About Those Surveys …

I just checked our SurveyMonkey account and discovered that AAN has conducted 89 surveys since we signed up for the online service in March 2005.

That’s a big number — almost two per month — but it didn’t surprise me. We like SurveyMonkey. It’s a valuable tool.

However, it did heighten my concern — the same concern I always have when we’re deciding whether to survey our members — that we’re abusing our privileged access to a captive audience. So I figured it would be helpful to briefly explain why we conduct so many of these damn things:

1. AAN members, in general, are very good about completing surveys. For instance, the return rate on our recent post-convention survey was 68 percent. Most associations would kill for a return rate above 40 percent. The incredible response from AAN members says a lot about their sense of ownership of the association.

2. The job of AAN leadership — board, committees and staff — is to determine what AAN members want and to deliver it. SurveyMonkey is an invaluable asset in helping us with the first part of that equation. It’s not perfect, and it’s no substitute for vision, but it’s often a good starting point when we’re trying to make a decision or improve a particular program or service.

3. Sometimes the information we collect in a survey is intended for the direct benefit of members, not AAN leadership. For example, occasionally we conduct business-trends surveys that allow participating publishers to compare their paper’s performance with their peers at other AAN papers.

So there, in case you were wondering, is the story behind AAN’s apparent fixation with SurveyMonkey.