Panel Q and A


Why is market research necessary?

It’s simple: to minimize risks, reveal hidden opportunities, and prove return on investment. Good instincts and intuition play important roles in marketing, but audience insights help administrators make better, more informed decisions.

What is the panel’s purpose?

Response rates for web surveys are declining nationally, and for IU too. The panel gives us the ability to garner feedback from a lot of alumni and friends quickly and easily, while it gives you an ongoing opportunity to provide candid feedback on IU's strategic directions, products, and services.

Are panel surveys always conducted online?

Yes. Most of our alumni and friends use and have access to the Internet, and it’s cost effective for us to conduct web surveys.

How are survey projects chosen?

By working with administrators in the alumni association, foundation, and central marketing units to identify needs at the time, we hope to offer a variety of opportunities for panel feedback.

What if I have an idea for a survey?

You can send your suggestions to at any time, or type your ideas into the final comment box of the panel survey you’re completing. Please be as specific as possible!

Why don’t you tell me more about the purpose of the surveys you send me?

We always provide a simple overview of the purpose of a survey. If we provide much more, we are likely to influence your responses in unintended ways. No research project is ever perfect, but our job is to minimize bias when possible.

What are average response rates for alumni panel surveys?

You have been amazingly generous with your time and opinions! Overall panel response rates average about 80 percent (compared to 10 percent for non-panel, random-sample surveys conducted during the same time period).

Is my feedback really getting to the people who matter?

Yes! We can’t promise IU will act on everything you recommend, but we can promise we’ll listen to you and share your concerns. Just keep in mind that responses may not be immediate. You may submit your feedback within the first 24 hours of our invitation, and a survey may close three weeks later. Then, the data have to be cleaned and organized for general consumption. If you fail to get a response to something important, don’t hesitate to follow up with us again.

What actions have been taken as a result of the panel?

It is difficult to summarize everything we learn from you, but you can download past survey findings. Keep in mind that it takes time for us to field and analyze surveys as well as for administrators to determine the actions they want to take based on results.

How was I chosen to be on the panel?

Most likely you completed our tracking study on alumni or donor attitudes. At that time, you indicated an interest in more information about ongoing panel participation. When we followed up with you later, you opted in for participation.

Is the panel still a pilot project?

No. The panel serves as an experimental lab environment for us to test early and often, but it is now an ongoing program.

Can my friend or spouse sign up to be part of the panel?

We are not actively promoting the panel at this time, but we’re happy to add them if they meet our criteria. Please have the interested party contact us at

How many—and what kind of—people serve on the panel?

You are one of about 1,000 panelists of mixed gender, age, in- and out-of-state location, campus, degree, etc. Most of you are volunteers, alumni, and/or donors.

Can I be a panelist if I work for a university, in the media, or in the market research industry?

Yes. As an IU alum or friend, your opinions matter to us. We trust that you will never share logos, taglines, concepts, survey questions, or other ideas outside the IU family.

What if I’m not a Bloomington graduate?

We have panelists representing every IU campus. If a survey topic is only relevant to a subset of the panel, then we will only send invitations to the subset.

Why don’t you ask me for demographic info that can be used to further analyze my feedback?

We try to keep our surveys short and simple. When you enroll in the panel, you update your demographics annually. We use your demographics and our records to append survey data as needed.

If the panel is opt-in, aren’t you failing to reach alumni and friends who are less engaged with IU?

Our panel’s composition closely matches the demographics of the larger alumni and donor population. Even so, panelists are more likely to be engaged with IU. We use the opt-in panel when possible and complement findings with more traditional research as needed (random-sample surveys to ensure reach of less-engaged audiences, focus groups that explain findings, etc.).

How often will I get invitations for online surveys?

You should expect to get a new panel survey invitation about every other month or six times per year.

How long are surveys?

Our surveys are typically short in duration: about 5 to 10 minutes.

Do I have to respond to every survey invitation?

No. You don’t have to respond to every invitation, although we hope you’ll try to do so as often as you can. Robust response rates generally lead to greater precision, and we want to ensure we have enough responses to analyze subgroups (e.g., males v. females).

What if I’m not interested in a survey topic?

Please know that we won’t send a survey just to give you something to do. We ask about things that are important to us, and it is just as important for us to hear from those with limited interest or experiences as those with a lot. We try to design surveys so that many different kinds of people can complete the survey and provide worthwhile feedback.

How many times will you contact me about a given survey, and how long do I have to respond?

We usually send two reminders to those who do not respond to, or do not opt out of, a survey. You will usually have about two weeks to respond before a survey closes. If you complete only part of a survey, you will continue to get reminders unless you click the “submit” button to submit your final answers.

When do panelists usually respond?

We get most of our responses within the first 24 hours of sending the original survey invitation. Then, we see significant increases again after the distribution of follow-up reminders.

Is my feedback confidential?

Your feedback is confidential to IU and will never be sold, rented, or given to an outside entity. And, unless you provide identifying information in your responses, your feedback will always be anonymously reported.

Do I get paid for my time/opinions?

