Survey Sunday #2 – membership and donations!

This week on Survey Sunday, we’re taking a look at some illuminating stats regarding OTW membership: why fans join the OTW, why fans don’t join, and why fans don’t renew their membership. As always throughout this series, we are only offering aggregate results and summary comments rather than individual responses.

Today we’re going to focus on the following submitted question:

  • “I’m interested in the answers to 73 and 74, and to a lesser extent 72. Basically I want to know what the roadblocks are that are preventing people from donating or that are making people decide to quit donating.”

Before we show you those results, however, let’s talk about data we’re not showing you yet. In the last Survey Sunday, we fielded several queries from some of you regarding the Fanlore sections of the survey, including a great request for conclusions drawn from cross-referencing responses to multiple questions. We’re currently working on those questions and eventually hope to provide you with all of that info and more, but there were too many essay-style responses for us to complete the Fanlore section for this Survey Sunday.

How we’re working on the data

The survey workgroup in charge of combing through all ~6,000 responses has been organising and filtering the data almost from day one (that is, since the results came in), but only recently met for the first time to define goals and settle on a methodology. We agreed that before we can really know how to categorize the data we’re dealing with, we need to get a clear overview of what the feedback actually is.

Since many questions can be grouped together by subject, we’ve split up into mini-teams that have agreed to work on each grouping, both individually and as an overall composite set of data, such as the 3 questions we’re sharing with you today. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the organization process for these mini-teams:

  1. preview the data and develop a good understanding of it
  2. report back to the group, share results with the relevant committees, gather feedback
  3. develop a group-wide organizational system
  4. work within the team to sort and categorize aggregate and open-ended results for each question

Once these steps are complete for all questions, we plan on digging into the guts of Surveymonkey’s Export options, and possibly unleashing an Excel/SQL subgroup to work database magic and expand that preliminary analysis. At this level, we’ll have the ability to cross-reference questions, filter by respondent data (like country or platform), and more. But we’re not there yet! As we stated previously, we hope that sharing some preliminary data publicly as we proceed will help keep you updated and actively invested in the results.

Responses to questions on OTW membership

So, let’s start with a look at 3 questions regarding OTW membership to give you an overview of what the OTW looks like in terms of donor motivation.

The lead-up question to this section was #70, “Have you ever been an OTW member?”, serving as the gateway determining which follow-up questions were asked. Of the 5021 respondents, 730 were currently OTW members and proceeded to answer question 72, “What was your main reason for becoming a member?”, but skipped questions 73 and 74. 226 had let their membership lapse and got question 73, “What made you stop being a member?”, followed up by #74, “What might make you choose to be a member in the future?”. This was also the question that the 4065 respondents were routed to who answered that they had never been members.

screenshot of a graph for the question Have you ever been an OTW member. 5021 answered, 965 skipped this question. Options: yes currently, 730 replies = 14.5%. yes but lapsed, 226 replies = 4.5%. no never, 4065 replies = 81%

(Please note that the replies to question 70 don’t actually reflect current membership numbers: 965 people skipped the section entirely, and the number of members had increased during the April membership drive.)

Question #72: “What was your main reason for becoming a member?”

screenshot of a graph for the question What was your main reason for becoming and OTW member. 715 answered, 5271 skipped this question. Options: I wanted the right to vote in the elections, 52 replies = 7,3%. I wanted to support the organization financially, 343 = 48,0%. I wanted to show my general support for the organization, 314 replies = 43,9%. I joined because my friends are also members, 5 replies = 0,7%. I liked the incentive merchandise, 1 reply = 0,1%. Other (please specify), 50 replies

As you can see, the main motivation for respondents in choosing to donate to the OTW is support. “Support,” of course, is a broad concept. In the open response portion of the question, a number of recurring themes emerged:

  • respondents wanted to do a combination of the options given to them, e.g. show general and financial support, or some form of “all of the above”
  • respondents wanted to support the OTW’s legal advocacy, the Archive of Our Own, and/or other OTW projects
  • respondents wanted to have a vote in the OTW elections and a voice in the direction of the organization
  • respondents just wanted to give money to the OTW, but didn’t realize they would become members as well/didn’t realize they had a choice about also becoming a member
  • respondents donated as a way of making up for not having time or ability to volunteer
  • respondents donated as a way to express their belief in the value of the OTW

It bears repeating that all of this is a preliminary, broad overview of trends we saw in responses; as we categorize data we will look more closely at specific motivations people have for starting, renewing, and discontinuing their OTW membership.

