How Plan International UK transformed sponsorship journeys

Plan International DRTV Image

Recently I presented at the IoF Fundraising Convention. I spoke about how Plan International UK has transitioned from offline to online – adapting our approach to sponsorship conversion to meet supporters’ needs.

Over the past 5 years DRTV has been the biggest driver for all of Plan International UK’s child sponsorship conversions.  But over the years the way people respond has changed.

Traditionally, prospective sponsors would text their interest after seeing a TV advert, and receive a call back from our agency.  This call back would entail a conversation about where in the world they would like to sponsor a child, whether it’s a boy or a girl, and answer any questions they might have.

Changing behaviour

The rise of smartphones has made the possibility for the viewer to immediately engage become easier than ever.

In 2012 82% of responses to our campaign came online. This has now shifted to 94% in 2017, demonstrating that people are preferring to go online rather than respond via SMS and talk to someone.

This drove our need to be even more visible online, and have the right mechanisms in place to respond to this demand.

How we became more visible online

  • Investing more expenditure in paid search
  • Optimising our search engine ranking (SEO)
  • Creating specific landing pages from the TV advert
  • Making the case (internally) for sponsorship always being the homepage priority

Once prospective supporters found our website, we needed to make sure that we had the right information on there, and that we consistently reviewed and improved the supporter journey across the website. This included:

  • Images that resonated with DRTV content
  • Engaging case studies that demonstrate the impact of sponsorship
  • Frequently asked questions to answer any queries


The power of choice

As with our offline sponsorship, all sponsors have a choice of who they would like to sponsor – a girl or a boy, how old they are and where they’re from.  There’s also the option not to choose.

We’re often told that choice puts people off – overwhelm them and they don’t know what to choose.  It’s a choice overload. But we’ve found this to be false.

82% of sponsors chose a continent.

The adverts are geared towards sponsoring a girl, so it’s unsurprising that this is the most popular choice when asked which gender child you’d like to sponsor:

  • 69% of sponsors chose to sponsor a girl
  • 6% of sponsors chose to sponsor a boy
  • 25% of sponsors didn’t specify

In this case we were able to take advantage of choices – supporters can be specific about what they want. There is a sense of being listened to and having a say over where their money is spent.

We’re assuming that people are more bought into the product, and feel in control if they have made specific choices – they are invested in the idea and more likely to convert.

Digitising sponsorship changed the way we work and the resources needed internally to understand all the insights available to us.  We had to adapt to using new tools to track behaviours, and make sense of all the data at our fingertips.

In summary, my key takeaways were:

  • Supporters want to be in control
  • Track behaviours on your website
  • Identify trends in your data
  • Ensure you have paid search set up so supporters can find your website
  • Test, test, test

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Sarah has worked in the charity sector for over 9 years with experience across campaigning and digital fundraising. She started out in youth campaigning and email fundraising at PETA UK, and went on to manage multi-channel campaigns at Barnardo’s and Save the Children. More recently Sarah has been overseeing email and digital fundraising activity at Plan International UK. She now works as an Account Manager and Strategist at Copper, a customer experience agency for non-profits. @crowable