Response rates for mail surveys of nonprofit organizations: A review and empirical test

Mark A. Hager, Sarah Wilson, Thomas H. Pollak, Patrick Michael Rooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


The failure of a substantial portion of mail survey recipients to respond to invitations to participate in research projects raises issues of nonresponse error. Because this error is difficult to quantify, survey researchers seek high rates of return to signal legitimacy and reduce questions regarding nonresponse bias. Research on survey method indicates that the design of the survey research process has a measurable influence on the rate of survey returns. This article focuses on three aspects of research design that are expected to influence mail survey returns in surveys of nonprofit organizations: questionnaire complexity, use of Federal Express versus standard mail, and the use of monetary incentives. Using an experimental design, the research concludes that questionnaire complexity and the use of monetary incentives generate no difference in returns, whereas the use of Federal Express to deliver the survey to nonprofit executives has a measurable positive effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-267
Number of pages16
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Response rates
  • Survey research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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