Web and Mail Surveys: An Experimental Comparison of Methods for Nonprofit Research

Weiwei Lin, Gregg G. van Ryzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study aims to compare two widely used methods of original data collection in nonprofit research: web and mail surveys. We employ an experimental design to assign a web-based survey and a mail survey to nonprofit professionals working in human services organizations in New Jersey. We then compare responses generated from the two survey methods in terms of response rates and data quality. Our study finds that the mail survey achieved a significantly higher response rate than the web survey, and data obtained from the mail survey produced higher internal consistency than that obtained from the web survey. There was no difference between methods, however, in respondent characteristics, the completeness of the survey, and the percentage of missing items. Taken together, the findings suggest that a mail survey, although more costly, may have response-rate and data-quality advantages over a web survey as a methodology for gathering data from nonprofit organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1014-1028
Number of pages15
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • data quality
  • experimental comparison
  • mail and web surveys
  • response rate


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