engagement, Getting Started

A Survey of Free Survey Tools

7 Comments 28 December 2008

When I was a non-profit Program Manager, I used surveys often. I only used free survey tools (i.e. within our budget), but did find the report analysis less than comprehensive. E-surveys (either sent by email or completed online) are a great method to get  the pulse of a program: its strengths, weaknesses and deficits.  It is a “quick-and-easy” feedback tool, and I highly recommend it as a great way to tell your stakeholders that you care and want to engage in a dialogue with them. Surveys open up the communication channel between the organization and its stakeholders, and if you implement feedback from the survey results, you complete the communication circle by respecting input.

I’ve spent some time looking at the more established but also easy-to-use of the free survey tools available. Below I’ve detailed their features and highlighted if there are specific incentives offered to non-profits:

Question Pro

Incredibly, Question Pro offers a professional survey software program FREE to non-profit organizations for an unlimited time. This a great value that includes an unlimited number of surveys, unlimited responses, 24/7 live support, and real-time reports. In return, they require that non-profits link to Question Pro from their home pages, credit Question Pro in all reports, and other similar requirements. You can read all about their Non-Profit Waiver Program here. The Pros: free upgrade for non-profits, unlimited responses and # surveys, custom text creation. I haven’t used this so I’m not sure about usability.

Survey Monkey

I find Survey Monkey to be amongst the easiest survey tools to use. The surveys are very easy to create and they look very professional. This is the tool I used for simple 5-question surveys I’d send out after a one-time workshop or an event. The Basic subscription, which is free, allows up to 10 questions per survey, 100 responses per survey, 15 pre-built themes, real-time results, and basic reports. The pros: extremely easy to create and administer surveys. The cons:  if you collect more than 100 responses per survey, you have to upgrade to a paid subscription in order to view the results of your survey, cannot export data to excel, cannot add logo, or generate website pop-up surveys. I’ve linked to their website page that compares their products and prices here.

Poll Daddy

A lot of people also like Poll Daddy, and I would put it on the same level as Survey Monkey. It is a simple, user-friendly survey and poll software. The options for the free subscription are exactly the same as Survey Monkey (unlimited surveys, up to 10 questions, 100 responses per survey). The difference, as far as I can tell, is that Poll Daddy seems to offer more options for creating and using the survey. The pros: you can create your own survey skin with custom css, you can subscribe to your results via RSS, and also offer conditional branching responses. Also, if you plan to offer polls, or already do so, then it would be simpler to continue using the Poll Daddy. The cons: only allows up to 100 responses per survey.


The nice thing about Survey Pro is the unlimited number of responses.It also offers 14 different types of questions, as opposed to the standard 10 offered with most free subscriptions. However, the free subscription is limited to 50 surveys per month, and you cannot export the response data to excel with this subscription.  The Pros: Unlimited responses is great, pretty standard features otherwise. I also notice that the paid subscription features offer little more than the free features, and there are a lot of free features. I consider this a good deal for the cost. The cons: Cannot export data, not able to customize look other than add logo to survey. The comparative feature list is easy to view here.

Survey Gizmo

Survey Gizmo offers a limited free subscription. The free tools include the basic types of questions, basic reports and options for publishing online or by email, unlimited number of surveys and questions. The pros: The best features are that you can receive up to 250 responses, fully customizable XHTML/CSS templates, export data to spreadsheets, pop up website surveys, and you can add images and video to a survey. I also like that you can track abandonment rates, which is unique to most free survey tools. The cons: The support is limited; only email support available. Here is the list of all their features.


A lot of organizations use Zoomerang, but not the free subscription, as it is quite limited. It allows 30 questions per survey (quite a large amount) but only 100 responses per survey. That’s basically the package, along with standard reporting. The pros: One of the best features of Zoomerang is that you can create a beta version of your survey and administer it to a group of people that are already enlisted survey-takers in the Zoomerang database. You set the profiles and they will find a sample of takers for you. Also, they offer a discounted version of their Pro subscription to non-profits for 25% off the regular price. The real value of Zoomerang is in the paid subscription service which offers powerful. flexible tools and reporting. The cons: cannot export data to spreadsheets, cannot customize. I’ve linked to their different feature and pricing packages here.

Google Docs Survey Tool

Google Docs is a tremendous free resource and available to anyone with a google account. I love that you can share the work you are doing with as many people as you want, which offers wiki qualities (collaboration, creative input) without creating a full wiki. There is a well-written summary of how to create a survey using Google Docs here, and I thank Alan Rimm-Kaufman for putting together his blog post on it. The reporting is very, very basic, so if you are looking for advanced analytics, this is not the appropriate tool for you. However, a great feature is that you can very simply export your survey results to a google spreadsheet (very similar to Excel) and run all the analysis you’d like using the raw data results in your spreadsheet.

In short:

If you need to survey between 0 – 100 people: I recommend Poll Daddy.

If you need to survey more than 100 people: Survey Gizmo allows up to 250 responses (and some great features), and I would choose Question Pro for unlimited # of responses over Survey Pro.

The best # of features for the best price? I love Poll Daddy’s features and especially the customization features; I also think Survey Gizmo has some great added features (Can create polls, embed in website, and track abandonment rates, export to excel, and analyze individual responses); Google Docs Survey Tool is fantastic if you want to create a shared working survey.

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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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