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Have you ever participated in a poll or survey about a product or policy?
There are plenty of surveys out there, covering everything from political candidates to laundry soap. They are used to help make decisions about how to best improve and market candidates and products. It would be unthinkable for a company to refuse to poll its customer base about product preferences. By querying the consumers, the company finds out what is working and what is not, so that they can fine tune a product or service and ultimately sell more of it.
Recently my local radio club sent out a survey designed to find out what the club members think is most important in terms of club activities. In all my years of belonging to all sorts of clubs, especially radio clubs, this is the first club I have encountered that conducts such periodic surveys. What a great idea!
Some clubs are focused on a very specific mission and stray very little from a path toward their goal, but most radio clubs at least have some flexibility in their mission and can happily sponsor a variety of activities that might include on the air nets, ARES training and deployment, SKYWARN, classes in amateur radio, hidden transmitter hunts, Field Day, a club repeater, and... Well, you get the idea. Where the survey comes in is when the club has so many ideas for projects that they cannot all reasonably be given enough time and support to be successful. While the club leadership may decide for the entire group, it is always better to gain the confidence and support of the membership in deciding which projects to put at the top of the list and which might be better off tabled until some later date.
A properly designed survey can be a valuable tool to help a club chart its future. It is not going to be enough to simply ask for ideas in an open meeting. Not every member is present at every meeting, and some members may speak more persuasively than others, even though a survey done in private, when each member has a chance to think about what he or she really would prefer the club to do, might be entirely different. Another thing a survey can do is to lay out a variety of choices as well as to solicit original ideas from members. When I looked at the well-designed survey our club sent out, I was reminded of many good and worthy projects that our club has supported over the years. If pressed to remember all of that stuff on my own, I know I would have forgotten many projects, which would have made it more difficult for me to help the club make decisions on what to do. When I wanted to comment on a couple of items, I found comment space available so that I could put my thoughts down in my own words. Our survey asked for members to "rate" each project idea from one to five, based on whether the item was of no importance all the way up to great importance to the member. A couple of entries were blank, allowing each member to add a couple new items in the rate by number list. Although I can see the survey to complete it on paper if I wish, it was nice to see that the survey was available via email in an accessible format. That method also saves printing costs.
I realize that my preferences on the club survey may not be what others want, but I know I had my say and that it is likely at least some of what I like will become club policy. If your radio club seems to be stuck in a rut and lacking in direction, why not suggest that the club conduct a survey to find out what club members would like to do for projects and activities? It is a great way to stimulate thinking and bring out new ideas. Everyone will have more fun and the club and the greater amateur radio community will be the better for it.
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