- By Neil Cary
- Published 08/23/2012
The Not for Profit sector continues to operate in the most difficult financial circumstances. The Coalition Government’s efforts to reduce the budget deficit continue to have an impact on the sector, with direct cuts in budgets, while the UK population as a whole has weathered a perfect storm of economic recession, rising costs and falling real wages. In this climate, the British commitment to charity fundraising has come under significant pressure. A range of statistics imply that charity contributions have held up, despite the challenge of the economy, but they have fallen in real terms and will continue to come under pressure for some time to come.
Justifying market research initiatives in these circumstances is often difficult, and yet, in our experience of the Not for Profit Sector, the need (and desire) for market insight does not diminish. Arguably, it is now more important to ensure that the Not for Profit sector understands and connects with its stakeholders and audiences. Research budgets are under pressure, and market research agencies need to think flexibly to help.
Internalising Resources: A Model to Reduce Research Costs and Increase Organisation Engagement
Redshift was recently given the opportunity to work with the Not for Profit organisation, Compaid, who were looking to conduct market research to support a range of business objectives, including testing new services, fine tuning its efforts to raise funds and ensuring its services meet end user requirements. At the same time, Compaid needed to conduct the research on a limited budget. Redshift proposed a mixed mode methodology of online research, secondary research, internal workshops and one to one interviews. The methodology was recommended to meet the desired objectives as cost effectively as possible. But the key difference was in the implementation of the research – Redshift’s role was concentrated on research design and targeted support, leaving large elements of the delivery of the research programme to employees at Compaid. Apart from meeting the desired scope of research within an acceptable budget, the approach maximised internal buy in to the research process and leveraged internal insight into the programme. Redshift delivered the external services which Compaid most needed (e.g. research design, questionnaire design and hosting an online survey, key stakeholder interviews, workshops, analysis and reporting), while providing advice, support and consultancy which enabled Compaid to learn as much as possible from the research process. Compaid conducted most of the one to one interviews themselves, and built the knowledge to conduct future interviews themselves, yet Redshift maintained a strong role in the analysis to maintain independent and objective thinking.
The approach undoubtedly saved significant research costs, but the increased knowledge shared and exploited within Compaid is much more difficult to put a value on. Any organisation, in principle, can benefit from using internal knowledge about its organisation and markets; the challenge is finding the best way to tap into that knowledge. Workshops and stakeholder interviews go some way to generating internal insight, but involving employees in the interviewing process with customers and stakeholders arguably exposes employees to a new level of market knowledge.
For research agencies, the idea of shifting the delivery of research projects on to the client organisation can be troubling. The first requirement is that the agency provides the benefit of their expertise, not only in research design and relevant research questionnaires, but crucially, the fundamentals of objectivity are locked into the whole process. This of course, places new challenges, in terms of agencies being able to provide all necessary support, and transferring knowledge to the client organisation. When you get it right the benefits are clear.
About the Author : Neil Cary is a director at Redshift Research.