No, we do not pay panelists for their opinions. However, we will send you occasional tokens of our thanks and include your name in drawings. For example, we’ve asked panelists to ring in the New Year with a Starbucks drink or snack on us. We’ve sent candy-striped socks and IU journals. We routinely give away gift cards to random prize winners.

What if I haven’t received the latest incentive?

Incentives are usually emailed to avoid shipping fees. We will email you—and use this website—to announce when and what kind of incentive is on its way. If you have a spam filter that prevents the receipt of your gift, you can contact us at within six weeks of the original distribution date to arrange to get your gift by mail. If you do not claim your gift within the six-week window, it will be reclaimed by us and used for other research-related purposes.

What if I don’t want an incentive?

Incentives are a best practice in the research industry to show appreciation for participation and to encourage a wide range of opinions. You earned a small token from us! But if you do not claim your gift within six weeks of the original distribution date, it will be reclaimed by us and used for other research-related purposes. For gift cards, you will have one year from the issued date to redeem them.

Does IU’s Institutional Review Board approve each panel survey?

No. Because our research activities occur for the sole purpose of improving our own products and processes, our efforts are usually exempt from IRB approval. This is not academic research that will be published.

Is there a schedule of upcoming surveys?

Priorities dictate our schedule, so survey topics and fielding dates change. View our Survey Schedule and Outcomes to see what’s currently in the field or what has been fielded to date.

Why do I sometimes get surveys about fundraising campaigns or membership?

The panel is run by IU Marketing Research, a collaborative partnership between the IU Alumni Association and IU Foundation. We will never use the panel to solicit you for money or membership, but we may sometimes ask you about related campaigns and concepts.

Can I share this website, surveys, or other panel-related info?

You are part of a group that gets to weigh in on concepts that may not be ready for public consumption. Unless given our explicit permission, we trust that you will never share logos, taglines, concepts, survey questions, or other ideas outside the IU family.

With all the email I get from IU, how will I recognize panel communications?

Panel e-communications will always begin with “IU Panel” in the subject line. Communications will generally come from “Angela Tharp” or “IU Marketing Research.”

Should I be worried about Internet scams?

Scams on- and off-line are increasing. If you ever have reason to suspect that a panel communication is fraudulent, please forward the communication to us at so we can verify its authenticity.

Can I complete surveys on a mobile device?

Yes, you can use phones, tablets, etc. Our survey vendor offers a mobile template that we use, but some answer choices and graphics may look a little funny despite our best efforts.

What if I have technical issues while accessing/completing surveys?

If you click your survey invitation link and cannot access it, try copying and pasting the URL into a common browser. If that doesn’t work, or you have difficulty when taking the survey, then please email with the following info: your name, a brief description of your problem and the circumstances under which it occurred, the kind of device and browser you were using at the time of difficulty, and anything else that might be helpful for us to know. Between us and our survey provider, we’ll do our best to get your issue resolved quickly. Thanks for your patience!

Can I start and stop a panel survey?

We try to keep our surveys short so we don’t tire you out, but you can usually come and go until the survey closes or you submit your final answers at the end of the survey.

Will my responses be recorded if I don’t answer all the survey questions?

Our survey software typically saves answers by page, which is why we break up questions into multiple pages. You can assume that answers will be saved for any pages where you’ve clicked “next” or “submit.” If you stop responding in the middle of a page, only those answers completed before your last page will be recorded.

Can I preview the survey questions and come back later to complete them?

Yes, you can use “next” to advance through the survey and see all the questions. However, you can only return to answer questions later if you have not clicked “submit” to record your final answers. Once you submit your final answers, you are barred from doing so again to avoid “ballot stuffing.”

What if I want to change my responses after I’ve already submitted my final answers?

If you inadvertently submitted your answers before intending to do so, contact us at We’ll append your survey record.

How can I be sure my final answers have been submitted?

After clicking the “submit” button to record your final answers, you should see a screen box confirming receipt of your answers. If you have any concerns, contact us at We’ll check to make sure your answers were recorded.

Why can’t I easily find this panel website through search?

This site is public because we want you to use it without having to log in every time you come and go. But, it isn’t easily findable through search engines. We’re the first in higher education to create a custom university panel, so we don’t want to heavily advertise what we do and how we do it for our competitors!

As a panelist, will I still get non-panel, IU-related survey invitations?

Your participation in the panel will not preclude you from receiving other non-panel, IU-related surveys. If we are aware of others, we’ll do our best to avoid burdening you with our requests at the same time. Please be aware, however, that there is no master calendar for IU-related surveys. You may get other requests alongside ours.

Can I help create, instead of just evaluate, new ideas?

The purpose of the panel is to garner quick, projectable data. Online surveys are not usually the best forum for idea generation, and many panelists would prefer to evaluate rather than create ideas anyway. If you are interested in participating in some of our qualitative research efforts, such as focus groups or in-depth interviews, please send us a note at and we’ll add you to our list. We usually have rigorous quotas for these limited projects, but we’ll be in touch if your background works!