The polling industry has changed. No longer can pollsters rely on phone calls alone. In fact, just 10% of them used live phone calls as their only method of public polling in 2022, according to Pew Research Center.
The other big shift? Increasingly incentivizing survey respondents.
Giving monetary incentives to survey respondents helps combat low response rates, something the Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) has been doing for years — but it wasn’t always easy.
Before turning to an incentives tool, ECPIP had to “go to CVS to buy a stack of gift cards” and mail them out, says Dr. Kyle Morgan, Research Associate at Rutgers’ Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “It was awful.” So they switched from manually buying and sending cards to a simpler gift card platform.
But the team still ran into tracking and accounting issues frequently. They couldn’t always tell which funds went into a specific program and what the results were. Morgan says it “used to be lots of Excel spreadsheets to try to track all of these things.”
For an institution that runs the oldest statewide public polling operation in the country, as well as regularly conducts nationwide polling, it’s critical to maintain oversight and manage incentives easily and accurately.
That’s why Rutgers turned to BHN Rewards six years ago to handle all its survey incentives. “The plus side to incentives is it might get people more invested in doing surveys … I paid you, and I paid you on time without issues,” says Morgan. “Respondents might feel more connected to the survey, creating goodwill and increasing the likelihood they’ll take your survey next time.”
Now rewards are delivered on time with a straightforward claim process for recipients. Morgan can customize the language of the reward email and tailor it to each specific survey and audience.
If a recipient didn’t get their reward, the Rutgers’ ECPIP team can easily resend it or modify the respondent’s email address, if necessary. Plus, Morgan says, the multiple, automated reminders from BHN Rewards has helped reduce these inquiries in the first place.
But BHN Rewards doesn’t improve just the recipient experience — it also creates a much better experience for the Rutgers team. One of Morgan’s favorite aspects is the customer support.
“If we’re spending money on something, we don’t want to guess that it’s working properly, so being able to call and speak with someone to walk through how to do this properly has been great,” he says. “Everyone has been super responsive to the questions we have.”
In addition to improving recipient and user experience, the Rutgers polling team saves both time and money. “I can set one campaign up in five minutes and start sending rewards in a minute or two,” says Morgan. “Once you set it up, it does run itself.”
They now get fewer “double claims” — instances where people may accidentally receive two rewards for one survey — because when they upload a CSV file, BHN Rewards flags any duplicates.
The team also sees roughly 80% claim rates for their rewards; the other 20% is automatically refunded into their BHN Rewards account. “The tracking and rewards dashboard is one of the most useful things,” says Morgan. It lets him know the status of every polling campaign quickly, seeing “what we have sent out, what’s been claimed, and what has yet to be claimed.”
Those tracking capabilities are critical for universities that are held to certain requirements by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Each IRB has rules and regulations around how to appropriately offer participant incentives, and it may request details from a university about who has received or claimed a reward.
“The BHN Rewards platform makes it really easy to get that information,” says Morgan. “It’s important for us to be able to track all incentives that go out.”
If the IRB members ask for information on your study, they expect to get it quickly. Now, ECPIP can generate a report directly in BHN Rewards with just a few clicks.
Lastly, with strong IRB requirements and tight budgets, other departments frequently come to Morgan’s group asking if they can take advantage of the BHN Rewards platform.
“Everybody seems to be able to pick it up really quickly,” says Morgan. “It is super intuitive. ”
Plus, Morgan doesn’t have to worry about other departments taking funds from ECPIP’s budget. He sets up separate funding sources, so “if they happen to overspend, it doesn’t impact us.”
Now, ECPIP builds goodwill across Rutgers by helping other research centers with their rewards programs. “Everyone knows how great it is and how useful it is to track everything through the BHN Rewards platform — plus the flexibility has been helpful,” he adds. “Internally, it’s been a really good, positive thing within higher education research.”