With the use of a hierarchy-of-effects model, the decision to complete a mail survey was modeled as a process moving through several stages. A set of variables thought to influence the survey-completion decision process was examined. These variables include survey design factors, which were manipulated by the researchers, and respondent factors, such as attitudinal and personal constructs. Based on the research findings, the hierarchy-of-effects model is an appropriate way to model the mail-survey-response process. The data indicate that among the survey design factors included in the study, the monetary incentive had the most effect on the decision process, with a pervasive impact throughout the process. Importantly, respondent factors such as attitude toward research were of critical importance in moving respondents through the survey-response process. Research into the response-rate phenomenon is likely to benefit by considering how both survey design and respondent factors affect specific stages of the response process and enhance participation in surveys. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.