Quantitative and qualitative? Yes - That Should Be Norm

Explore the synergy between qualitative and quantitative survey methodologies, illustrated through a case study of Girls Code, unveiling a holistic approach to data collection and analysis.

Chat icon

Can a Survey Be Both Quantitative and Qualitative?

In the dynamic landscape of the nonprofit sector, organizations face increasing pressure to demonstrate their impact effectively. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, standing out to donors and stakeholders requires more than just surface-level metrics. This is where the power of mixed-method surveys comes into play, especially when seeking to understand the 'why' behind perception rankings such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

The Nonprofit Challenge

Traditionally, nonprofits like Girls Code have relied on simple metrics such as "number of participants" or "number of workshops held" to showcase their impact. However, these numbers fail to capture the full story of an organization's influence. As the sector becomes more competitive and donors more discerning, there's a growing need for nonprofits to present compelling, evidence-based narratives of their impact.

The Solution: Mixed-Method Surveys

By integrating both quantitative and qualitative elements in a single survey, nonprofits can harness the strengths of both approaches, providing a comprehensive view of their impact. This mixed-method approach should be considered the new norm, especially for understanding stakeholder perceptions and program effectiveness. Here's why:

  1. Deeper Insights: Combining quantitative metrics with qualitative feedback allows for a more nuanced understanding of program outcomes.
  2. Efficient Resource Use: For resource-constrained nonprofits, mixed-method surveys offer a way to gather comprehensive data without the need for separate, time-consuming studies.
  3. Improved Storytelling: The rich data from mixed-method surveys enables nonprofits to craft compelling narratives that resonate with donors and stakeholders.
  4. Enhanced Decision Making: With both numerical data and detailed explanations, organizations can make more informed decisions about program improvements.

Let's delve deeper into the components of mixed-method surveys:

1. Quantitative Survey

Quantitative surveys in the nonprofit context focus on collecting numerical data that can be statistically analyzed. They are crucial for measuring impact on a broader scale and providing concrete metrics to stakeholders and donors.

Key Features:

  • Structured questions with predefined answer options
  • Large sample sizes for statistical significance
  • Numerical data that can be analyzed mathematically
  • Ideal for measuring the "what" and "how many" of impact

Benefits for Nonprofits:

  • Provides clear, measurable outcomes (e.g., "70% of participants improved their coding skills")
  • Allows for easy comparison across time periods or programs
  • Generates data that can be visualized in charts and graphs, which is appealing to donors
  • Facilitates benchmarking against industry standards or organizational goals

2. Quantitative Survey Questions

Quantitative survey questions for nonprofits are designed to elicit responses that can be counted and statistically analyzed. These form the backbone of impact measurement, providing hard numbers to demonstrate program effectiveness.

Types of Quantitative Questions:

  1. Close-ended Questions:
    • Multiple choice: "Which of the following skills did you improve most during the program? a) Coding b) Problem-solving c) Teamwork d) Communication"
    • Dichotomous: "Did you complete the entire program? Yes/No"
    • Rating scales: "On a scale of 1-5, how confident do you feel in your coding abilities after the program?"
  2. Numerical Input Questions:
    • "How many hours per week did you spend practicing coding outside of the workshops?"
  3. Likert Scale Questions:
    • "Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement: 'This program has significantly improved my job prospects.' (Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree)"

Example from Girls Code:"The average score on the coding test increased from 52.77 before the program to 71.87 after the program."

3. Qualitative Survey

Qualitative surveys in nonprofit impact measurement are designed to gather in-depth, descriptive information about experiences, opinions, and motivations. They provide the context and depth needed to truly understand the significance of program outcomes.

Key Features:

  • Open-ended questions that allow for free-form responses
  • Smaller sample sizes, but with more detailed information from each respondent
  • Data in the form of text, which requires interpretation and analysis
  • Ideal for exploring complex issues and uncovering unexpected insights

Benefits for Nonprofits:

  • Provides rich, contextual information about program impact
  • Allows participants to express their experiences in their own words
  • Uncovers unexpected outcomes or areas for improvement
  • Generates powerful testimonials and stories for donor engagement

4. Qualitative Survey Questions

Qualitative survey questions for nonprofits are designed to elicit detailed, open-ended responses that provide depth and context to impact assessment. These questions allow respondents to share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings in their own words.

Types of Qualitative Questions:

  1. Open-ended Questions:
    • "In what ways has this program impacted your life?"
    • "What challenges did you face during the program, and how did you overcome them?"
  2. Probing Questions:
    • "Can you tell me more about that experience?"
    • "How did that make you feel?"
  3. Reflective Questions:
    • "Looking back, what do you think was the most valuable aspect of the program?"
    • "How has your perspective changed since participating in our workshops?"

Example from Girls Code:"Please describe how your confidence in your coding abilities has changed since participating in our program."

The Sopact Advantage

This is where tools like Sopact Sense come into play. By leveraging advanced AI and automation, Sopact transforms the usually cumbersome data collection and analysis process. What traditionally took months can now be achieved in minutes, allowing nonprofits to focus on actionable insights rather than being bogged down by lengthy evaluations.

Consider the enhanced pitch from Girls Code using Sopact insights:

"Girls Code has significantly boosted the confidence and skills of young women in STEM. Before our program, 70% of participants lacked confidence in their coding abilities. After our workshops, this number dropped to 23%, and the average coding test scores increased from 53 to 72. Additionally, 70% of our participants had never built a web application before attending our workshop, but only 26% remained in that category post-program. These insights demonstrate the profound impact of our work, ensuring our girls are not just participants but future leaders in tech."

This pitch combines quantitative data with qualitative insights, providing a compelling narrative of impact that goes beyond simple metrics.


In an era where nonprofit impact can make or break funding opportunities, the question isn't whether a survey can be both quantitative and qualitative – it's whether organizations can afford not to embrace this holistic approach to understanding their impact. By adopting mixed-method surveys as the norm, nonprofits can move beyond surface-level understanding to truly grasp the complexities and depth of their impact, ultimately leading to more effective programs and more compelling cases for support.

Info icon
POWERUP: Learn how to design effective impact learning and reporting. View tutorial
Search icon

Looking for something else?

Search our extensive library to find the answers or topics you're looking for.
Email icon

Still need help?

Can't find what you're looking for? Reach out for personalized assistance.
Contact support