Posts Tagged ‘surveys’


Mission, Marketing and Media—Inseparable, Invaluable

Posted on: January 26th, 2014 by Hayim Herring



Like many of you, I work with some really smart people, who love what they do, strive to learn from others and passionately share their knowledge in return. The next three posts will be from experts who exemplify these qualities, and I’ve invited them to write about the integral relationship between mission, marketing and media. Our first guest is Daniel Chiat, of Measuring Success, whose organization has rich, unique data on why mission matters. Hope you enjoy these posts!

Rabbi Hayim Herring


Got Mission? It Matters—and Here Are the Data To Prove It!

ChiatDaniel Chiat, Measuring Success


What characteristics of synagogue life predispose members to feel satisfied and to feel that they have personally grown as a Jew? There are certainly many worthy answers, but the two most important aspects both come down to vision.


We’re not guessing at this conclusion; it’s grounded in the analysis of thousands of synagogue members across North America. Over the last five years, we’ve assisted nearly 40 synagogues in using data to create strategic plans and build relationships. We’ve asked over 15,000 congregants to answer questions about their priorities and satisfaction levels. The results indicate that the top drivers of synagogue satisfaction and personal growth are high scores on the following two questions:



Hayim Herring Blog

We know that high scores on these vision questions are the best predictors of satisfaction and personal growth regardless of a synagogue’s location, membership size, or denomination. This is because our database includes synagogues from across the spectrum and everything in between. The data suggests that synagogue leaders should invest energy on vision and values in order to have significant impact on outcomes like member satisfaction, retention, and personal growth.



What’s the Best Assessment Tool? Part II – Interviews

Posted on: November 16th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

The last Tools for Shuls post on assessment examined using questionnaires to gather information about the perceived success of a project, process or event.  This post focuses on another common tool that synagogues and other organizations can use with relative ease: interviewing.  Questionnaires are great for quickly gathering information from many people.  The trade-off is you only receive top-line, superficial information.  For greater depth, use interviews as a method of gathering information.  To get the most useful results, you’ll often find that a mix of both is the best choice.

For example, let’s say that you’ve surveyed a group of adults who have just attended a spirituality retreat.  The retreat was designed to offer participants an introduction to a range of spiritual practices including yoga, meditation, study and cooking.  You can use a questionnaire to get a general sense of how people responded to the various activities.  But, given the complex nature of the experience you were trying to create, you’ll probably want to interview participants so you can really understand why certain experiences resonated for some and not for others.

While interviewing is a formal process, we interview people informally on a regular basis.  After all, interviewing is simply asking someone for a restatement, clarification or explanation of an experience or idea.  There are several characteristics that turn those questions into an interview.

Interviews are a series of questions that are purposeful, systematic and structured.  “Structured” means that all of those interviewed will answer a core set of questions, with the interviewer probing more deeply for items of special note.  By using a core set of questions, you can be assured that you are comparing similar information.  Interviewing also requires trained listening (knowing when and when not to probe further,) and objectivity (recording the views of the interviewee without coloring them with your interpretation).

In addition to carefully determining the questions, there are several important choices you’ll have to make if you interview congregants. Who will do the interviewing?  Will you train fellow congregants or use an outside person or organization?  How many people do you need to interview to get reliable information?  Will you record the interview or take hand written notes?  At a minimum, you should consult with a congregant who is an expert at conducting interviews to help guide you with these choices.

Now, it’s my turn to “interview” you: do you have experience in your organization in interviewing members?  What triggered the use of interviewing?  Did you use members or non-members as interviewers?  What made the process work—or not?  Please share your own experiences.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

image from smiling_da_vinci

What’s the Best Assessment Tool? It Depends…

Posted on: October 9th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

I confess that I don’t know very much about tools. However, I do know enough to recognize that the question, “What tool should I use?” must be asked in some context. Just as you wouldn’t use an Allen wrench to pound in a nail, you wouldn’t want to use a survey instrument that was mismatched for the information that you desire.

There are three assessment tools which lend themselves nicely to congregations and non-profit organizations: questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. These three methods work well because they are simple, easy to learn and enable you to use volunteers who have expertise in these areas. This post is going to review some basics about questionnaires.

If you are looking for more in-depth information about an issue, a questionnaire is not the tool to use. However, questionnaires are a good tool for efficiently gathering basic information from a large number of people at low cost. Today, through the use of inexpensive or free electronic questionnaire services, this method of gathering information has been made incredibly easy. But, there is a science to constructing questionnaires so that the data you get back actually answer the questions about which you want to learn.

