Engagement Methodologies: Participant Appreciation Practices

Expressing gratitude and honoring participants for their part in research and clinical studies should be a standard of practice and care. Research cannot be done without participants. Thus, showing appreciation directly to participants for their time and effort further encourages reciprocity between researchers and the community. Appreciation is especially vital for studies conducted during emergencies and with participants from ancestral groups with a history of medical and research trauma. Acknowledging participants’ efforts and time goes beyond compensation and can be expressed in many formats. It is fundamental for researchers to engage in these practices to return value back to the community.

engagement methodologies participant appreciation practices

Key Questions for Consideration 

  • How can you build receptivity to participation and create a positive participant experience in research?    
  • How can you return value to and honor participants, acknowledging their efforts in developing the future vision of the research?    
  • What are the best ways to celebrate each unique community?    
  • How do you create a return on investment for the communities?

Key Recommendations 

  • Maintain communication and keep participants engaged. Regularly update participants on study results, provide related resources, and explore community interests.    
  • Determine how the community wants to be celebrated through surveys, focus groups, or engagement studios. Consider any cultural norms or practices.   
  • Tailor your appreciation methods towards specific groups: ancestral, regional, generational, etc. Do not take a one-size-fits- all approach. 
  • Recognize that appreciation goes beyond the participant—research staff, community partners, and trusted messengers all help in making the research possible.

Maintain Communication 

  • Establish a regular presence in the community to create a natural transition from participation to dissemination and the closeout of the study. Without regular communication, participants could go months to even years without hearing about study results.    
  • Spread awareness, share resources, and provide information/education through existing sources, such as faith-based organizations, advocacy groups, and community bulletin boards.    
  • Provide routine updates about the study—from enrollment goals to current results—through social media, newsletters, or town halls.    
  • Determine community interests (for example, What specific health disparities impact their community?) and what data or results they may want to see. Connect the research to their social    and environmental factors.    
  • Develop and create resources, such as fact sheets, infographics, or flyers, for doctors’ offices and other public areas with information about the study or any results to date.

Tailor Your Appreciation 

  • Listen directly to the community: conduct surveys or host focus groups/engagement  studios to openly ask communities how they feel appreciated.
  • Consider ancestral, regional, and generational differences when developing appreciation approaches. Tailor your methods by using a variety of options rather than a one-size-fits-all technique. 
    • Examples of approaches: individual vs community, in-person vs virtual, events vs physical gifts, monetary value vs thoughtfulness, emails vs letters vs social media posts, etc.
    • Examples of methods: participation certificates, appreciation and dissemination events, t-shirts, magnets, handwritten notes, one-pager study results, luncheons, resource drives, jobs or training opportunities, etc.
  • Ensure participants are recognized on an individual level. Use personalized gifts or notes; allow participants to view differentiated results through summarized, one-pager results or filters (for example, study cohort, ancestral group, region/state, gender) on a dissemination website.

Show Appreciation for All

  • Show gratitude towards all the research staff who made the study possible, from principal investigators to interns and volunteers. Acknowledge their hard work and celebrate any milestones they helped reach. Continue supporting them in their personal and career growth and be considerate of any feedback they may have.
  • Recognize and appreciate the work of community-based organizations, community leaders, recruitment partners, or anyone from the community who aided in recruitment, engagement, and retention. Consider hosting thank-you events or providing gifts specific to community partners. Be available if/when you are needed to return the favor (for example, reviewing grant applications or providing letters of support). See Community Partner Payment Practices for more information.
  • Thank and acknowledge the trusted messengers or those who served as spokespersons for the study, especially if they are delivering and disseminating results to participants throughout the study closeout. Specifically, recognize the time and effort required to become a respected and trusted messenger and community leader.    
  • Acknowledge the community at large, noting all the individuals who came together to make the study possible. Everyone was a small part of the bigger picture towards reducing health disparities.

Targeted Resources

CEACR Resource Toolkits 

CEACR resource toolkits were developed using expert insights and direct feedback community leaders. 

CEACR supports the CEAL mission by serving as a conduit for promising community-engaged practices. CEACR supports NIH-funded research teams who are seeking to apply principles of community engagement to address diversifying research participation, with a specific emphasis on communities traditionally underrepresented in research. 

Requests for CEACR services can be made at