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The use of Qualitative Research by Non-Profit Organisations

May kicked off with the first webinar of the series How can Qualitative Research support and inform a Non-Profit Organisation’s aims and objectives?  Speaker Sven Arn took insights from the research industry and explained how to address and understand different types of Donors.


It was fantastic to be a part of the kick-off for a new series of webinars set up by the ESOMAR Foundation to help and encourage non-profit organisations to use qualitative research. In our piece we focused on how principles of commercial marketing thinking (like the customer journey) can be translated effectively for non-profits for their communication with the general public and donors.

My co-speaker, Sonia Whitehead from BBC Media Action spoke about how qualitative research is used in actual development projects. Showing that qualitative approaches can be applicable in many different areas of non-profit activity.

Research for non-profit organisations, however, has its own particular set of challenges. These include

  1. Non-profits are driven by their principles and aims rather than by commerce so the very nature of ‘consumer’ research itself may be questioned.
  2. Because they are focused on effectiveness of their activities, they tend to be quite numbers driven and thus less inclined to use qualitative research.
  3. From the donor perspective, the concern that money is being spent on non-essentials rather than going to the projects and people that need it.

In the webinar we talked about how qualitative research can be an excellent reality check and lead to better decisions when it comes to addressing donors. In our experience we have often seen it invaluable in finding that fine line between creating reaction through impactful (and sometimes controversial) messaging rather than reactance.

Adjust claims using qual. research to better reach your target audience

In a recent project we conducted for a conservation organisation, we explored different claims that the organization is planning to introduce to support a new communications strategy. A small quantitative pre-check helped to separate out the strongest three claims, but it was only through qualitative research that we could understand which of the claims had the strongest potential to engage the audience.

Using storytelling research techniques we could explore how the claims worked in reassuring donors that their donation could really make a difference. This does not happen when communication is too optimistic and positive – but is equally endangered if the messaging is too drastic.

Qualitative research offers fantastic possibilities to explore individual reactions but also to set these in a social context. There is something fundamentally social in the relationship that people have with the non-profits they support, but the decision to become a donor is very personal. With qualitative research you can look at both sides of the donor experience and this can be invaluable in optimizing communication and messaging.

Methodologically there are a few considerations to bear in mind. First and foremost, it is important to get research participants on board. Careful explanation is required to avoid perceptions that money is not being wisely spent. This can elegantly be offset (and costs reduced) by offering participants the possibility to donate their incentives.

Traditional qualitative methods like focus groups can be a quick and easy way of exploring the audience’s perceptions and gauging reactions to ideas. Newer, collaborative methods such as co-creation sessions and online communities an excellent way to develop ideas and to engage different audiences and internal stakeholders. It also gives internal audiences a real sense of the point of view of the general public.

One thing we have learnt in translating marketing principles to the non-profit world is that these organisations need to engage fast and emotionally. The decision to support an organisation does not usually come from carefully considered reflection but is made relatively spontaneously.

In summary, qualitative research provides extremely valuable ways of identifying how to achieve this connection.

About the author

Sven Arn is Managing Director and Partner at Happy Thinking People in Germany. He has been with the company since 1991 and became Managing Director in 1997. His research focus is in international and cross-cultural research with a specific expertise in insight development, positioning and brand strategy.

Missed out the presentation? You can still check it here.

Interested to learn more about the topic? Join us for the next webinar!

What different Qualitative Approaches can be used to achieve various objectives?

The ESOMAR Foundation continues the series “How can Qualitative Research support and inform a Non-Profit Organisation’s aims and objectives?” with a new webinar. The second webinar of the series will identify and tackle different Qualitative Approaches that can be used to achieve various objectives. The online event will take place on 26th of July.

The ESOMAR Foundation is embracing qualitative methods as a means to improve the impact of NGO’s. With the knowledge and support of the many qualified researchers in this discipline, the ESOMAR Foundation wants to build an offer of online training webinars to advance knowledge of NGO’s in this discipline and to showcase the outcome of great research.

An overview of the different qualitative approaches

One of the things that non-researchers can find confusing is to understand the different qualitative techniques and what they are best used for.

