I frequently hear associations asking how they can get their members and customers to provide more demographic information to the association. For example, I’ll hear “How can we get our members to provide us their organization’s staff size?” or “We’d like to know the ethnic make up of our members. How can we ask for that information without offending people?”

My answer is the same for both questions: “Tell them why it’s worth it to them to provide that information to you.” If you can’t explain it quickly and easily, and in a way that will make the customer say “Oh, that makes sense, here’s the information,” then you’re not going to get very much cooperation.

Too frequently, the answer from associations is “This would be interesting to know.” But that’s not compelling enough to make people answer. You have to determine how providing this information will benefit the respondent, not the association.

This thought process is similar for surveys, by the way. As it happens, I hate taking surveys. I’m simply not going to give anyone 15 minutes of my time to answer questions that I’m pretty sure will not change my life one bit (other than to take 15 minutes of my time, which I can never get back).

On the other hand, I will often answer one-question surveys, because they’re very quick, and I can see from the question exactly what the questionner is trying to learn. I can decide very quickly if I think providing this information will provide value to me.

So when you go asking for more information, make sure you communicate to the respondent why it’s in their best interest to provide that information.