The Footsteps survey

Impact Assessment
The Burmese translation of Footsteps 85, on the topic of trees. Photo: Alice Keen/Tearfund
The Burmese translation of Footsteps 85, on the topic of trees. Photo: Alice Keen/Tearfund

by Alice Keen

If you have been reading Footsteps for several years now, you will remember receiving our readership survey in the post. More than a thousand of you faithfully answered our questions and gave us valuable feedback. 

Why we did the survey

Here at Tearfund, we want to produce the best magazine we can for you, our worldwide audience. Over the years, your lives have changed in many ways.You have many more ways of accessing information now than you did when we started in 1989. We wanted to update our understanding of what you want to read about, and to hear how Footsteps has helped you in your communities. We also wanted to have stories we could share with our donors and supporters, to encourage them and give them feedback on how their money is being spent. 

How we designed the survey

We started by discussing what we wanted to know in our team. We needed some basic information from all readers to identify them, so we asked for your name, Footsteps number (which is on your envelope) and address. This meant we could update any addresses that had changed and analyse where our responses had come from.

Next, we thought about what kinds of things we needed to know in order to make good decisions about the future of the magazine. We added questions on language, access to the internet and your preferred topics. 

Lastly, we included an open invitation to send us your stories of transformation, including photos and testimonies. 

How we conducted the survey

As Footsteps readers live in 126 different countries, we could not meet you all face to face! Many of you do not have access to the internet, so we decided to post the questionnaires. We produced the survey in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, with the help of translators. We gave readers a deadline for returning the survey to us. We sent two letters to remind people, advising them that if they did not reply, we would assume they did not want to continue receiving Footsteps

How we analysed and communicated the results

It took many months to receive all your responses, but it was worth the wait. We read each survey and entered the answers into our database. For multiple-choice questions, the database showed us how many people chose each option. For open questions, we wrote up the answers on a word processor and coded the feedback by theme using hashtags, eg #water #youth #training. This meant we could find feedback on different themes by using the search function in the feedback document. Finally, we wrote a report, which we gave to leaders in our organisation and beyond. 

What changed as a result of our survey

We have used what we have learnt from the survey to plan for the future. We are going to refresh the design of the magazine after the 100th edition. In the box on the left, you will see some of the insights we had from the survey and what we are doing as a result. 

If you would like a copy of the Footsteps survey, please email, or write to us at the address on page 2. 

Some important insights from the survey

1. Although the internet is becoming more widely available, readers still value printed versions of publications.

  • 86% of respondents wanted to keep receiving the printed version.
  • 17% of respondents had no internet access at all.
  • 34% only had access at an internet cafe.
  • 15% only had access through a mobile phone.

We are going to continue printing and mailing Footsteps, because those without internet access are still most in need of information. 

2. Translation into local and national languages is vital if Footsteps is going to reach the people who most need it. 

Some readers are already translating articles or discussing the content in local languages with communities where they work. In total, 68 languages were suggested, including Hausa, Amharic, Bemba, Lingala, Filipino, Nepali, Wichi, Sinhala and Malagasy.

We are going to encourage readers to translate Footsteps for their communities.