Jessica Foster on Maximizing Survey Response Rates

Hello, I’m Jessica Foster, a Research and Evaluation Analyst at Franklin County Children Services.  Our agency provides child protective services for the Central Ohio area.  During the course of my career, I have administered many surveys to a variety of stakeholders and clients.  I’ve learned from my work and from the experiences shared by my colleagues that achieving a desirable survey response rate is almost always a challenge.  Here I will share some strategies that have helped increase survey participation.

Hot Tip: Make it Matter

Communicate the relevance and value of your survey to your participants.  In your invitation, let participants know what the survey’s purpose is, how the results will benefit them, and how much their opinions matter!

Hot Tip: Communication is Key

Make contact with your participants before, during, and after the survey is administered.  When possible I try to meet with potential respondents before I send out the survey invitation to give an overview of the survey in person and allow for questions.  It’s easier to dismiss a survey when it comes from someone you’ve never seen or talked to.

Cool Trick: Personalizing your survey invitations can help respondents feel more important and more accountable.  SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang have features that allow you to enter personalized information (e.g., name, e-mail address, custom fields) when sending invitations via the site.  You can also do a mail merge in Word or other programs to accomplish the same result.

Follow up with non-respondents at least once during the survey period.

After the survey is finished and the data have been analyzed, share a summary of your results with participants, if possible.

Hot Tip: Keep it Easy

Keep your survey as short and simple as possible.  Minimize the amount of material that participants have to read at the beginning of the survey – some of this information can go into the invitation, instead.

When possible, try to utilize existing organizational structures, such as staff meetings, to administer the survey.  That way, participants don’t have to make any additional effort to complete the survey.

Hot Tip: Incentivize

Several survey respondents have told me how much they appreciated a small incentive for participation.  If your budget allows for it, you may find it helpful to offer an individual incentive (e.g. $5 gift card for a coffee shop) or a group incentive (e.g. the region with the highest response rate gets a pizza party).  Another strategy is to enter participants into a raffle for a larger prize.

Cool Trick: I recently discovered that SurveyMonkey now allows you to build incentives right into your surveys.  You can either enter respondents into a drawing for a gift card, or award prize coupons to all of your participants.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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