An Alternative to Focus Groups: Group Interviewing Using the Delphi Technique Online
This paper examines the defects of focus group research and suggests that a better alternative to focus group research is web-based surveys using the well-established Delphi Technique.
Qualitative research is an important part of marketing research today. When marketing managers say "we'll do some qual" they almost always mean focus groups. Other types of qualitative research are rarely if ever considered.
The technique of data gathering known as focus group interviewing is associated with sociologist Robert Merton's work in World War II. Merton was one of the great pioneering sociologists of the last century, an intellectual giant associated with the development of such central sociological ideas as anomie, deviance, functionalism and role model.
Like all new research methods focus groups were developed to improve data gathering in social science research. In 1931 as Rice said: "a defect of the interview for the purposes of fact-finding in scientific research, then, is that the questioner takes the lead...data obtained from an interview are likely to embody the preconceived ideas of the interviewer as the attitude of the subject interviewed" (Rice, 1931, p.561 cited in Kreuger, 1988, p.18).
Focus group interviews may have been improvement for some purposes over the one-on-one interviews they replaced but focus groups did not entirely eliminate interviewer bias: far from it. Robert Merton said as recently as 1990 that he felt that this application of focus group research is being misused in that plausible interpretations are taken from group interviews and are treated as being reliably valid (Merton, Fiske and Kendall, 1990, p.xxi). There are three reasons why focus group research cannot be reliably valid:
1. Research has shown that members of a group are strongly influenced by other members of the group. Social psychologists have attributed the influence of other group members to both informational and normative influences.
The individual conforms to informational influence because he trusts the judgment of others more than his own. The individual conforms to normative influence from a desire to be liked by others. Research has also shown that conformity is not always brought about by the pressure of majority opinion. A confident minority will also exert pressure to conform.
2. Another strike against focus group research if improperly used, as it so often is in modern marketing research, is that samples are so small that no generalization of findings can be made to any population of interest. Focus groups speak for themselves alone; they provide no reliable or valid insight into the thoughts of a population.
3. And finally, there is always interviewer bias.
What are Focus Groups good for?
Stewart and Shamdasani (1990, p.15) have suggested that the uses of focus groups include:
1. Obtaining general background information about a topic of interest;
2. Generating research hypotheses that can be submitted to further research and testing using more quantitative approaches;
3. Stimulating new ideas and creative concepts;
4. Diagnosing the potential for problems with a new program, service or product;
5. Generating impressions of products, programs, services, institutions, or other objects of interest;
6. Learning how respondents talk about the phenomenon of interest which may facilitate quantitative research tools;
7. Interpreting previously obtained qualitative results
Nowhere is it suggested by social scientists that focus groups should constitute the entirety of a research project and as Merton said focus groups in modern marketing research are being misused in that plausible interpretations are taken from group interviews and are treated as being reliably valid.
We suggest that if researchers want to do qualitative research without the dangers inherent in face-to-face imposition of interviewer bias and the problems of interactions within the group putting inappropriate pressures on participants then an excellent alternative is the Delphi Technique.
The Delphi technique is a better alternative to focus groups that overcomes some of their major problems. The Delphi technique was developed by the RAND Corporation in the late 1960s. Delphi was developed as a methodology in which a group of experts could arrive at a consensus of opinion about subjective matters.
Delphi is typically not conducted in face-to-face group settings. Participants respond to a carefully crafted questionnaire, their responses are delivered anonymously. This overcomes the major problems inherent in the face-to-face dynamics of focus groups. There is little pressure to conform to dominant group members; those who might dominate in a face-to-face setting are also anonymous.
After the first set of responses is received the moderator(s) summarize the responses, and feed the summary of responses back to the group. At this stage there is discussion; participants are allowed to support one opinion or another. This can be done by way of a blog or a chat session. After discussion, group members respond again. The idea is not necessarily to obtain consensus but to obtain a relatively stable set of responses.
Not only does Delphi avoid the potential problems of face-to-face interviewer bias and adverse group dynamics it also allows relatively large samples of independent individuals to be used, particularly when interviews are conducted on-line. This means that, unlike with focus groups, the researcher can gain valid and reliable insights into the thoughts of a population of interest, such as users of shampoo or voters. This is not feasible with focus groups.
A Delphi study can be run very efficiently on the Internet. This not only enables the elimination of undesirable group dynamics it also means that the people who have commissioned the research can observe and even participate anonymously without having to stand behind a one-way mirror.
Kreuger, R.A. (1988). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. London: Sage.
Merton, R.K., Fiske, M., and Kendall, P.L. (1990). The focused interview: A manual of problems and procedures. (2nd ed.). London: Collier MacMillan.