–        When exactly should you use depth interviews versus a focus group?

–        What is the difference between ethnographic research and qualitative research? And when is ethnographic research appropriate?

–        And if qualitative research is about ‘really’ understanding people through observing body language and identifying unspoken triggers and drivers … how can it be done properly online? When is it appropriate to do qualitative research online?

Experts from the NFP world and market research agencies will share their experience of using ethnography to bring to life the situation (e.g.) Street Invest’s work to change donors and the public’s perception of and attitude to Street Children. Of using Focus Groups and In-depth interviews to develop the actual communications and get the best out of media strategy. Aiming to make the best of online qualitative approaches.



How can Qualitative Research support and inform a Non-Profit Organisation’s aims and objectives?

The ESOMAR Foundation launches a series of webinars to advance knowledge of Qualitative Research for Not for Profit organisations and to showcase the outcome of great research. The first webinar of the series will be held on 23 May.

There is demand for training, to get a better understanding of NFPs need for research, and what research really can do for them.

This series of Webinars will provide a better understanding of why NFPs should be doing more qualitative research as well as provide hands-on learning of the different types of qualitative tools and what they can be used for both offline and online, including social media.

The first webinar will focus on research which will help you identify your different audiences and develop and hone your messages to address each of them.

The webinar will feature:


Sonia Whitehead

Sonia Whitehead, Head of Research, BBC Media Action, will describe their aims, identifying the audience, and give examples of learnings and outcomes from research.

Sven Arn

Sven Arn, Managing Director and Partner, Happy Thinking People, will focus on how to understand donors  – their decision processes, barriers, touchpoints, the total ‘donor experience’ – and then taking the insights from the research to understand how to address different types of Donors.

Phyllis Macfarlane

Phyllis Macfarlane, Treasurer, ESOMAR Foundation, will moderate the Session.



It’s amazing how time flies!

This is the fifth blog from Nutsa Kvitashvili who is following the BA Program of Sociology at Caucasus School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Nutsa is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation Scholarship sponsored by Inizio.

I finished the first semester of my senior year at Caucasus University and this semester was probably my favorite of all because I had subjects which were very interesting and exciting for me, that’s why I wrote my final exams pretty well.  By the way this year is Caucasus University’s 20 year anniversary, so this year we will have a lot of fun activities and events and I’m looking forward to it.

It’s amazing how time flies when you are doing things that you like. Four years ago I became a student at Caucasus University, it seems like it was just a few weeks ago but now I’m in my last semester. Those four years at CU (Caucasus University) were educational and also fun. I met new people and most of them are my friends now, I got to do a lot of fun activities, visit university events and parties and just enjoying student life to the fullest. Besides all the fun being in your last semester is tough because you have more responsibilities and a lot of decisions to make. For example, where should I work? Or should I get my master degree first? Where is it better to get a master degree? In Georgia or maybe in Europe? Which university? Which major should I choose? And there are many questions like this which every senior year student should ask their selves and make these life-changing decisions which could be hard for them. Students start to realize that their academic journey which began when they first started school is now ending. Starting a new chapter in your life can be terrifying because we don’t always know what should we expect from the future. But at the same time with changes come a lot of great opportunities for young adults. The end of something is not necessarily a bad thing, it means that something new is starting and who knows maybe this new journey would be more interesting. American author Caroline Myss once said, “always go with a choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.”


About My Life

This is the fifth blog-post from Paola Loy Villagran, the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in Guatemala. 

During these days I am taking final exams in the first trimester, waiting for the best results to enjoy the summer holidays.

We followed a course called Operations Research, a discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions, so we can improve time, costs and customer service processes. We can use these applications in airlines, manufacturing companies, service organizations and many others. Hopefully I will be able to implement some of these methods in my own business in the future.

Easter Week in Guatemala

Among other things, as I mentioned in my last blog, Guatemala has a mix of Mayan and Christian traditions that allow us to unite in faith and family. And since we are so close to the celebration I would like to tell you a little about them.

One of the most important, that reminds me my childhood is making carpets.

