crapshoot: you never know what you’re going to get. 

Sometimes you’ll get those really kind responses that everyone loves to see, sometimes you’ll get those responses that are a mix but have some valuable insight, and sometimes you’ll get people that are just having a bad day and are looking for someone to unload on. 

Either way, you have to be prepared to take the good with the bad and find nuggets of actionable advice within the sea of opinions.

man sketching plans

Spread the Word

Compile your results and share them with anyone that can benefit from the feedback. This includes the PTO/PTA board, the school board and administration, and even the community if necessary. Sharing the results of the survey with everyone will a) make everyone feel like their voice is being heard, and b) will promote transparency within the club and among the community.