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Monkey See Monkey Do: A Challenge From SurveyMonkey

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"Where do we sit on charity donations this year?"

How many companies do you know that use this question as an integral way to increase clientele, to attract database members and to improve business quality all while sharing some jungle love in the name of charity? Can't think of any? Well, SurveyMonkey, the world's largest survey company, is leading with its heart. And they are challenging other businesses to follow.

"Any more companies we can encourage to do this kind of thing and bring charity to the center, it helps and makes a big difference," Brent Chudoba, Vice President and General Manager of SurveyMonkey Audience said. "When we first started, we were sending hundred and thousand dollar checks. Two years later we are donating a million dollars. It starts to be really cool that we can do this much good."

Charitable donations is the first topic addressed by Chudoba and his team at their monthly meetings.

"It resonates through the whole organization of saying, look, if our goals are based around charity, and we know they are connected to business goals, too," Chudoba explained. "That kind of helps people give back and it makes the people we work with even more important."

SurveyMonkey has formulated an innovative business plan that drives its business by donating to the charity of the respondent's choice for each survey that is completed through SurveyMonkey's site. This is very different from anything anybody in the industry is doing, according to Chudoba. He explains that the industry standard generally includes paying survey takers with cash, points, or frequent flier miles. This practice creates huge problems with data quality because people speed through the surveys to get their points, he added.

Chudoba believes the charitable aspect (donating 50 cents per survey) has improved the quality of survey responses.

"We do survey our respondents and ask what it is that makes you want to donate to charity and what it is that makes you take surveys," he said. "Our respondents do love the fact that we're donating material amounts to charity...they really like to see that what they are doing is making a difference. There is an altruism feeling that it is worth 5 or 10 minutes of my time to complete a survey."

SurveyMonkey launched its new product, SurveyMonkey Audience two years ago. This product allows customers to purchase respondents to take their surveys. About one quarter of SurveyMonkey's subscribers is non-profit organizations. Because of the tight relationships SurveyMonkey had with many of their non-profit subscribers, the idea naturally progressed.

"Our first idea was to partner with the charities and say, hey, if we can recruit respondents to take surveys, we'd like to give them donations to charities instead of paying them," Chudoba stated explaining that they recruited two million respondents in the past two years to take surveys.

When the charities receiving donations began to see significant numbers coming from SurveyMonkey, they began to realize they could drive some of their own donations.

"The Humane Society is a great example," Chudoba mentioned. "They escalated toward the top of our donation list because they are solving a lot of great problems. I think people care about animals. Our members have flocked toward a lot of cause areas."

Chudoba explained that when SurveyMonkey began cutting thirty and forty thousand dollar checks to the Humane Society, people from the non-profit began calling to see how they could work together to create something even bigger.

"They actually put us on their home page for a period of time and emailed two million of their users and said, hey, this is a great program we are working with," Chudoba noted. "They said that if you want to sign up and help us raise donations, click and sign up on SurveyMonkey."

Instead of traditional fundraising methods, non-profits can encourage their members to participate in surveys to raise money thereby giving them more control over their own donations. SurveyMonkey gives them the option of putting a button on their own web page that links to SurveyMonkey thereby increasing SurveyMonkey's business.

"It's interesting because it's a new business model for charities, "Chudoba stated. "We are actually providing a business model and a set of metrics that say, here is what happens when we work together. This is a donation stream that doesn't really go away. These people signed up to donate and as our business grows, your donations grow. It's an interesting phenomenon."

"With an approach as innovative as ours," Chudoba added, "it's causing charities to rethink some of the ways they do business."

Since the inception of SurveyMonkey Audience two years ago, SurveyMonkey has raised two million dollars for charity and has announced a goal to reach one million dollars in 2013 alone. Chudoba indicated that they tend to have a lot of "cause" groups that include non-profits working with animals, youth, arts, environment, health and hunger/poverty.

In addition to the donations per completed survey, the employees at SurveyMonkey get out to participate in hands-on charitable work at monthly events with groups like Ronald McDonald House.

"It's in SurveyMonkey's DNA. Given how much of our customer base is in the non-profit sector, we have a lot of nice connections," Chudoba said adding that he participated in a zoo clean up and helped build clay houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Chudoba sees the charitable element of his business as a win for all involved.

"I think the charity component is really a game changer for customers," Chudoba added. "When they see a company partnering with charity to do some things in innovative ways, it's actually a good thing as we can showcase the charity partners that are great customers of ours, and it definitely helps business in a lot of different ways."

"Hopefully I can put a five million dollar goal on the wall eventually," he concluded.