The same principle goes for membership renewal, which was explored further in question 73.

Question #73: “What made you stop being a member?”

screenshot of a graph for the question What made you stop being a member?. 211 answered, 5775 skipped this question. Options: I forgot to renew membership, 90 replies = 42,7%.	
Financial reasons, 86 replies =	40,8%. I lost interest, 6 replies = 2,8%.
I feel there is a lack of progress, 3 replies = 1,4%. I don't feel represented by the OTW, 9 replies = 4,3%. I disagree with (aspects of) the OTW's policies or their development, 17 replies = 8,1%. Other (please specify), 22 replies.

It’s important to remember that when we designed the survey, we included these particular options because we realize that acknowledging former member dissatisfaction is crucial to learning how to increase membership renewal. It’s heartening to know that 42% of respondents might potentially renew their membership, but we also care about the 13-17% of former members who had negative or ambivalent experiences with the OTW after they donated to it. We appreciate these respondents, both for their initial memberships, and for taking the time to share their experiences as members with us.

It’s harder to pick up on general themes for this question, especially due to the more contentious nature of the question, and the fact that we had fewer open responses to this question. However, some recurring trends from respondents were:

  • A combination of two or more of the closed-ended responses
  • Former members plan to renew but just haven’t gotten around to it
  • Former members shifted their support to volunteer work instead for numerous reasons
  • Former members had negative experiences or received negative impressions during OTW election campaigns, or during their time as members

We hope to cross-analyze these types of responses with other responses to different aspects of the survey to glean more specific data about the things that hinder and help our efforts in this area.

Question #74: “What might make non-members join in the future?”

screenshot of a graph for the question What might make you choose to be a member in the future?. 3324 answered, 2662 skipped this question. Options: Nothing, the OTW is just not for me, 556 replies = 16,7%. Improvement in my finances, 1972 replies = 59,3%. Niftier incentives, 112 replies = 3,4%. Better progress on existing projects, 93 replies = 2,8%. Outreach to my fannish community, 205 replies = 6,2%. Services or tools that appeal to me or my fannish community, 336 replies = 10,1%.	Change in the organization's policies, 50 replies = 1,5%. Other (please specify), 484 replies.

If long-term and new membership are crucial to our health as an organization, then it doesn’t take a team of SQL experts to see right away that there’s a statistical correlation between the 13-17% of lapsed members from Question #73 who are unsatisfied with our organization’s current fannish outreach, general policies, direction, and progress, and the 17-21% of potential members who cite solutions to these same issues as potential incentives to join.

However, this set of questions weren’t designed to ask what creates levels of dissatisfaction—only to quantify the relationship between dissatisfaction and membership. Other parts of the survey will hopefully provide more context. What this data does provide us is a sharp, bird’s-eye perspective on the rest of the survey: every area where we succeed or fall short, no matter how small, connects back to our actual membership numbers.

And while, alas, we can’t control the state of your finances and we definitely understand that the OTW is not for everyone, there are many things we can change to impact membership for the better. We hope the survey analysis will ensure that the organization as a whole knows what we need to change and renews its commitment to do so at every level.

What we can’t tell you right away, though, is what those numbers mean in terms of conclusions or future direction. Once our Development & Membership committee has had time to familiarize themselves with these results and discuss them in depth, we will be able to amend this report with their interpretations and conclusions. We will collect similar analyses from committees along with creating more reports, and compile it all into a more fleshed-out final report.

In the meanwhile, check our list of all survey questions and tell us what you’re curious about for the next Survey Sunday post on June 17th!

  1. gl commented:

    Ahh, my question! Thanks much for answering. I think it’s a good sign for the org that the main stumbling block seems to be financial, not ideological or how the org is progressing.

    Thanks again and I look forward to further Survey Sunday reports!

  2. Lucy Pearson commented:

    Thanks! Yes, the responses were encouraging – there are things people want us to work on, but nothing that was too big a surprise.

    OTW Communications