There are a number of things to think about when deciding whether to offer a prize for participating in a social research survey.

The three main things to consider are: is it really necessary; is it an appropriate prize; and does it comply with lottery laws? You must also comply with privacy law when collecting, storing and using personal information (name, phone, email) supplied to enter the draw.

Definition: An incentive is an item (product or voucher) offered to a research participant either at the time of participation (offered to all participants) or as a prize draw (occurring at the end of the fieldwork).

  1. Is it really necessary?
    Our community should want to give us their feedback without us having to pay for it. We don’t want to set a precedent that it is only worth providing feedback if there is a reward.  Offering an incentive also increases the likelihood that people will just complete the survey to enter the prize draw (resulting in answers which are not as honest), or complete it multiple times. When offering an incentive we need to factor in methods to identify people who are ‘skimming’ (just completing the survey for the prize), as well as those who complete it multiple times for multiple chances at winning.
  2. Is the prize appropriate?
    When offering an incentive, it is important to ensure that it isn’t going to skew who participates in the survey. For instance, if you offer a public transport voucher, you are going to get a disproportionate number of respondents who use public transport, and those who live in areas without access to public transport who might otherwise have participated, may not bother. Try to pick something that would be of value to all demographics and locations.
  3. Does the prize comply with lottery laws?
    The following information is specific to Victoria, Australia. If people are likely to be responding from other states or Countries, you will need to review the laws in each location.
    If offering an incentive as a prize draw (that is, people provide their details and then a random entrant is drawn to win) it is recognised under Victorian lottery law as a ‘trade promotion lottery’. When running a trade promotion lottery, entering must be free and you must include the following information when the respondent enters the prize draw:

    • Closing date
    • Where and when the prize will be drawn
    • Where the names will be published (If the prize is over $1,000 you must publish the name of the winner.)
    • Any other entry requirements (such as they must have completed at least 80% of the survey and only one entry per person will be accepted).

Other items for consideration are:

    • You must notify the winner in writing
    • Records must be kept for 3 years to prove random selection.
    • Winner must be selected using a randomisation algorithm (so each person has equal chance of being selected).
    • The prize must be delivered to the winner within 28 days of being drawn.
    • The winner may be substituted for another draw only if reasonable efforts have been made to contact them and were unsuccessful.
    • If you need to change the prize after commencement of the survey, the new prize must be of equal or greater value and the winner needs to agree in writing, or you need to make reasonable attempts to provide the alternative.

Privacy law

In order to comply with privacy law, you must follow the following steps regarding the personal information collected to enter the draw (name, email, phone number, address etc):

  1. In the introduction to the section asking for their personal information for the prize draw, include a link to your privacy policy:
  2. When collecting this information, it must not be physically stored outside of Australia (that is, you can’t use Surveymonkey or Google forms. ASDF research has a locally installed online surveying tool, hosted in Australia. Please see our Online Surveying information sheet for further details).
  3. Ensure that you do not store the contact information in the same data file as the survey responses.
  4. The contact information provided must not be used for any other purpose, unless written permission is provided by the individual. That is, if you collect their name and email address for a prize draw, you are not allowed to add them to your enewsletter list. You can include a checkbox asking if they would like to be added to the list, but this must be default unchecked.