I almost always include an incentive as a method of improving the response rate. However, one has to balance the cost of the incentive with the impact on the response rate. A few years ago I was involved in a traditional paper survey in which we mailed out a ten dollar cheque attached to the questionnaire to all potential respondents. Our response rate was over 60%. However, very few studies have the budget for this type of incentive. As an interesting side note, almost no one cashed their cheque if they hadn’t completed a survey.
Here are a few ideas that have worked well in the past and won’t break the bank:
• Send all those who responded to the survey a copy of the results. Of course, this will be dependent on the nature of the survey. If you are creating a report that will have a monetary value e.g. a benchmarking/best practices report, you can offer the respondent a significant reduction in the price of the final report.
• Enter the respondents’ name into a draw for a cash prize, or a draw for a prize that is relevant or consistent with the profession of those you are surveying.
• Make a charitable donation based on the number of responses you receive. The greater your response, the higher the donation.
In the world of associations where we do a lot of surveys, there are occasions where we don't include an incentive. This provides an interesting glimpse into member engagement. In a recent member survey we enjoyed a 60% response rate with no incentive. Other associations come no where close to that level of response, even with an incentive. What accounts for the difference? Member engagement has to be a key factor.