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ArtsFund held its second 2016-2017 convening on November 17, 2016, centered around arts audience research, with tips and best practices on effective research techniques, conducting successful focus groups on a budget, and how to create more user-friendly surveys. The event was hosted by the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, with presentations by Don Morgan of GMA Research, Nancy Hardwick of Hardwick Research, and Max Israel of Customerville.

Following introductory remarks, Don Morgan, Senior Partner & CEO of GMA Research, kicked off the morning’s session with an overview of why research is important to organizations. In order to improve, evolve, and grow, organizations need to “measure, monitor, and take action” through research he said. He spoke further on keys to carrying out effective research, including identifying information “needs” versus “wants,” setting priorities, and integrating research as a way of thinking—as a part of organizational culture.

Don then handed the floor to Nancy Hardwick, President of Hardwick Research, to talk about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research before diving into focus groups. She described their advantages, such as receiving in-depth and candid feedback, and their disadvantages, including their potential high cost and not being reflective of the general population or audience.  She continued from there to discuss focus group methodology and how to carry out an effective focus group session, with examples of helpful probing questions, tips to get participants to share past what they may think the interview wants to hear, and pointers on analysis and reporting.

After Nancy’s portion, Don spoke briefly about quantitative research, including mobile, on-site, and online surveys, before introducing Max Israel, President of Customerville, who spoke about how to create more effective surveys. Max began by speaking about survey fatigue, saying that in 2016, 80% of people were asked for feedback over five times per week—an increase from 46% since 2012. He explained further how people often dislike surveys for being too long, being poorly designed, and how many customers and audiences are just not interested in sharing their feedback. To counter this, Max said organizations can learn from research into empathy to make surveys that emulate healthier face-to-face interaction and feedback. He explained how surveys should be more conversational, a two-way street between the questioner and the questioned; that they should be more humanized, using pictures and stories; and that they should give control as necessary to the person filling it out, allowing them to provide further feedback on their thoughts and feelings.

Don wrapped up the morning with a few final notes on sample size and margin of error, word clouds, and the Net Promoter Score, before ending by saying that research is just one layer of success—but an important one.

ArtsFund thanks Don Morgan, Nancy Hardwick, and Max Israel for sharing their time and expertise, and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience for hosting the symposium.

Video of the event is available below. Part 1 covers the first half of the symposium, including Don Morgan’s introduction and opening remarks on the broad why’s and how’s of research, as well as Nancy Hardwick’s presentation on qualitative research, in-depth-interviews and focus groups. Part 2 contains the second half of the convening, with Don’s overview of quantitative research, Max Israel’s presentation on creating more effective surveys, and Don’s conclusion to the morning.

Part 1

Part 2

Click here for the agenda for “What’s Behind the Curtain”

Click here for the PowerPoint slides from “What’s Behind the Curtain”

Helpful Resources
Customerville Pro Resources
Typeform surveying tool
Wordle word-cloud generator


ArtsFund’s convenings series is sponsored by The Boeing Company.