Blending Methodologies for Innovation at Plan International UK

Blending Methodologies for Innovation at Plan International UK

Winner of best client speaker of the year at the Aura Awards 2018, Joe Morrison, shares with us a more in-depth read into the Aura presentation, “Blending Multiple Sources of Insight”, that won him the award.

To see the full presentation, visit the members area here.

Insight teams are frequently tasked with predicting the future: What products will our customers enjoy? How much are the willing to spend? What trends will impact our future?

As professionals, we feel we know the relative strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research, and when we should deploy them. As someone who has managed client-side insight and innovation teams – often within the same role – I have had the opportunity to use conventional research alongside the ‘real world’ testing of Minimal Viable Products (MVP). From this I have gained new understanding of how the two approaches contradict each other in predicting consumer behaviour, and also how they can be successfully used in tandem.

For Plan International UK we were tasked with revitalising the charity’s primary fundraising vehicle: child sponsorship. This form of giving generates over £17m for the charity in the UK each year, funding essential work to empower children across 50 countries. In recent years the cost of recruiting new, loyal sponsors has been becoming ever more challenging, and expensive. In one year the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a new sponsor leapt 44%, greatly reducing our projected return on investment. So how could we recruit new donors more affordably and keep them committed for longer?

Unique to our approach in solving this challenge was the blending of market research methodologies (both traditional and new) with insights generated from MVP piloting with current and prospective donors. This insight programme included:

  • Behavioural insight from our Customer Relationship (CRM) platform
  • An online qualitative survey and focus groups
  • Co-creation and MVP experimentation
  • Randomised controlled trials testing behavioural economic theories

In the randomised trials, undertaken by Decision Technology, multiple versions of Plan’s website were tested with online panellists. Rather than asking respondents to choose a preference, each were presented just one variant. By observing and measuring their online behaviour, it is possible through factor analysis to identify drivers that influence likelihood to donate.

The traditional surveying and focus groups we conducted strongly indicated that prospective donors wanted greater choice and control over sponsorship, with a reduced feeling of personal commitment to their sponsored child. The randomised trials directly challenged those findings, suggesting that offering rational benefits like choice and control suppressed response. The trials recommended that commitment and emotional messaging were positive drivers for sponsorship acquisition.

This provided us with a dilemma, and ultimately, we chose to lead with the levers from the randomised trials; the methodology was closer to real market data and reduced the influence of respondent post-rationalisation. We were further emboldened by the MVP testing, which uncovered strong donor adoption of new digital features, which had been poorly received in surveys.

Blending this insight together, we launched a new ask to the market (not marketed as child sponsorship) with a lower price point, leveraged digital features and dialled up commitment and emotion. This pilot was successful, recruiting donors at a healthy CPA and investment has been secured to scale-up.


Example Output


Traditional quantitative and qualitative methodologies still played an important role in the project, correctly identifying consideration and price as key strategic barriers. But MVP testing and randomised trials offer means of avoiding the curse of post-rationalisation, minimising the risk of a costly misstep in the marketplace.

About the Author

Joe Morrison is Head of Business Improvement & Innovation at Plan International UK, and Founder of innovation consultancy Craft & Scale.


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