Associations often worry that not enough members respond to their surveys and are confused around what constitutes a strong response rate. Taken together, these two problems often result in frustration and anxiety for the association executive who is trying to be data driven and responsive to his or her membership.
In practice, survey response rate levels are not strongly related to the quality of surveys. In other words, it would be incorrect to assume that a survey with a high response rate does not have quality issues or that a survey with a low response rate automatically has data quality issues.
Nevertheless, response rate conventions hold mainly out of tradition. Government studies often require a response rate of around 80%, academic research tends to favor response rates of around 50%, media polls typically hover in the 20-30% range and marketing research studies, including those conducted by associations, fall anywhere from 10-30%. The breadth of response rate norms underscores the confusion on this issue in the field of research.
I won’t get into the complex details, but if you are concerned about the validity of your research there are several techniques for analyzing and managing low responses. The key to handling response rate concerns in your association’s research is to examine your options early on to mitigate any data quality concerns. A little planning can go a long way in making you confident with your data.
For more information about specific techniques for managing low response rates, contact me.