Take a moment now to reflect on this question: when you speak with someone either in person or by telephone, how often are you misunderstood? Misunderstandings are frequent but can be corrected when you are in direct conversation with someone. However, when you have distributed a questionnaire to congregants, they will not have the benefit of asking for clarification. That is why it is critical to have someone with experience and expertise help you develop your questions.

Additionally, before you add a question to your questionnaire, ask yourself, “Do I really need to include it—is it germane to the issue?” There is an understandable temptation to ask questions which are not directly related to the assessment topic because you have people’s attention. But, if that temptation gets the better of you, you’ll limit the number of people who respond either because they will start to question your motives or because your have included too many questions.

Another good practice is to test questionnaires before you distribute them. By doing so, you’ll detect any unclear questions and get feedback on the length of the questionnaire. Typically, most volunteers will be willing to spend no more than about 15 minutes on a questionnaire. If they see a questionnaire which has over 20 to 25 questions, you will likely lose them. (This observation is based on my experience.) Aim for a greater response rate by limiting the number of questions. Those who are more invested in your organization, like board members, may be willing to spend more time as they better understand the importance of the effort. Still, you need to explain to people why you are asking for their help in supplying this information, how you hope it will be used and how you will inform them once it is used. In this way, they will be more likely to help you now and in the future. If you guarantee that responses will be confidential, which will increase the number of people who respond, then you must honor that confidentiality!

If you are using an electronic service, make sure that all of the potential respondents have access to a computer and know how to complete an online questionnaire. (Commonly used services are and You’ll also find that some newsletters, like Constant Contact, have a questionnaire feature.) Have you accounted for people with special needs? How about the elderly who may not like to use a computer but would respond to a telephone call?

With the right team of professionals and volunteers, you will be gratified by incorporating questionnaires as a part of program planning and congregational engagement into your activities. So—now it’s your turn to ask questions. Please fire away or share your experience with using electronic questionnaires.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

How Much Assessment is Enough?

Posted on: September 25th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

This is the second post on the topic of assessment. In my first post, my main points were:

  1. Healthy individuals take regular stock of their lives: where they’ve been, where they are presently, and where they hope to be in the future. The same is true of organizations.
  2. Assessment is another word for organizational learning. Its essential purpose is to help organizations measure whether they’re fulfilling their mission of changing lives and changing their communities.
  3. Assessment doesn’t just drive excellence; it drives the purpose of Jewish existence as expressed in the synagogue.

Many synagogues are hyper-active so it’s simply impossible to assess all activities. Conducting a comprehensive assessment of some aspect of the synagogue is a resource-intensive undertaking. It takes staff and volunteer time, funding and a commitment to go where the recommendations lead—even if that means sun-setting a program. Realistically, you should be able to thoroughly focus on one vital synagogue activity within about 18 months and generate a detailed action report with recommendations and modifications. At the same time, there are ways in which you can easily collect data on some discrete programs or processes in order to acquire quick, helpful feedback on other aspects of synagogue life.

For example, you might decide it’s time to assess the supplementary (now called, “complementary”) education program for children in kindergarten through sixth grades. But, just because your synagogue is engaged in this large effort, you can still be learning about the impact of other programs or processes in a more general way.

To drill down further, let’s say that a core group of 15 adults attend a four-part lecture series on Kabbalah and Jewish spirituality. As a part of each session, you ask participants to answer the same five questions at the end of class. You also leave room for them to add anything else that they would like to about the program and, on the last session, you also ask for their feedback about the entire series. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you will learn about what aspects of the series work well and what aspects need modification. And—you’ll be able to get all of that information with little effort on your part and the part of the participants.

Another illustration: a group of parents are leaving with their pre-school age children from a family education program. Five members of the pre-school committee are stationed at the synagogue exit. They are charged with asking two questions to as many parents as they can: “what did you like about the program,” and “what do you wish was different?” You haven’t systematically evaluated the program, but you are able to get useful feedback without much effort.

Creating a culture of assessment requires balance. You don’t want to drop assessment of every other activity during an assessment of a major area of synagogue life, while you also don’t want to drive people insane because you’re always asking them assessment-type questions. So here’s how I’d like us to help each other enrich one another with creative ideas about assessment:

  1. What areas of synagogue life lend themselves to a simple, quick assessment?
  2. How would go about getting it?

Share your ideas and I’ll be happy to compile a list.

Thank you,

Rabbi Herring

Image from Flickr, canonsnapper