What can you expect to gain by using a survey incentive?

  • by using an appropriate survey incentive, you’ll usually get a higher response rate.
  • a higher response rate will have a positive effect on reliability of the results by reducing non-response bias.
  • when you increase response rates you’ll have the opportunity to save money through reduced mail-outs.

Will just any kind of incentive work?

No. There are several factors you need to consider before selecting a survey incentive: It must have some perceived value to the respondent. If you don’t have time to test an incentive, there are many different types of incentives that have been used with various levels of success. Among them are:

  • dollar bills or coins
  • foreign paper money/coins
  • rulers
  • checks
  • bookmarks
  • unused postage stamps
  • pre-paid telephone calling cards

Selecting an Incentive

The incentive must increase the percent of response without biasing distribution of the returns in any way.

When choosing a survey incentive, be sure to select something equally desirable to all members of the sample, avoiding items that would attract more attention from a particular segment. For example, a bookmark may be more useful to heavy readers than light readers; thus, the sample results could be biased toward those people who are heavy readers.

In general, money seems the most effective and least biasing incentive. Why?

Money is the easiest to obtain and mail. Because of money’s universal value, it is useful to all recipients. It can yield the highest response rates without injecting bias. When the recipients receive the survey kit, they must decide what to do with the dollar bill. Put it in their pocket without answering? To most people this seems a bit dishonest. Throw it away? That certainly would not feel right. For many, the path of least anguish is to just complete and return the questionnaire. When using incentives, money in particular, keep in mind that the incentive is not supposed to be a payment or reward, but only an attention-getting device and a token of appreciation.

Are incentives worth the investment?

Readex’s experience says yes.