One key to a strong state arts agency is the involvement of key stakeholders and constituents during strategic planning. State arts agencies use many methods to secure this involvement, including town forums, listening tours, visioning sessions, focus groups, interviews, on-line discussions and different forms of evaluations. As part of this process, most state arts agencies also conduct constituent surveys. Because they allow for anonymous input—and because the results can be quantified—surveys are a popular tool for capturing a variety of information. Some popular areas of inquiry include: constituent needs assessment; funding priorities; program evaluation; customer service; testing goals; and obtaining feedback on a draft of a strategic plan.

Below are a few examples that illustrate the range of surveys state arts agencies conduct during planning. More examples—as well as tips on survey design and implementation—are available from the NASAA office.

Delaware Division of the Arts This survey asks a variety of questions to assess the opinions and preferences of Delaware residents and to inform the planning process of the division.

Indiana Arts Commission To inform its planning practices, the Indiana Arts Commission conducted a cluster of surveys designed to probe public perceptions about the arts, identify priorities for the state arts agency, explore the needs of artists, and assess the capacity and financial condition of nonprofit arts organizations. Results from all of these research efforts were combined to help the arts council consider its future roles, goals and objectives.

Maryland State Arts Council This statewide survey of the arts utilized public opinion polling to understand the role of the arts in the lives and livelihoods of Maryland citizens.  The poll was designed and conducted to capture information from the public at large, not just from state arts agency grantees.

Minnesota State Arts Board This survey was developed to educate the community about the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and to gain input on how the state arts agency should allocate those new funds.

Nebraska Arts Council This survey asks a series of questions designed to inform the project and performance goals of the council.

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts This survey probes how applicants feel about the process of applying to the state arts agency for grant funds. It invites applicants to rate the quality of assistance received from agency staff as well as the overall ease of the application process.

South Carolina Arts Commission As part of its Canvas of the People Long Range Planning Process, the South Carolina Arts Commission participated in the fall 2009 South Carolina State Survey administered by the University of South Carolina's Institute for Public Service and Policy Research. The survey asked about participation in the arts, perceptions of the value of the arts and their role in education, and public support for the arts.

Texas Commission on the Arts In addition to evaluating customer service and communications, this survey polls respondents about selected current activities and asks for their opinions about some state arts agency funding options.

For more information on strategic planning surveys, or for questions about survey design and implementation, contact NASAA Chief Program and Planning Officer Kelly Barsdate.

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