Money: An Incentive for Data Senders

Even the most well-thought-out Questionnaires, and the most geeked-out M&E models mean nothing if the people who you need to submit the data don’t.

To get good data you need good compliance.

In some cases, money can be the right data collection incentive.

Human Network International (the creators of DataWinners) has worked with many organizations to help design the right incentive structure for their projects.

For example: Who submits the data? Is it the actual field worker, such as a community health worker or nurse? Sometimes.

In other cases it’s a support technician who has portfolio of several field workers, which frees these front-line workers to focus on what they do best.

With the right structure in place, sometimes you still need incentives, such as paying people for their data submissions.

When the Data Sender is an employee of your organization it can be straightforward: Submit data in order to get paid. Job performance metrics are often included in the Questionnaires: The better the worker is doing their job, the more they get paid. One DataWinners client pays community workers based on how successfully they distribute mosquito bed nets — more nets, more money.

But when the Data Sender is not a wage-earning member of your team, you may need to provide one or more reasons for them to spend their precious time entering information into a form. Foremost, it should be clear that the information will be used in a way that benefits the community of the person filling the form. Still, sometimes people need an incentive that is less abstract and more immediate. Like money.

The money can be in the form of airtime, mobile money, or a voucher for specific services.

These tips from ICT Works (republished here with permission) will help you think through the right kind of incentive, the right amount, and the design of the Questionnaire.


Before even considering the incentive debate, think carefully about the overall M&E process you’re launching. Ask yourself: Are we delivering results back to the community? Are our beautiful Big Data visualizations helping address community needs? And if people aren’t racing to take part in our surveys, should we still deliver them as is, or should we regroup and re-think the process? If, after careful reflection, incentives still seem like the best way to go, here are some key considerations to bear in mind:

  • Find the right value threshold. The delicate question of “how much should I offer” always has a different answer. In some settings, pegging airtime incentives to the average cost of a pre-paid recharge is a good fit. In other cases, you may need to offer credit amounts that are much higher than the going rate for text, audio, or data. And for non-financial incentives, the value proposition can be entirely different. Overall, the best ‘rule of thumb’ from our experience is to A/B test different incentive thresholds and see where the response rates are best (controlling for as many other variables as you can, of course).
  • Some people just don’t care; that’s both good & bad. In some settings, mobile users simply aren’t interested in incentives–regardless of whether it’s airtime credit or other compensation that’s on offer. In certain cases, this means that you’re free to carry out your mobile survey without an incentive structure; great news. In other cases, it means that no amount of motivation will spur communities to take part in your poll. When that happens, it may be time to revisit the poll itself, or the wider M&E process, to assess whether the overall fit is right: There may be other reasons why your survey isn’t prompting people to leap out of their seats and grab the nearest phone.
  • Everyone gets tired at some point: keep it simple. Few people want to answer a 100-question survey on their mobile device. Stick to the questions that matter most, and make sure the wording of these questions is clear and easy to understand.
  • Demonstrate mutual benefit, and act on it. Most importantly, articulate clearly to community members why data is being collected, how this data is going to be used, what the tangible benefits of the process will be, and when communities can expect to see these results. The best M&E processes convey all these points clearly – and that, in itself, becomes the incentive for communities to take part.

Jacob Korenblum is the CEO of Souktel, and a recovering M&E tech expert.