Best Practices for Writing RFPs for Community Surveys

Authored by:
Ron Vine, President, Ron Vine and Associates 913-747-5524

Transparency in your statistically valid survey effort is of essential importance to gain community trust and buy-in for your community wide statistical valid survey effort.  For parks and recreation projects, such as master plans and strategic plans, surveys of resident households can be an important and relatively inexpensive means for gathering highly accurate feedback.

Statistical valid surveys are principally conducted by mail, phone and through the web.  When properly used, each of these methodologies can be an excellent means of gathering feedback from residents.  Many communities use private companies to conduct their statistically valid survey. 

The following questions should be asked of proposers in your Request for Proposals

  • Ask what methodologies the proposer will use on your statically valid survey. The most common methods are mail, phone and web. Today, most surveys for parks systems are administered by mail and web. Focus groups and stakeholder interviews may be proposed as additional methodologies. Be sure you know the methodologies used by your survey consultant.

  • Ask for the source of the proposers sampling. If the proposer is using multiple sources, each source should be indicated. Elected officials and others in your community will frequently ask you the source of your sampling. Be prepared to answer this question when it is asked.

  • Ask the proposer to indicate how many surveys are anticipated to be mailed out. If the proposer is administering the survey using mail, ask in the proposal how many surveys are anticipated to be mailed.

  • Indicate in your RFP that e-mails should not be used to contact residents who have not previously received a mailed survey. Lower income residents and residents 65 years of age and older may have significantly lower access to the internet. Households who do not have access to the internet may not be able to participate in your survey unless they have first received a mail survey.

    Since people are mobile, e-mails may be sent to persons who no longer live in your community, some of whom could contact your community asking why they received a survey. This can call into question the age and accuracy of your list and credibility of your survey effort.

  • Ask the proposer to indicate their experience conducting statistically valid surveys for parks systems. The proposer should be asked how many parks surveys that have conducted as well as how many they have conducted in the past 5 years.

  • Ask the proposer to provide a scope of services and timelines for completing the survey. The timelines should include the estimated dates for completing each survey task. The proposer should be asked how they will ensure to you that each task is being conducted on schedule.

  • Ask if the proposer is going to send reminders to complete the survey to residents who received the mailed survey. If yes, ask what type of reminder they are using i.e. postcards, phone calls, e-mails, etc. Many mail lists do not include land-line phone numbers for a significant percentage of households and calling cell phone numbers with auto-dialers is prohibited by federal regulations without “express prior consent.” Post card reminders are the most effective and efficient method to ensure that all those receiving a mailed survey also get a reminder.

  • Ask for the proposer’s professional fees and estimated expenses to conduct the survey effort. Proposers should be asked to indicate their fees broken down by major tasks, i.e. survey development, survey administration, developing their final report and making presentations of findings.

  • Indicate in the RFP that the number of surveys that are mailed out and completed by mail, web and phone needs to be included in their final report. Your elected and appointed officials will want this information provided.

Total transparency in your survey process will build trust and buy-in for your survey effort.  Attention to these 9 questions in your Request for Proposals will build confidence in the integrity of your survey effort.