Improving Your NCHA Response Rate

Universally, response rates to web surveys are declining. While there are several factors that go into achieving a high response rate, we reached out to participating institutions who have been successful in achieving a higher than 20% response rate. After reviewing their responses, we have compiled some of the common themes/ideas that were the most successful for them in achieving a high response rate. It is important to understand that many of the following ideas require advanced planning and should be in place prior to the start of your NCHA administration.

  • Send a pre-notification email out to students to make them aware of when the NCHA invitation will be sent. Be sure to include as many details as possible, such as the subject line, the from name and email address of the sender, date and time the message will be sent, etc. Examples are shown below.
  • Create a robust marketing campaign surrounding the NCHA. When possible, utilize social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to market the NCHA. Consider using mascots/campus logos and branding the survey in promotional materials. Please note that use of the NCHA logo in marketing materials is not permitted, except the NCHA participating campus badge shown below. If your budget will not allow for a large marketing campaign, consider tabling, using posters, or even sidewalk chalk to spread the word. If you can generate a “buzz” about the survey, students will recognize the invitation and be more likely to consider completing the survey.
  • Utilize faculty and staff to promote awareness and facilitate student buy-in for the NCHA survey.
  • Personalized outreach from student government or student advisory committees is encouraged.

The following list are additional ideas to consider when planning your NCHA administration. While it is important to understand that we cannot guarantee a high response rate, each of these ideas could be beneficial to increasing your institution’s response rate. Please consider your campus culture and past NCHA administrations’ successes and failures when selecting ideas to implement from the following options.

Before Launching the Survey

  • Utilize the custom “from name” option. Consider using your health center name, or the name of an influential person on your campus.
  • If you have the IT support, consider customizing the “from address” that the survey invitations originate from. Additional information can be found in our FAQs. Please allow at least 2 weeks for domain activation and thorough testing.
  • Customize the first page of the survey to provide the bulk of the consent language and use a shorter, more brief invitation letter.
  • While literature says not to use images in the invitation letters, our experience with NCHA has been different. Depending on your mail host, use campus logos in the survey invitation and reminder emails if they will appear successfully in a student’s inbox. If your marketing campaign incorporates images, use the same logos and images in the email messages to students so that it is easily recognizable.
  • Personalize the survey invitations with preferred first names. Please note that if you are unable to access preferred first names we suggest not personalizing the survey invitations to reduce the risk of deadnaming a student.
  • Advocate for why students should take the survey. Provide examples of how the NCHA data has been used on your campus in prior administrations and/or examples of planned uses for the current data being collected.
  • When feasible, offer incentives to students. Be sure to select incentives that would appeal to a wide variety of students and use the survey invitation and marketing materials to highlight the incentives being offered.
  • Coordinate with your Office of Institutional Research on the best time to administer the survey on your campus. Be sure to avoid sending the NCHA when other large-scale surveys are being distributed or at least try to avoid sampling the same students when possible. Survey fatigue can be an issue when students are receiving multiple invitations during the same period of time.
  • Be sure to confirm with your IT department that the necessary whitelisting is in place prior to the start of your survey administration.
  • Avoid using a subject line that sounds spam-like. You may want to consider using different subject lines for the reminder emails.

During the Survey Administration

  • For reminder messages, we recommend varying the days and times the emails are sent to students.
  • Monitor the responder graph link closely and consider sending additional reminders to non-responders if necessary. Additional fees apply.
  • Continue to remind students when reminder emails are scheduled to be sent and encourage participation through marketing materials and additional outreach efforts.

Provided below are examples of pre-notification emails sent by past participating institutions, shared with their explicit permission.

Example #1

Example #2

Example #3

Participating Campus Badge

Please feel free to use the NCHA Participating Campus Badge shown here in your marketing materials, survey invitation letter, or to display on your campus website.