Local Indicators for Excellence

Bill CoadyBy Bill Coady

Apparently just a picture can set off quite a discussion, so perhaps I will try again, this time with words.

Last week I received a survey in the mail.  Mine was one of some 4,000 households in Marathon County to receive the Local Indicators for Excellence survey from the United Way. Surveys are interesting things because they ask specific questions, which means someone somewhere has to decide which things to ask about, and also by default, which things not to ask about.  Because of this, there is no such thing as an “unbiased” survey.  For example, in politics you might be asked which person you might prefer from some list of declared (or “serious”) candidates.  Just making that list narrows the field.

It is not my intention to put the entire survey online here or even to criticize it in anyway, but rather to give you a chance to voice your opinions.  For example, the first question asks about recreation.  Here is the list of recreational activities they list:

  • Access to reading materials
  • Dining; Entertainment, arts and museums
  • Outdoor recreational opportunities (Boating, hiking, fishing, etc.)
  • Public access to internet
  • Recreational facilities (Ice rinks, sports fields, swimming pools, etc.)
  • Shopping
  • Sporting Events

So, how do you feel about such things here in Marathon County?  Is there anything else you would add to that list?

The survey asks which three of those are most important you.  Again, maybe some other pastime is more important to you than what is on that list.  This is as good as place as any to have the discussion.

I’ll cover some more areas of the survey in later posts.

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10 responses to “Local Indicators for Excellence

  1. Although the efforts of the United Way to obtain this information to give us insights on ourselves and our needs may be a valid use of their funds…. I wonder how much this survey cost and would not that money have been better spent by NOT cutting off the Volunteer Center.

  2. I have to agree with John’s comments. Perhaps an online survey would have been more effective and less costly.

    I really hope they rethink dismantling the Volunteer Center.

  3. How much market penetration does the internet have in the populations served by the United Way, not by those who donate to the United Way?

  4. Surveys using electronic communications can be useful in some situations and they’re less reliable tools in others. In something like a membership organization where the survey sponsor is already communicating effectively via e-mail and has access to all or most of the e-mail addresses of the survey pool, it can work very well. It may be possible to poll the entire membership effectively and efficiently or to choose a random sample.

    In a survey like the LIFE report, where the survey sponsor is working with random sample of the county, there are real problems because it isn’t possible to draw a random sample and then have electronic access to it. There is no phone book of e-mail addresses that allows it to be done. Even telephone surveys present more problems today compared to 10 years ago, though they are still done with reasonably valid results. But between growing numbers of people using cell phones as their primary or sole means of phone contact and those who choose to have unlisted numbers, it becomes more difficult to choose a random sample and successfully make contact with a high enough percentage of the group.

    Useful information can be collected via an internet survey, but the difference between people voluntarily stepping up to respond to a survey compared to a random sample being contacted on the initiative of the researchers is fundamental and potentially significant to the outcome.

    The LIFE report is a separately sponsored activity, rather than something that is just drawn from the general budget of funds given by United Way donors. The costs therefore do not represent resources that would otherwise be available to fund an agency like the Volunteer Center. That is a separate policy matter that is not related to the LIFE report project.

  5. I think Jim Rosenberg is on point here. Let’s get the data, people. The cost of this survey is not much of a problem and it’s weird to say so…volunteer centers are not closed because their sponsoring organization supports a quality of life survey…

    Barry

  6. Thank you Barry.

    I find it odd, but how does one equate a survey to closing the cvolunteer center?

  7. thats my fault… that still leaves a bad taste…

    my gut check reaction to bill’s post was gee.. united way has money for a survey to learn what we want and need.. but not the money to actually help an organzation that meets many of those wants and needs…

    I understand is two different pots of money…….. but.. the United Way not high up on my list of things I like at the moment.

    sorry

  8. Oh, okay.

  9. Of course a survey doesn’t equal the closing of the volunteer center. But sometimes I do wonder about their funding.

    I still feel that they need to reconsider the step of not funding the center. They are a valuable resource in this city.

    Bill, be sure to put into your survey answers that the Volunteer Center is a valuable resource! I did not receive a survey- and there isn’t a place on their website to download a PDF. Maybe a web survey wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  10. Jim Rosenberg, getting his Judd Smith Statistical Analysis on.

    Judd Smith…who might he be?

    Hmm. Only the baddest Math IV teacher at DCE. He even got the bends.

    I miss coffee. This was a mistake.

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