This document provides tips for setting incentives during the survey design process.


Respondents have various motivations for participating in a survey, such as having an interest in the topic, improving their community’s health, or complying with a government request. Regardless of people’s motivations, one way of encouraging participation is through a token of appreciation, or “incentive,” to people who complete the survey. Using Ask, the survey designer integrates text about the incentive (amount and type) in the introduction to the questionnaire.

Note: the designer includes the incentive description in the wording of the questionnaire introduction. Ask does not have a separate menu where the survey designer sets the incentive. One can only set incentives within the questionnaire.


Do offer an incentive, if appropriate.

Incentives can generally increase response rates to the survey, which can improve data quality. However, survey designers should consider whether and how incentives fit into the program’s goals and country context. Incentives may not be appropriate in all countries.

Do inform respondents about the incentive in the survey introduction.

Remember that the survey designer sets the incentive in the introduction to the questionnaire. This is the only place where you can inform respondents about the incentive, so be sure to make the incentive clear.

Do specify the incentive type.

Typically, we provide incentives in the form of mobile phone airtime “top up” for SMS and Phone Call surveys. “Top up” means that money is automatically loaded to a person’s prepaid mobile phone account, which people can use however they choose. You can also offer a lottery (e.g., if you complete the survey, we will enter you in a drawing for 20 USD).

Do specify the incentive amount.

The exact incentive amount depends on a number of factors specific to each country. As a general guideline, offering $0.50 to $1.00 in airtime for completing a survey may be adequate. In most countries, offering slightly more (e.g., $1.50 or $2.00) may not increase response rates.

Do test different incentive amounts during pretesting.

The optimal incentive amount may depend on the country context. For this reason, we recommend testing different incentive amounts during pretesting. The Ask tool makes this easy by conducting assessments.

Do be clear that respondents earn incentives after completing the survey.

We recommend providing an incentive for answering all survey questions. Respondents who answer some (but not all) questions generally should not receive an incentive. Offering a single incentive for survey completion provides motivation for a respondent to answer all questions.

Do remember that for multimode surveys, you should offer the same incentive for all modes.

We recommend offering the same incentive for SMS and IVR. Respondents and survey designers could be confused by the different incentive amounts.

Don't wait too long to send incentives to participants.

We recommend delivering incentives no more than 24 hours after the survey’s data collection period ends. Alternatively, you can provide incentives regularly (e.g., every 3 days) during the data collection period, but this takes more effort from the survey team.

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