Plan Inter­na­tion­al UK’s prospect­ing’ campaign

Exhibited by
James Briggs, Open Fundraising.
June 25, 2012
Medium of Communication
Face to face, press advertising
Target Audience
Type of Charity
International relief / development
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
May, 2011

SOFII’s view

Once again testing has proved its worth. What seemed like such a good idea proved to not really work. But with further refinement and testing SOFII is convinced that ‘sampling’ could be adapted from the commercial world to become a winner for charities.

Creator / originator

Plan International UK and Open Fundraising (with Tag Fundraising and Listen Fundraising).

Summary / objectives

A prospecting campaign to recruit new child sponsors.


Recent years have seen sampling become the primary route for selling software, music and film – with vendors offering the full version for a limited period or a small ‘taste’.

We wondered whether you could apply this route to one of the charity world’s most desirable ‘products’ – child sponsorship. Our hope was that people would like the experience so much that they’d have to continue.

So we built a system that combined SMS and mobile Internet to deliver a sample ‘sponsorship’ over the course of the weekend. Prospects would text a donation during the week and then receive a number of texts (with links to web content) between Friday evening and Sunday night.

We recruited prospects via press and on the street. After their weekend of sponsorship, they were called to ask them to convert to full child sponsorship via direct debit.

Special characteristics

We believe that this was the first campaign to offer a ‘sample’ of a charity product and the first to deliver a sponsorship experience via SMS and mobile internet.


We tested the channel – face to face against press – and price – £1 against £3.


Overall, results were disappointing. The press ad generated a cost per prospect that was unacceptably high – perhaps because so much explanation was required.

Street sign-ups, meanwhile, were on target but conversion was below – maybe because people did not fully understand that they were sampling a high value product rather than buying a low value one.

At a strategic level, however, it may have been that the jump from electronic payments and communications to direct debits and mail was discouraging to prospects who relished the novelty of the approach.

However, results were good enough for further testing and development to be under consideration for later in 2012.


Because it was a first in a variety of senses and, we believe, points the way for sponsorship products.

SOFII’s I Wish I’d Thought Of That 2012 – no. 2 Julie Weston presents Plan UK.

View original image
Full colour print advertisement used to recruit new donors
View original image
Front of leaflet given to donors who had texted from their mobiles after being recruited via face to face.
View original image
Back of leaflet given to donors who had texted from their mobiles after being recruited via face to face.
All new donors started receiving texts over the weekend.