Host a Penny Poll, Change the World

by Teresa Matteson

Penny Poll tabling display

Organicology 2013 Soil Quality Penny Poll

A penny poll is a fun informal survey method used to document opinions, needs, and trends and engage the crowd at a tabling event. Here is how it works. Define an overarching question with 5 to 7 answers worded in a manner that relates to the target audience. Invite participants to give their two-cents worth on your question.

Easy-to-gather penny poll supplies include:

Invitation to participate – Print and tent fold one 8.5” x 11” inch cardstock with an enticing invitation to engage the casual passerby. For example, Penny Poll – Give your two-cents worth on barriers that prevent the use of soil quality in your work.

Answer cards – In greeting card format on 8.5” x 11” cardstock, print and tent fold one answer per card (two cards per page). Place a different answer card in front of each penny pot.

Penny Poll items

Soil Quality Penny Poll: invitation, pots and question cards

Bag of pennies – the number of pennies needed depends on your audience. Hand each participant two pennies and ask them to give their two-cents worth on the issue at hand.

Penny pots – Participants place pennies in the container behind the answer card that best matches their response. For penny pots, use containers that you have on hand, such as recycled yogurt containers or canning jars.

Response Analysis – To ease survey analysis, especially for multi-day events, make a spreadsheet with questions down the left side and dates across the top row. Tally the number of pennies per answer each day (Lesson learned: be sure to count and tally the pennies for each answer before the display is dismantled!) Calculate the number of responses, number of participants and percent of responses for each answer.

  • Total pennies = n, total number of responses
  • Total pennies/2 = number of participants
  • (Pennies in one pot/n)*100 = percent of responses for that answer; an indication of needs, trends or opinions relevant to the other poll answers
Penny Poll Results

Results from a penny poll held during the 2013 Organicology Conference

Change the World: A Penny Poll can help you create tools, direct programs, and change lives! The 2013 Organicology Penny Poll helped Benton SWCD better understand farmers’ soil building needs. Farmers ranked their need for training, limited financial resources, and limited knowledge as significant barriers to the use of soil quality in their work. Also, interests in cost benefit analyses and soil quality research were gleaned through the use of an “Other” penny pot and clipboard for specifics on barriers that did not have a pot.