LIN: From Paper to Online Surveys

LIN is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. Recently they shared this insight with us.

The LIN Center for Community Development (LIN) supports 186 organizations in Vietnam. In 2013 and 2014, we sent out LIN’s Annual NPO Partner Survey in hard copy and via email as a MsWord attachment. It was 11 pages long. Data collection was onerous and riddled with human transcription errors. In 2015, we hoped to upgrade to an online format. There were several options on the market and we were uncertain which was best. Fortunately, GlobalGiving connected us with a feedback expert who was able to answer our questions and help us decide that a “basic” subscription to SurveyGizmo (which offers a 25% discount to nonprofits!) was best for our needs.

We launched our annual survey in October and received 86 completed surveys, a response rate of 46% (86 out of 186 NPO partners in Vietnam). While the overall experience transitioning from a paper/Word survey to an online survey was positive and presented many advantages, the LIN team and our NPO partners did experience some challenges during implementation. Below is a brief summary of the key challenges and advantages resulting from the transition.


  • Technology – Internet and power disruptions do happen and, for some of our NPO partners it caused the loss of already inputted data.
  • Learning Curve – After launching the survey, one NPO partner discovered errors in the logic and validation for a couple questions. After correcting the errors, we later learned that any NPOs that partially completed the survey (and saved it) before the errors were corrected would have to start the survey over again. (It pays to pre-test!)
  • Accessibility – NPO representatives with a disability and those older in age shared frustrations with regards to the online survey format: One man with a visual impairment said the software he uses to “read” online text did not function well with the online format; Meanwhile, an NPO Director said she struggled to understand the error messages that popped-up when her answers did not fit the required format.


  • Design – The online survey is more attractive compared with the paper version and adapts well to smartphones and iPad’s on our chosen SurveyGizmo platform. Though LIN did not take full advantage of the possibilities, SurveyGizmo allows users to select from a variety of themes, colors and fonts, insert images and more.
  • Confirmation – The online system allowed LIN to send an automatic “Thank You” email when an NPO completes and submits a survey. We also selected the option to include a complete record of that NPOs answers to our survey in the email, which was an unexpected benefit to many of our partners. And, after receiving their “Thank You” email, two of our NPO partners contacted us to correct mistakes they noticed after reviewing their own answers in the email.  People liked seeing evidence that their response was saved more than we could have anticipated.
  • Reduce Human Errors (& Effort) – The online survey helped to reduce errors in data entry. Whenever a user inserts text instead of a number, for example, SurveyGizmo rejects the answer and provides an explanation so the user can revise their answer. Although this frustrated some users, it saved the LIN team from having to go back to each respondent that filled in the wrong information. Also, by using an online survey, we eliminated the need to transfer data from paper surveys to Excel, which further reduced the possibility of human error.
  • Real time Tracking & Checking Responses – SurveyGizmo allowed us to easily track our survey responses. And we used that feature often to check-in with NPOs that started but did not complete the survey and for reminding NPOs that did not start the survey. We were also able to do some quality control on the submitted data and run early analysis.
  • Language – our survey system handled English and Vietnamese without breaking. This is not always the case with technology in Vietnam.

We encountered notable challenges in the transition. Despite this, the online format offered many key advantages, the most important of which was an increase in the integrity of the data we collected.   With continued practice, the LIN team believes we can help our users to overcome, or at least mitigate, the difficulties that they faced the first time around.

Thanks to the GlobalGiving Feedback Fund 2015 for helping LIN to improve our feedback process!


Above is an example of how SurveyGizmo’s logic option ensures that our respondents answer questions only if they are relevant.

This is an example of a GlobalGiving organization that Listens, Acts, and Learns.


Marc Maxmeister is part of GlobalGiving's impact team.

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