Stewart, D.W., and Shamdasani, P.N. (1990). Focus groups: Theory and practice. London: Sage.
Read more: http://www.articlesphere.com/Article/An-Alternative-to-Focus-Groups--Group-Interviewing-Using-the-Delphi-Technique-Online/221687#ixzz4zB2kIqx4
Author: Michael Petty
Artice Source: http://www.articlesphere.com
Essential Fundraising Tips for Non-Profits
Developing a strategic fundraising plan will ensure that the effort invested in the solicitation of funds will be organized and devoid of stressful situations. It will also contribute to the sustainability of programs while advancing the credibility of an organization.
The steps indicated below serve as a guide in the formulation of a strategic fundraising plan for non-profit organizations.
The first step in the formulation of a strategic fundraising plan is Research. A non-profit organization should conduct research on its fundraising operations. This will lead to insights such as ineffective fundraising plans and the amount of funds required for the sustainability of programs.
Once research has been conducted on an organizations’ fundraising programs, a strategic plan that highlights a road-map for fundraising may now the developed. The strategic plan will comprise relationship building and stewardship, grant applications, soliciting donations from individuals, marketing and accountability.
a) Relationship Building and Stewardship
The design of a program that involves interaction between board members and donors will lead to the creation of a strong organizational foundation along with increased financial resources. An example of a program that can yield such results is the creation of a thank you video by the non-profit’s leadership board to its donors. This video can be disseminated to donors through the non-profit’s social media outlets and its’ mailing list. The feedback and interaction that will ensue following the dissemination of the video will serve as an effective medium for remaining in the minds of donors while keeping board-members engaged in the implementation process. Through their participation, board members will have an opportunity of experiencing the tangible result of a program where words might have failed.
b) Grant Applications
It is imperative to include grant applications in the fund-raising process. However, a key measure that can shore up the success rate of an organizations’ grant application is through the use of a warm approach. An organization should refrain from using a cold approach. A warm approach involves the cultivation of a relationship with the funding agency. This approach (warm) often results in a vested interest in the success of your organization by the funding entity. Also, it serves as a time saver.
For instance, upon discovering a grant funder through the web, a call can be placed to the funding entity. Thereafter, an appointment can be scheduled with the Program Officer as a means of finding out more about the funding entity’s guidelines. During the meeting, provide the Program Officer with information about your organizations’ mission and goals. Should there be a fit between your organization and the funding entity, the Program Officer will inform you. On the other hand, if your organization is not a fit, the Program Officer will let you know. This will save your organization time while preventing the application of a grant that would not have been successful due to a misalignment between the funding entity’s goals and that of your organization.
c) Soliciting Donations from Individuals
In recent times, individuals are serving as an enormous source of funding for non-profits. According to the annual Giving USA report, individuals’ contributions hit a record $265 billion in 2015. Non-profits with the help of individuals such as you and I, have the power to create global impact. Most often, non-profits are weary of requesting funds from individuals. They view the act of asking as being burdensome. Perhaps, by shifting their (non-profits) perspective, the “asking” process will become more enjoyable and less apprehensive. This shift in perspective could take the form of realizing the value that non-profits bring to the table. For example, by realizing the value they provide to individuals through their ability to serve as conduits for progress, they can approach individuals with more confidence and joy.
Also, in order to be successful at generating funding for programs from individuals, it is crucial to link a nonprofit to interests that individuals care about. Upon identification of a non-profits target interest based donors, a relationship can be cultivated with them through social media. Once these relationships have been cultivated, soliciting funds becomes easier and more efficient.
Finally, it is recommended to request a specific amount and offer tangibles when seeking funds from individuals. For example; 10.00usd will lead to funding the education (a years tuition) of a disadvantaged female child in Mali.
A strategic fundraising plan should include marketing. This will generate awareness about a non-profits programs to its constituents and donors. Avenues such as social media and other online resources provide great opportunities for non-profiting marketing. For instance, Google for Non-Profits is a great resource aimed at assisting the marketing efforts of non-profits. This resource provides non-profit organizations with an opportunity to apply for google 10,000.00usd worth of free google ad-words per month.
Finally, a strategic plan for raising funds should indicate how funds are used and the results from programs that funds are used on. This step can take the form of regular dissemination of reports. For example, disseminating reports to donors on a regular basis will keep them updated on an organizations activities. As a result, the non-profit will engender trust and good-will from its donors.
The preparation of a strategic fundraising plan will provide an organized and stream lined process for generating funds that. Consequently, a non-profit will be in a position to ensure the sustainability of its programs and contributing to a better world for humanity.
