Taking a Look: The 2021 Member Survey

By Sarah Pilzer and Katy German

dancersPhoto by Doug Plummer

In September, we conducted an online survey of current CDSS members. We emailed the survey link to 2425 active members and collected responses for one week. 702 members responded, for a response rate of 28.9% (a typical rate for an online survey).

The survey had three main goals:

  1. Identify the aspects of CDSS membership that people value most
  2. Learn where our work could be improved
  3. Start collecting demographic information in order to better understand the various identities that comprise our membership, and how we can best serve everyone

The survey asked 17 questions in three sections: demographics, member benefits, and future directions. This article summarizes basic aggregate data for each section.


We collected demographic information, including geography, age, gender, race and ethnicity, to assess how these aspects of identity might affect member experiences and opinions. We also asked how members are involved in our community (dancer, singer, musician, organizer, etc.) and in which genres (contra, ECD, singing, ritual dance, etc.).

On a practical level, this data will help CDSS apply for grants to fund mission-aligned work. We’ll also use this data to determine whether the needs of members with marginalized identities differ from those of other members, and if so how we might equitably meet the needs of everyone.

In this article, we show aggregate demographic data. We will provide segmented analysis in future reports.


Members from the US, Canada, England, United Kingdom, France, and Australia responded. In North America, members from 49 different states and provinces completed the survey. You can see in the maps below that responses generally correlated with our membership distribution. The highest number of responses came from Massachusetts, New York, and California.

Geographic Distribution of North American CDSS 2021 Member Survey Responses

geographic distribution map

Geographic Distribution of North American CDSS Member Households

geographic distribution map


age groups

As is common in demographic surveys, we asked respondents to select where they fell within closed age groups rather than specifying their exact age.

Just over half the people who responded were in the 65–74 years old age bracket. The 55–64 and 75+ brackets together totaled an additional 35% of responses. Since we have never before asked members their ages, we don’t know how these results compare to our membership in general. Anecdotally, we believe many local communities reflect the survey trend.


gender graph

We provided a list of choices for identifying gender and allowed respondents to select as many as applied or to write in their own description. Find definitions for these terms here. While this style of question helped us collect more nuanced responses, the analysis is more complex. For this article, we show the total number of people who selected each choice as independent categories. This means the total number of selected choices (850) shown in the next chart is greater than the total number of survey responses to this question (702).

The following table shows how many people selected one, two, or three choices as a response to this question.

# of Selected ChoicesResponses% of Total
1 566 81%
2 124 18%
3 12 2%

Race and Ethnicity

race and ethnicity

Because race and ethnicity are also complex aspects of identity, we again provided multi-select options and space for write-in responses. We used a modified analysis method1 called “fractional assignment” to allow us to visually render multiple-answer responses to this question as percentages of a total.

A large majority of respondents identify at least in part as “White” with 3% of total respondents either including or selecting another racial category. The second most common choice was “East Asian”. Fewer than 1% of all respondents chose each of the additional categories provided with three categories receiving no responses at all.

1 This method is outlined by Carolyn A. Liebler and Andrew Halpern-Manners in the research journal Demography as a part of their “practical method for incorporating multiple-race respondents into analyses” (Liebler, Carolyn A, and Andrew Halpern-Manners. “A practical approach to using multiple-race response data: a bridging method for public-use microdata.” Demography vol. 45,1 (2008): 143-55. doi:10.1353/dem.2008.0004) . It is also referenced by James P. Allen and Eugene Turner in their article “Bridging 1990 and 2000 Census Race Data: Fractional Assignment of Multiracial Populations.” published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review, vol. 20, no. 6, Springer, 2001, pp. 513–33., vol. 20, no. 6, Springer, 2001, pp. 513–33.


Traditions bar graph

Bar graph of engagement in local dance scene

We asked members to specify how they are engaged in their local dance, music, and song scene (participant, organizer, etc) and also which traditions (genres) they participate in. For both questions, respondents were allowed to select all that applied. Many people indicated that they participate in multiple traditions with a variety of roles. Given the way the questions were formulated we can’t say with confidence which roles are for which tradition, so similar to the gender question, responses to the participation questions are presented as totals for each choice independently.

By far, the most common way that people participate is as dancers with 87% responses including that selection. Organizing was the second most common role at 47% of responses. These results indicate that a large portion of our community is invested in helping put on local events, though one possible explanation for this observation is that organizers are just more likely than other members to fill out a survey.

Member Benefits

Bar graph of CDSS services and programs

At CDSS we strive to provide programming and resources that are useful to a variety of people. We also want to make sure we understand which programs and services our members value most, to ensure that we are appropriately investing our time and energy. The chart below shows responses to the question: Which CDSS services and/or programs enhance the value of your membership? Please note that “other” responses are not included in this chart, but will be analyzed further in the coming months.

Most Visited Webpages 

We also asked members to indicate which three pages from our website that they visited most frequently and rank them 1st, 2nd, and 3rd based on how often they visited. The following table shows the pages that received the most total votes. The green highlights indicate which page received the most votes for that ranking.

Camp/Online Programs 258 68 54 380
CDSS Store 91 122 87 300
Events Calendar 93 114 87 294
Online Member Directory 32 64 99 195

Future Directions

Perceived Challenges

As we prepare for our next round of Strategic Planning in 2022, we will be reviewing what motivates members to support CDSS and what challenges they see ahead. We asked members to share what they think is the biggest challenge their local community will face in the next 5 years and how CDSS might help. This was an open ended question, which adds complexity to the analysis, but provides us with hundreds of rich responses. In our initial review of the data we identified 10 basic themes or categories (see below).

Identified Themes
  • Safety Concerns
  • Finances
  • Talent Development
  • Facilities/Rental Locations
  • Changing Traditions
  • Cultural Equity
  • Leadership/Organizational Development
  • Low Attendance/Building Membership
  • Youth Engagement/Aging Population
  • Publicity/Outreach

At the time of this writing, we are still in the process of coding the responses according to these themes and do not have results to share. But we will continue digging deeper into analysis of this rich qualitative data to use member feedback to guide decisions at CDSS.

Cultural Equity

"Cultural equity embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people— including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion— are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources."

Americans for the Arts

As an organization, we are committed to continued learning about cultural equity and working toward just and equitable operations. We strive to be transparent about this work, and to seek community input along the way. To that end, we asked members to tell us how they were feeling about our work in this area so far. The question included multiple options, and a place for people to add their own words.

After a preliminary review of the open-ended responses, we selected every word that could describe a feeling, and created a larger response set for the question.

The word cloud below is a visual representation of all the responses, with larger bolder font indicating words that were selected more often and smaller font indicating words mentioned less frequently. Following the word cloud is a chart of words listed in order of frequency mentioned.

word cloud

Number of respondents by word, for words submitted by more than one:

comfortable 289 
proud 189
neutral 175
excited 152
invested 149
relieved 88
confused 47
worried 39
frustrated 37
uncomfortable 33
surprised 16
curious 10
pleased 8
threatened 7
hopeful 6
skeptical 3
annoyed 3
underwhelmed 2
positive 2
interested 2
uncertain 2
cautious 2
glad 2
important 2

Thank you to the 702 individuals who responded to this survey! You have provided us with a rich dataset that we look forward to diving into deeper in the coming months. Stay tuned for additional reports with more detail and analysis!

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