Data CollectionEducationWhat Survey Response Rate should you be Aiming for?

February 11, 2021by Socialsuite

Author: Dr Clara Ong

5 min Read 

A survey response rate is the percentage of the total number of completed survey responses, out of the total number of recipients that your survey went out to.

For example, you might have sent a survey to 20 beneficiaries from your youth mentoring program. Out of this 20, 10 completed your survey. This brings your survey response rate to 50 percent.

The importance of a good survey response rate

A good survey response rate will add credibility to your measurement project’s outcome results. On the other hand, a low response rate will undermine the significance of the data that you have collected, as it may not be indicative of a larger population.

For example, if only three out of 20 beneficiaries from the youth mentoring program have completed your survey, the views and responses of these three beneficiaries are not necessarily representative of the broader group of 20. Therefore, caution needs to be exercised when interpreting your survey findings.

The goal is to have a large enough group of beneficiaries respond to your survey so that you can confidently say that the survey responses you have received is representative of the entire cohort. This enables you to draw valid and credible conclusions from your survey results.

Average survey response rates and benchmarks

Getting the desired survey response rate depends on how you reach your survey respondents. Given the prevalence of smartphones and having continuous access to an endless stream of information, our attention span is ever-declining. Therefore, it is important that your survey design and distribution method takes this into account.

Some average statistics in survey response rates based on their distribution method:

  • Phone surveys: 9 – 73 percent, based largely on the survey respondent’s familiarity with the topic at hand
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): 95 percent, based largely on the fact that NPS surveys are simple to complete and respondents can easily correlate their experience with a service with the survey questions
  • Web-Intercept Surveys: 83 percent, based on having a non-invasive survey pop up when the respondent is on the relevant service or organisation’s homepage
  • Mail Surveys: 13 percent, due largely to constraints around logistics
  • Email Surveys: 25 – 33 percent, depending on the length of the survey and how much value the respondent places on the service or organisation in question
  • In-person Surveys: 21 – 54 percent responses

In the nonprofit and social services sector, we know that the average response rate tends to be between the 30 – 35 percent mark. Any response rates of 50 percent or higher is considered to be excellent.

Also bear in mind that your survey response rates will increase if your survey design is good, and if you have a compelling reason for people to complete your survey.

Further Reading:

What makes a good survey design? 

Your survey cover letter template 

Coming up with a compelling email survey subject line