University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives

Cooperatives: A Tool for Community Economic Development


Many co-ops conduct a survey as part of their feasibility study (see Chapter 5). This could be either a producer survey, in which the proposed co-op surveys its potential farmer members. Or it could be a market survey, to assess the market demand among customers for the proposed co-ops goods or services. Surveys can measure facts, opinions & attributes, knowledge & awareness, and behavior.


1. The first and most important step is to think carefully about what you want your survey to accomplish.  All else -- the questions you ask, the design of the survey, who it is sent to -- are dependent on this, so take the time to figure it out.

Write out a statement of objectives for your survey, which answers the following:

2. Draft the questionnaire, using the guidelines below.

3. Have someone who is not involved in the survey review your draft and critique it.

4. Pretest the survey, using respondents as similar as possible to the population you want to survey.  A pretest should include 3-4 trial runs of the survey, with respondents providing feedback regarding how easy the questionnaire was to understand, if there were any questions that were unclear, how long it took them to complete, etc.  This is a valuable step that many people overlook.  Pretesting can help you create a significantly better survey.

 5. Revise the survey based on the review and pretest, then proceed.


2.  Note that the physical layout or visual design of the survey is as important as what questions you ask, and can dramatically affect the response rate.  Avoid a  crowded look by using plenty of white space.

3. A survey should be as concise as possible without sacrificing important information.

4. Organize the survey questions into logical categories, moving from the general to the specific.

5. Use complete sentences, and design the survey to be as easy as possible for people to understand and respond.  Dont ask two things in one question.

6. Use close-ended questions whenever possible, minimizing open-ended questions.
Close-ended questions are those that provide specific choices for respondents to check (which of the following brands have you purchased within the last six months?).  The choices listed should be complete, yet mutually exclusive.

Open-ended questions, which can be valuable if used wisely, should be limited to2-3 per survey.

7. Using a consultant or other knowledgeable advisor to help design your survey, even for an hour or two, can make a big difference in the quality of your survey.

8. Put demographic questions (regarding household size and income, respondents education and age, etc.) at the end of the survey, never at the beginning.


This type of survey is used as part of a feasibility study to assess the level of interest among producers from a specific geographic area in the proposed co-op, and to gather information about their production and marketing activities.

Information that might be included:

1. What goods are produced by each respondent.

2. Volume of production of different goods, and what percent of that might be marketed through the proposed cooperative.

3. Location of respondents.

4. Willingness to invest in the cooperative.

5. Processing needs of respondents and how
those are currently being met.

6. Current marketing activities and marketing needs of respondents.

7. Respondents opinions on what services the co-op should provide.

8.  Short-term and long-term product and service needs of respondents.

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