Focus Group 101: What You Need To Know About This Highly Effective Research Tool

A focus group is a small group discussion guided by a trained moderator. It’s a qualitative research technique that you can use to draw out consumer perceptions about your organization. Its overall goal is to uncover impressions about your organization from external stakeholders such as your volunteers, donors, government officials, communities, customers, and the media. These outsiders can give you a clearer idea of how the community perceives your organization. Do they like your organization? What inspires donors to donate? Compared to individual interviews and surveys, a focus group is an efficient way to get directional information and impressions from a group. Typically, a focus group consists of six to 12 participants.

A focus group can have two purposes. First, it can help you understand the needs and wants of your stakeholders. Second, you can use your findings to create better strategies for your marketing activities.

Examples of this would be:

  • A focus group of donors – the key to raising funds is in building and maintaining relationships with current, new and potential donors. A focus group can help you learn more about their motivations, concerns, and how you can attract more support.
  • A focus group made up of volunteers – through a focus group, you can find out the reason why they chose to give their time to your organization, and how you can create a more effective volunteer program.
  • A focus group made up of community stakeholders – community involvement is crucial to the success of any non-profit organization because your closest supporters can be your most ardent advocates. You can invite members of your community such as families, students, local organizations, media, etc. to find out what how you can strengthen community involvement.

What makes a focus group different from a regular group discussion?

Trained moderator

A focus group has a trained moderator who will lead the discussion. The success of a focus group highly depends on the skills of the moderator. He or she must be able to facilitate a relaxed, balanced and productive discussion while keeping the group focused on one topic.

Carefully selected participants

Participants of a focus group are made up of individuals that have certain common characteristics that relate to the topic.

Structured questions

Questions are carefully planned to create a safe, non-threatening setting where people can talk freely without the fear of judgment. Participants are encouraged to express their honest opinion. Since discussions are structured as well as expressive, a focus group can generate valuable insights in a short time.  The objective is to collect information and NOT to arrive at a consensus.

What can you gain from a focus group?

A focus group can help you discover how stakeholders truly feel about your organization and the reasons behind why they support you. It’s an eye-opening tool that can provide valuable insight on how you can improve fundraising, strategic planning, and program development.

Interested in setting up a focus group for your organization?

Connect with us at Meeting Your Mission, Inc. to find out more about the easy way to assess community needs, trends, and best practices. Our Manager, Leslie Rosen Stern, is a warm, skilled facilitator who can help you discover ways to enhance the work you are doing by uncovering unmet needs and areas of potential growth for your organization.


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