How to Survey Your Fraternity

In the last post on this site, I advocated for officer teams to do an assessment of their chapter in order to get a well-rounded view of member attitudes and perspectives. One of the best tools to use for this purpose is a survey. With online tools like Survey Monkey, it’s easier than ever to build and conduct surveys. However, you need to be thoughtful with your approach and the questions you ask. You probably will only have one chance to get good data (most people don’t like receiving multiple surveys on the same subject). In this post, I’ve provided sample survey questions, but first, some tips:
  • Keep it short. 10-15 minutes is probably all you can expect someone to give to a survey like this.
  • Consider your questions carefully. For each question, ask yourself “would responses to this question on one extreme or the other cause us to change what we’re doing?” If the answer is no, then there is really no point in asking the question.
  • Likert-type scale questions are better than yes/no or true/false questions because they provide a wider range of responses. Likert-type scales are those that ask respondents to rank a response from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 based on the degree of their opinion. See below for examples.
  • Allowing respondents to be anonymous will likely give you better and more honest results. 
  • You do not need 100% response rate or even close to consider the data useful.  I would suggest if you get a majority of members to respond, you are in a strong position to interpret the data as valid.  A good way to look at this is to ask yourself if the percentage that didn't respond had, would the the results be radically different? In most cases, they probably wouldn't be.
By the way, I’m a few years removed from my Masters degree, so I’m writing this as a practitioner who uses surveys for very practical purposes. A phD student might have more to say about design and methodology, but my advice to you is to not make this harder than it needs to be.  You aren't using the data for a white paper or a journal article, but rather to help your officer team make determinations on priorities for the year.

As an example, I've listed below a series of questions that on the whole, would give you some really good information by which to judge the current effectiveness of your chapter and help you make decisions for the future.  The first set of questions use a Likert-type scale.  This set of questions can be used to start conversations on the general health of the organization.  Say that a majority of respondents "disagree" that they are proud to call themselves members of the fraternity (question #6). That reveals a serious concern that should be addressed.  

The second  section includes open-ended questions that require a sentence or two. The best way to sort through these responses is to put them all on a single sheet, sorted by similar answers.  Read them through as an officer team and look for themes or ideas that really stand-out.

The final section provides an opportunity for the members to help prioritize the chapter's issues.  Reviewing these results should indicate a top-tier, middle-tier, and lower-tier of issues according to the membership. 

Choose your response to each statement below based on this scale:

1=Strongly Disagree    2=Disagree    3=No Opinion    4=Agree    5=Strongly Agree

1. This fraternity is having a positive impact on my academic performance.
2. I feel connected with the values and purpose of this fraternity.
3. This fraternity effectively deals with adversity.
4. I am pessimistic about the future of this fraternity.(NOTE - Mixing in a couple of negatively-framed questions keeps people from rushing through and choosing the same answer for each question)
5. This fraternity is a high-performing fraternity compared with others on this campus.
6. I am proud to call myself a member of this fraternity.
7. This fraternity receives strong support from alumni and campus advisors.
8. For the most part, this fraternity adheres to the values expressed in our Ritual and creed.
9. I am satisfied with my contributions to this fraternity.
10. I can freely share my opinions about the direction of this fraternity.
11. Members are held accountable for their actions if they violate our standards.
12. The officers are ignoring some significant challenges facing this fraternity.
13. My college experience has been better than it otherwise would have been without this fraternity.
14. My experience with this fraternity has met my expectations.

For the questions above, do you have any comments to more fully describe your answer?

If you had the opportunity to change one thing about this fraternity, what would it be?

In what aspect(s) do you feel this fraternity excels the most?

Complete this sentence -  If I were to give the officer team one piece of advice, it would be:

Identify at least one member of the chapter (not an officer) who you think deserves praise and recognition for their contributions to the chapter and the reasons why.

Which of the following issues should be top priorities for the officers and chapter to address this year (choose up to 5)?
  1. Recruitment
  2. Public Image 
  3. Effectiveness of Chapter Meetings
  4. Relationships with other Chapters
  5. New Member Education
  6. Athletic competitions
  7. Achieving Campus and/or National Awards
  8. Risk Management
  9. Chapter House 
  10. Cliques / Divisions in the Chapter
  11. Member and/or guest safety
  12. Alumni relations
  13. Academics / Chapter GPA
  14. Service and Philanthropy
  15. Camaraderie and Fellowship
  16. Social Life
  17. Member Apathy
  18. Drugs / Alcohol
  19. Other_________________
  20. Other_________________

There are plenty of other directions you can take with this kind of assessment.  And, we haven't even discussed focus groups or other methods of getting input.  Your campus Greek life office can help you with survey design and even analysis of the results.  No matter what, as long as you take the time to try and get member opinions into your planning process, you will see stronger results than if you go it alone.

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