Best Practices for Survey Administration

The average response rate for the PACE Survey is 48.86% for institutions that have provided a participant list to us since 2011. We are happy to work with your institution to determine a representative sample size based on your employee population prior to implementing the survey. In addition, we will also share strategies our clients have used to increase their response rates. Depending on your response rate, we are able to say with a certain level of confidence that the true means lie within a certain percentage of the reported means. This is the goal. Please note that we will provide a report for you regardless of your response rate, and the PACE response rate is well above the national average for employee surveys.

Promote the survey

We all receive too many emails and are conditioned to ignore emails that we think are SPAM or that we do not think have anything to do with us. If you receive an invitation to participate in a climate survey out of the blue, you are more likely to skip the email entirely. Promoting the PACE survey beforehand will help increase its visibility so that invitation emails are opened as opposed to being skipped. Some great ways to promote the survey include:

  1. email announcements from a Chancellor or President,
  2. discussing the survey at meetings,
  3. promotional fliers in common areas,
  4. and mentioning the survey through institutional social media accounts.

An email from the President or another leadership team member emphasizes that completing the survey is important to the institution. In the email announcement for the upcoming survey, we suggest that you include brief text to explain the value of the data to be collected from the survey. For example, you may mention how the administration is planning to utilize the data or what are some specific reasons that drive the administration of the survey. Communicating with your IT department about the survey administration is also critical for ensuring a successful delivery of PACE survey invitation emails.

Timing is important

We find that surveys are most effective when open for 2-3 weeks and start on Tuesday or  Wednesday. It is also best to avoid time frames too close to semester or holiday breaks. It is also important to consider the context at your institution so that you avoid overlapping with any other large endeavors.

Include everyone


Everyone’s voice at your institution should be heard. For example, adjunct or part-time faculty may be more difficult to track down, but they are a large population on campus and their participation is important. We encourage clients to survey all members of their institution and spend time creating a well-organized, comprehensive email participant list. An accurate email list will increase response rates. If all employees do not have email addresses, we can provide an open link for you to use on a designated computer where employees can come to the office to take the PACE survey.

Create good custom items

Certain survey characteristics, such as difficult or long questions or poor survey design, can encourage response break off. We have worked hard to make the PACE survey simple to complete and accessible on most devices. When customizing your survey, we encourage you to make your custom items and questions easy to understand. In addition, consider the timeliness of your custom items in case you want to compare them in future survey administrations. Only the exact same questions can be compared between administrations.

Use the results

Survey-taking fatigue is a real problem for institutions of higher education. We all receive many requests and demands on our time, especially in the form of surveys. When we do not think our feedback will be valued appropriately, then we are less likely to want to take surveys.  Make sure to have a transparent plan to disseminate and use your survey results. When constituents see that their time on the survey is valued, they will be more likely to participate. This practice will also help create a more active survey-taking culture on your campus.