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Note: SurveyCTO subscription pricing changed since this article was published. For all pricing information, please click here.

Today I’m thrilled to announce Dobility’s launch of a free “Community” edition of SurveyCTO.

This free edition is designed to enable smaller non-profits, researchers, students, and other small-scale users to collect better data in the field. In tandem with our new online form designer, it will enable new users to easily get started with digital data collection, regardless of their budget or technical skill set. We hope that it will deepen our social impact and expand global support for best practices in data collection.

In terms of best practices, we have always collaborated especially closely with colleagues at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). As global leaders in impact evaluation and field research, IPA and J-PAL have invested considerably in piloting and refining techniques for collecting higher-quality data in the field. In turn, we have sought to augment their work with our own investments in technology, focusing relentlessly on SurveyCTO’s stability, security, and ease of use.

By distilling best practices into usable features and now launching this free Community edition, we intend for SurveyCTO to continue expanding the circle of organizations and individuals that can take advantage of hard-won lessons.

In order to ensure that even the smallest projects can collect the best data possible, we’ve integrated support for automated quality checks and free use of Statwing’s powerful interface for instant data visualization and analysis – features that, up until last week, were only available in our professional $199/month subscription plan.

Overall changes in subscription plans

The Community edition is part of a broader shift in our subscription model. When we looked closely at SurveyCTO usage and pricing, we found that our smallest-scale users were effectively cross-subsidizing our largest-scale users: multi-million-dollar national surveys with hundreds of thousands of interviews per month paid the same amount for their SurveyCTO use as the smallest M&E projects collecting 50-100 interviews per month. Those who were still developing and piloting their surveys or M&E instruments were paying the same as those who had multi-country surveys in the field.

As much as we wanted to keep our pricing model simple, we knew that our model just wasn’t right.

Our new subscription plans strike a new balance: they’re still simple enough for our users to be able to budget without difficulty, but they allow users to start free and pay more as their usage grows. The smallest plan allows for 200 form submissions per month, and the largest allows for up to 1,000,000. And every plan is still a bargain, because we have always sought to provide the best possible platform for the lowest possible cost (even during the long start-up years when we lost loads of money doing it!).

Some engagement required

While the Community edition is free to users, it’s actually quite costly to build and support a high-quality product like SurveyCTO and to maintain separate databases and virtual servers for each project. We see the Community subscription as an extension of our social mission and we hope that our Community subscribers will find meaningful ways to use SurveyCTO in their work.

In return, we ask two things:

  1. If users can afford to pay for SurveyCTO, we ask that they consider upgrading to a professional subscription. Very intentionally, we are funded by our users rather than relying on donor funds or venture capital. This enables us to be solely accountable to our users and to run a financially sustainable business. If SurveyCTO is a platform that our users value and can afford, we hope they will pay for it.
  2. Rather than collecting a monthly subscription fee, we ask Community subscribers to engage with us and the broader SurveyCTO community in order to sustain their subscriptions. Requested engagements are designed to be quick and easy. For example:
    • completing a short survey,
    • sharing a photo from the field,
    • submitting a feature request,
    • suggesting revisions to our online help,
    • introducing oneself in the community forum,
    • sharing a sample form,
    • helping somebody in the peer support forum,
    • participating in a case study or blog post,
    • contributing to the Open Data Kit community,
    • assisting with translations,
    • helping test new features,
    • providing a testimonial, or
    • referring a friend or colleague to SurveyCTO.

This monthly engagement requirement is meant to help ensure that we don’t expend resources running servers for users who are deriving nearly no value from our product, and it’s also meant to help strengthen our shared community. It’s a bit of an experiment – but we’re excited to see what happens.

Existing users

If you’re an existing SurveyCTO user, we’ll continue to honor your original subscription plan as it was. At any time, however, you can update (for free!) to our latest release and choose one of our new subscription plans. You’ll gain access to new features and improvements, but you will also become subject to our new subscription limits: the $99/month plan now allows up to 5,000 submissions/month and 1GB of data storage, and our $199/month plan allows up to 20,000 submissions/month and 5GB of data storage; alternatively, there’s the new Community plan or a new $129/month plan.

Learn all about our subscription plans on our website here…

Help us celebrate!

We hope you can join us for a launch party on June 1 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Please RSVP if you can make it!

We’ll also be hosting a panel discussion and launch party in Ahmedabad, India on June 23. Please RSVP if you’ll be in Ahmedabad then!

Chris Robert


Chris is the founder of SurveyCTO. He now serves as Director and Founder Emeritus, supporting Dobility in a variety of part-time capacities. Over the course of Dobility’s first 10 years, he held several positions, including CEO, CTO, and Head of Product.

Before founding Dobility, he was involved in a long-term project to evaluate the impacts of microfinance in South India; developed online curriculum for a program to promote the use of evidence in policy-making in Pakistan and India; and taught statistics and policy analysis at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before that, he co-founded and helped grow an internet technology consultancy and led technology efforts for the top provider of software and hardware for multi-user bulletin board systems (the online systems most prominent before the Internet).