Article - 10 Easy Ways To Increase Response Rates

By: Jennifer M. Jensen
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, SUNY Albany

1.Target your audience. Consider a variety of sources for possible respondents. In addition to email mailing lists, for example, consider posting your survey to newsgroups and web communities.

2.Personalize your email invitations Emails with a personal salutation result in increased response rates of at least five percent, and sometimes much higher. Send your email to "Dear Mr. Wright" rather than "Dear Valued Alumni."

3.Keep your email invitation short Please keep your email invitation short and simple, with just one link - the one to the survey. Please be sure to explain the following: -

  1. Who you are and the purpose of your study
  2. The survey's benefit to the individual as well as to you
  3. Length of survey - if it is short, emphasize that. But be truthful about times - people are more likely to stick with longer surveys if they know about how much time they will take.
  4. Privacy statement, if required by your organization.

4.Make your first survey page simple - let people take the survey! Once people have decided to take your survey, they will want to get started. Studies show most people don't read extensive instructions.

5.But? be clear about privacy protections The first page of the survey is the place to include information about how you will be using people's responses. People are more comfortable sharing information on the Internet if they know how it will be used. Are they anonymous? Confidential? Shared with others? A university human subjects statement, if needed, would go here.

6.Send reminder emails Some people will take your survey right away. You will get increased responses, however, if you send follow-up email reminders with the survey link included. It is best not to send more than two reminder emails. Be sure to filter out email addresses of people who do not wish to be contacted again.

7.Consider offering incentives - gifts, prizes, etc. Studies show that incentives need not be large to increase response rates. A small token, gift certificate, etc., can increase responses considerably.

8.Some people just want to share their opinion! A large number of people will complete a survey to share their information rather than to receive an incentive. Consider making your incentive optional - you must choose to be included in a raffle or donating to a relevant cause for example.

9.Use graphics and Internet features strategically. Surveys generally don't need fancy graphics, and sometimes graphics can distract from the content of the survey, or influence answers. But there are a few ways to use graphics to improve your survey responses. These include providing an image and web link for a prize or incentive, using a multimedia embedded content survey.

10.Publish your results online to survey participants. People who respond will want to see results, and getting these results will encourage them to complete the survey.

And a bonus? Use friends, family and colleagues targeting Use your respondents to share your survey to interested. Offer respondents an opportunity to send the survey to others, and if their friends and family take the survey, the original respondent has a better chance of winning/earning a gift incentive. This can be easily achieved by collecting email addresses as part of the survey.

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