Step 6: For questionnaires administered off-site, be prepared
to follow up with participants who do not respond.
As discussed earlier (Step 1), a disadvantage
of off-site questionnaires is that some participants fail to respond.
Nonresponse can be minimized by developing a system for contacting
nonrespondents and reminding them why the questionnaire is important.
Based on Dillman (2000), a set of guidelines for a follow-up system
is as follows:
1. One week after participants receive the questionnaire, send
a short reminder to nonrespondents stating when and why they received
the questionnaire, thanking them if they already have returned it,
and offering to resend the questionnaire if necessary.
2. Three weeks after the initial mailing, send nonrespondents another
copy of the questionnaire with a letter reinforcing the information
in the original cover letter. The letter should emphasize the importance
of the questionnaire and note the usefulness of the responses already
received. An extra incentive is not appropriate at this point because
it would reward a tardy response. (A sample follow-up letter appears
in the Scenario.)
3. Six or seven weeks after the initial mailing, send the remaining
nonrespondents a final questionnaire copy and letter. This letter
should emphasize that the deadline is imminent and that hearing
from all participants is essential to the study.
The above guidelines can be modified according to circumstances.
For example, if an evaluation is relatively small (say fewer than
100 participants), it may be affordable to contact nonrespondents
by phone instead of in writing. Also, the timeline of certain program
evaluations may allow only a short follow-up process.