Charity Projects 3

This article outlines some simple tips for how to answer questions you have about your program. These tips will hopefully be useful regardless of what stage you are at with your intervention. Most of my experience comes from running surveys in India with J-PAL and Charity Science Health.


If you are more broadly trying to understand the recipients of your program or how to improve your program, focus groups and directly having more in-depth conversations with those recipients can be much more valuable than a standard survey.

​The first place to start when trying to understand your program’s recipients should likely be these types of in-depth conversations. You should only move to more standard surveys after having done this.


Phone surveys are cheaper, faster, easier to monitor and should be considered the primary option unless there is a very good reason to do the survey in person. The exceptions to this are when you are asking sensitive questions where you are more likely to get a more representative answer in person (contraceptive use, mental health questions, etc.). Additionally, if you are working in the very poorest communities, it might be hard to identify and reach people by phone. 

I recommend initially using Google Forms, Skype and a Skype Recorder. If you start doing thousands of surveys, it might be worth the investment costs to move to SurveyCTO.


It is very easy to spend more time on surveys than necessary. Surveys tend to grow and become more complicated with time. I recommend creating surveys that help you make a specific decision or are focused on a specific topic. 

A good rule of thumb is to aim for your surveys to take between 5 and 10 minutes. Following this rule will limit the questions you ask to what really matters and not combine too many topics in one survey. Another way to really get at what matters is to ask, “how does this question inform my decisions?” for every question. 

For example, you might be interested in knowing all the demographic information about participants in your program. But unless you actually plan to use that information to change your program, it is likely best to just collect a few basic questions on this.

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