Letters Beat Postcards for Higher Response Rates
One way to get more people responding to your survey is to let them know ahead of time that the survey is coming their way. Is one method of outreach better than another? It depends on your audience and the type of survey, but several studies over the last decade have shown a consistent difference between mailed letters and mailed postcards.
A recent set of findings published in Survey Practice confirm and strengthen these conclusions. The researcher looked at data from the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey fielded in 2007 and 2008. Half the sample were sent pre-notification first class postage letters, and the other half were sent pre-notification postcards with the same information. This was followed by multiple phone attempts to contact and interview a random member of each household.
Differences between the two groups were significantly different, with:
- Higher recall of the pre-notification among those receiving the letter vs. those receiving the postcard
- Higher willingness to participate in the phone survey among those receiving the letter vs. those receiving the postcard
Of course one great question you should always ask is “Sure the difference is statistically significant. But is it substantively significant?” In other words, does it make any practical difference? The answer is yes. In this case, the difference between the two was substantial enough that even though printing and mailing letters was more expensive, the boost in cooperation lowered recruiting and sampling costs such that the overall cost of the study would have been lower if everyone had gotten letters.
Every study is different, but clearly, experimenting with different fieldwork strategies can help boost your response rates and lower your costs. Our advice: never rest easy with what you’ve always done. Keep abreast of the latest research on research, think strategically, and experiment with ways to communicate with survey respondents so that you are always getting the best responsiveness and highest quality data.