Incentives in surveys


FORS Guide Nº 08

How to cite

Lipps, O., Herzing, J. M. E., Pekari, N., Ernst Stähli, M. Pollien, A., Riedo, G., Reveilhac, M. (2019). Incentives in surveys. FORS Guide No. 08, Version 1.0. Lausanne: Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS. doi:10.24449/FG-2019-00008


This FORS guide discusses the effect of incentives on survey completion/response rate, sample composition, and response quality. The guide particularly emphasizes the effects of different types of incentives – conditional vs. unconditional, monetary vs. non-monetary – for encouraging survey participation and reducing panel survey attrition in the Swiss context.


  • When deciding for or against incentives, consider previous research, which suggests that incentives increase data quality in general population surveys in most survey modes.
  • Different types of incentives are differently effective. In general, prepaid monetary incentives are recommended, but even small incentives can increase response rates.
  • Think about delivery methods. Incentives should be easy to deliver and redeem for people.
  • Think about your budget. Estimate a conservative and a liberal response rate (e.g., from surveys with similar characteristics). Then approximate potential expenses for incentives in your survey so that you do not inadvertently exceed your budget.
  • Think about the appropriateness of the incentive for your target population. Do not offer incentives that are relatively valueless for your target population.
  • Take different survey modes and survey designs into account to define the value of your incentives. For example, in large-scale face-to-face surveys, an unconditional monetary incentive of 10 CHF is currently considered an adequate incentive value in Switzerland.


Copyright: © the authors 2019. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0)

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