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Plan International

Designing a new product to increase donor retention for a global movement

The Challenge

Help an international nonprofit retain more donors.

The Insight

Testing showed that engaged supporters would give 3x more — and there was room to drive more engagement.

The Solution

A new product that strengthens relationships with over 800,000 existing donors around the world by creating a personalised experience based on donor history.

The leading child sponsorship organisation, Plan International, needed to grow donor retention among new and active donors.

Plan International works to connect over 700,000 children to committed donors via letter writing an initiative that had been in place for over 80 years. We needed to consider how to bring this into the digital world through product design, taking audiences on the journey with us. 

Blue State helped Plan strategise, design, prototype, test and pilot a new web app to deepen relationships with donors. We leveraged audience insights, existing data and technology to create a mobile-first, tailored, emotional storytelling experience. 

We learned that 61% of sponsors wanted to understand how their donation was making a difference and 38% wanted to find new ways to get involved and show their support.

As a large global organisation, Plan International needed to develop the product for a wide range of audiences around the world. With this in mind, Blue State designed and led a series of customized facilitations to learn about Plan’s diverse audience needs. Over 12 markets took part including Norway, France, Canada, USA, Japan and the UK. The initiative serves as a large value add for the programme countries, enabling them to dedicate their time to programme work, especially throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Collection of black and white photos over blue background, featuring workshop sessions with Plan International

We quickly realised this wasn’t just about one standalone project, but about creating a new program that would allow the organisation to test new ways to engage and build relationships with supporters.  So, in collaboration with the client,  we developed a testing plan with sponsorship as the first priority to improve donor engagement with this engagement opportunity.

Following this immersion phase, our strategy and design team conducted feature prioritisation exercises and ideation to develop a prototype. The final prototype design not only deepened the ties between sponsor and child, but also elevated Plan International’s brand by integrating content and experiences that showcased the organisation and all the positive work they continue to do.

By pulling data from various sources (central child data, CRM data file, Front-End React and CSS), the app individualises the relationship between sponsor and child using personalised data. These include interaction logs, updates on the child’s living conditions and country-specific cultural information including current affairs, music and events.

Supporters can also learn about their sponsored child’s community and projects their donation is supporting. They can learn about the experiences of other sponsors and read about current crises. They can connect in new ways by listening to music and cooking recipes popular in their recipient’s region. And, crucially, once engaged, they are encouraged to donate and further their support.

This was the first of its kind for Plan International an experience led by audience and digital design.

Not only does the new web app add value to sponsors’ lives, but it also individualises and enriches the quality of the relationship Plan International holds with its most important people.

New, exciting, and hugely valuable”

Grace Pease, Sponsorship Digital Product Owner, Plan International

Beyond the prototype

Once the prototype was tested, we reviewed the feedback from users and Plan International’s global teams and fundraising offices to update the UX and design accordingly.

We then launched the pilot web app, working closely with marketing, sponsorship and IT teams to allow the site to work with local infrastructure as well as on a national scale. This will serve as a guide for all other fundraising offices in the countries Plan International serves. It was also vital during this development stage to ensure that the global team would be able to manage the overarching system, taking into account the different languages used across their local offices.

Our work has laid the foundation for a new app that positions Plan International to its donors as a vital nexus for aid, advocacy, education, and cultural connection. 

Collection of statistics overlayed on an image of a small child holding a water canister.


  • 12 Markets where initial pilot testing was conducted
  • 18 Fundraising Offices looking to adopt the product
  • 100,00 Sponsors
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