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Now & Later - Surveys & Candy

An interesting article about procrastination recently caught my eye. (Naturally, I put it aside and read it later - HA!)

As an occasional put-it-off-er myself, I was intrigued by this author’s new (to me) way of

looking at procrastination. Instead of proposing "Ten Ways to Beat Procrastination" or suggesting that I "Take Our Procrastination Quiz!" this author offered the perspective that procrastination may not always be a bad thing. Not only that, Arthur C. Brooks’ article “Procrastinate This, Not That” went on to explain that procrastination may actually be prudent at times, giving a person more time to think and to make better decisions.

This was not only personally validating, but it also led me to think about survey-takers and a question we hear quite often from our clients: When do most people take surveys?

(By the way, Lindsey from our team wrote a really interesting blog post about this recently! Check that out here.)

First, a bit about our process. Over the years, we’ve worked to find the ideal survey “window”- the timeframe that will accommodate the early responders and the not-so-early responders, while allowing districts to get their data in a timely way. In most cases, we’ve found that timeframe to be around two weeks. This also gives us time to follow up with a couple of friendly reminder emails to non-responders, maximizing response rates and resulting in better data for our clients.

Now I’m beginning to wonder - does this timeframe not only give our later-responders enough time to participate but to also participate more thoughtfully? Food for thought!

So back to our question, “When do people take surveys?”. How does participation shake out over those two weeks?

  1. More than half of respondents are early birds. Recent surveys have seen between 55%-65% of total responses occurring in the early days of a survey. This is especially true in districts where pre-survey communication between district leadership and their target audience is strong.

  2. Nearly a quarter of respondents are middle-of-the-pack-ers and will complete a survey in response to our first follow up email. That first friendly reminder is usually followed by 20%-25% of a survey’s total responses.

  3. Last (but certainly not least!) come the not-so-early birds. This group represents around 15%-20% of total participants, who complete their survey following our “last chance” reminder.

My takeaway? To best encourage participation by all, we need two components- communication before and reminders during a survey window.

Good pre-survey preparation is important for all survey takers, to let your stakeholders know when and why you’ll be conducting your survey. Also, those early birds will be ready at the outset to give their feedback.

Survey reminders are equally important. While they are fewer in number, those who wait a bit longer to take a survey can provide almost half of the overall data. I could be that those who wait may just need a bit more time to give their very best input.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Cari Udermann, Project Implementation Manager.


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