© 2017 Sherita Brace
Article was first published on Hub Pages - November 15, 2017
Inspiring Your Clients With Words: Report Writing Made Easy
The proof, they say, is in the pudding. And a business advisor's pudding is their ability to communicate business solutions through informative and inspirational reports. It is the principal means by which their client will judge their worth.
So why is it that reports are usually written (and re-written) at the last minute? And why do reports often read as though they have been generated by some kind of robot, not a professional advisor from a practice with its own personality and voice?
Without enough planning, a report can seem unclear and uninformed, and it shows little understanding of the client's needs. What a client usually needs is a clearly laid-out, jargon-free and transparent solution to their financial or business problems. A report with page after page of facts and figures, industry analysis and "methodology" will be a report written by a consultant for a consultant. It may allow you, the consultant, to showcase your expertise. But it's unlikely to help the client grapple with the business challenges they face.
So how do you provide your clients with clear insight that also demonstrates your expertise? Here are a few simple techniques that could radically improve the quality of your reports, transforming them into one of your practice's most powerful tools.
1. What exactly does the client want?
The first fundamental error occurs even before you begin to write. Time-stress ensures you lose concentration and instead points your focus towards "getting the job done". The minute the focus of the report turns to "getting it written"; your client's needs become a side line and an irritation as opposed to the heart of your report.
Asking direct questions guarantees that your report contains the right information for your client. The chances are that you will have spent quite a lot of time with your client before writing the report, so why not ask them what they want the report to include and even how long they would like it to be?
If this isn't possible, why not spend some time thinking about your client's objectives and the nature of their problems before tackling the report?
2. What do they need?
What information do they need? What level of detail? How much knowledge do they have already? What will they use your report for?
Spend a few minutes answering these questions before you write your report. This can pay enormous dividends, as it means that you can focus on what the client really wants to know. Think too about the key messages that you want to leave them with. How are you going to ensure that these are clearly communicated in your report, and not buried under less relevant information?
3. The Difference Between Planning and Structuring
Planning and structuring are two very separate processes.
First, focus on brainstorming all the information that needs to go in the report. Information that is essential for a client should take priority over information that is unnecessary. Only once you have done this should you start thinking about the structure. When deciding how your report will be structured, you must answer two crucial questions: what information will go where and in what format? Be ruthless. There is a distinct difference between "essential" and "important". Only essential information should go into the main body of the text. Anything that is not essential will only make the client feel that their time is being wasted. Put "important" detail, diagrams, references, figures etc. in appendices or footnotes.
Make sure that you divide your report into logical sections, with clear and meaningful subheadings that act as signposts for your client. Subheadings tell customers where they can find specific topics and information.
4. Lose the financial buzz words and jargon
How many financial buzz words and jargon do you use on a daily basis? How many of these words are truly meaningful or helpful to your client? Buzz words and jargon will not convince clients of your professionalism; nor will they demonstrate your superior business know-how: they will simply cause confusion and frustration. Like you, most clients are inundated with documents to read. The last thing they want is to waste time deciphering buzz words and jargon. The same applies to over descriptive, "flowery" language, acronyms and abbreviations.
5. Show your personality
Finally; use reports to show that you offer a level of personal service that exceeds mere "number crunching". Show that your consultancy distinguishes itself with its own "personality" and voice to suit your client. Address your clients directly. Try and make your reports personal by using "you" and "we". Avoid passive generalisations such as, "It is estimated that" or "It is recommended that". Clients want to know that they are dealing with real people, so write, "We estimate" or "We recommend", not "It is estimated that". Writing formal, accurate and concise copy does not mean writing bland or impersonal copy.
Try to make all your writing as "active" as possible. It is much more interesting to read about organisations and individuals taking action rather than things mysteriously occurring: "X's Board reported a 38 per cent profit margin last year" instead of "A 38 per cent profit margin was reported last year."
6. Executive Summary
No matter how well structured and well written your report is, some clients will feel they only have time to read the executive summary. This is particularly true for senior management. So it is absolutely essential that you put a lot of thought into its structure and content:
- Make sure the summary can stand alone - it must contain real information, including hard facts and figures
- If your report includes recommendations, make it clear what these are and include their implications, values and costs (if applicable)
- Stick to a maximum of two pages.
Use carefully selected headings and bullets to break up text, as well as relevant graphs or pie charts, to get your main message across.
A badly written report exasperates people and fails to impress or galvanise clients into action. A well-written report is a critical business tool. It can help build trust and loyalty with your clients. If written well, reports can demonstrate expertise and knowledge.
Your consultancy's reports can change the way your clients think and feel about their business. They can influence decisions and inspire action. And no matter how many weeks or months you have spent on a project, it is your final report that will leave the most lasting impression with your client. Make sure it's the right one.
Author: Jo-Rosie Haffenden
Artice Source: http://www.articlesphere.com