Compensating interview and focus group participants

I work for a policy research and evaluation firm and we conduct a lot of interviews and focus groups with program participants. We always provide modest monetary compensation for participants’ time and expertise, typically around $50/hour for virtual engagements and offer additional compensation/reimbursements if we meet in person.

We’d like to be more intentional about how we’re coming up with the compensation figures and make sure we are offering equitable compensation. Does anyone here have experiences or ideas to share? Many thanks!


ask participants! :smiley:


Hi @rmahika ,
Seconding @efrost suggestion about asking participants. Also, this post has some good food for thought about compensation that you might find useful. Best of luck!

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I appreciated this article, but I didnt see the part that giving community members too much can impact their eligibility for government benefits. we are constantly stuck when wanting to compensate over $600 would mean a 1099 and possible ineligibility of government benefits or services for the participant


Thanks for sharing! This is a super interesting topic!

I’ve seen some discussions about quantitative v. qualitative data collection (the former receiving less than the latter), and about the unique perspectives one can offer (e.g. are they part of a minority group?). Who’s asking also changes the power dynamics (for profit? government? nonprofit?)

I don’t have a guide for compensation, but I’ve heard quite some nuances in the subject.


Hi all! Great and very important conversation. The topic of how to set a price for data is so so complex. I have struggled a lot with this in my projects too.

Sometimes to simplify the process we imagine we’re buying a loaf of bread instead. We know that a person has the bread we want, how much should we pay for it?

  • We could ask them how much they want for the bread.
  • We could offer them how much we want to pay for the bread.
  • We could offer them as little as we think they would take for the bread.
  • We could offer them as much as we can afford to pay them for the bread.
  • We could suggest a price that someone else has paid for similar bread.

Or some combination of these.

When you say you’re looking at

the power dynamics are more important than a formula for compensation. When we look at power dynamics we always add the word “who”:

  • Who sets the price?
  • Who determines what “you can afford”?
  • Who is empowered to walk away from the deal if it’s not to their liking?

The answers to these questions are essential on a practical level when evaluating how equitable a price is. Don’t let the fact that setting an equitable price for data is just as complicated and subjective as talking about equitable pricing in any type of economics stop you from pursuing this awesome question. Every step towards equity is what matters.