There are two types of carpets that are made during Easter Week in Guatemala: The carpets along the processional route, made by residents who invite friends and family to assist them, and the carpets in the churches that are made for the holy vigils by the brotherhoods.

Carpets of “Semana Santa” in Guatemala, the greatest expression of art.

On Good Friday the streets of Guatemala are covered with natural, aromatic carpets of flowers, pines, clover and fruits, which the residents put together and place in front of their homes. There are all kinds and shapes, some of them are very long, even up to a kilometer, with colonial and original designs and usually they are made during the 24 hours prior to the procession.

Families making carpets

And because of the intense detail and amount of time dedicated to their creation, they are meant to be destroyed once the processions pass. This is a way for the people to give something of themselves in memory of Christ’s death.

Also, during this month my family and I attend a special event organized by Avon Foundation for Women, with the purpose to educate and mobilize people worldwide on issues that are of vital importance to women like breast cancer education and ending violence against women.

My Family and I during the Avon Race

“Violence against women and girls hides in the shadow of silence” they said during the event, so I think we all must support these activities and help others to develop and implement policies that promote gender equality.

Nicolin reflects on her new life post studies

Nicolin Mamuya, who was granted the first ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in South Africa, has now finished her studies at the University of Johannesburg and is now working as a graduate trainee in the consumer insights and innovation department of a retail company. The company has also arranged for all trainees to complete a post-graduate diploma in business management. So she is basically working while going to school.

We are already 3 months into the year and so much has happened. I finally moved out of the place that I last lived in with my mother. It was such a big step, however; it was what I needed to remind myself that I am actually growing. After all, with growth comes change. I have gained confidence due to how far I have come and my future goals are only becoming clearer as time goes. I only have God to thank for all the opportunities I have been blessed with.

I have also started frequently watching inspirational videos seeing as there really is no formula for this life. One of the interesting videos by Jim Rohn in 1981, provided great food for thought. He mentioned that unless you change how you are, you will always remain with what you have. He continues to state that success is something you attract, not what you pursue. Self-development is, therefore, important. You can start by changing your attitude and then after, understand all you can do through “childish curiosity”. Childish curiosity means that you should not be skeptical but rather be as curious as a child. Jim Rohn highlights the importance of having childish faith i.e., believing easily. This concentrates on easily believing in your abilities.

There is so much that he looked into, however, the one thing that seems to summarise all he said is that everything depends on you. We should, therefore, not blame but rather learn to take responsibility.


Cambodian Scholarship Awarded by ESOMAR Foundation, Women In Research and Unilever

Scholarship goal reached for Esther Tot in Cambodia to pursue the English-based Bachelor Degree program in International Business at National University of Management, Cambodia





15 January 2018 – Amsterdam, NL – Esther Tot of Cambodia was the latest recipient of a scholarship funded through a partnership of the ESOMAR Foundation, a charitable organization representing the market research industry, global non-profit Women in Research (WIRe) and Unilever. Tot will be pursuing an English-based Bachelor Degree program in International Business at the National University of Management (NUM), Cambodia.

“We are so pleased to see the market research community continue to see the value in funding scholarships in economically challenged regions, the latest being in Cambodia. This scholarship will provide Esther the opportunity to pursue her studies in order to enter a rewarding career in market research.” says John Kearon, President, ESOMAR Foundation, “Our partnership with WIRe and Unilever is incredibly valuable in investing in future talent like Esther.”

The recipient, Esther Tot, is a Cambodian native from a disadvantaged socio-economic background. Through the scholarship, Esther will have the opportunity to pursue her degree and a future career in market research. Through funding the education of women like Esther, the organizations involved help to advance the voice of minority women in the market research industry.

Women in Research (WIRe) raised the funding for the scholarship through outreach to their global community, and funds raised were supported by a matching donation from Unilever. WIRe is the only non-profit organization solely dedicated to the advancement of women in the market research industry, providing career development and educational opportunities for women while supporting gender diversity initiatives. Unilever, a global consumer goods company with a strong focus on charitable initiatives—especially in emerging markets—matched the WIRe community’s contribution dollar for dollar to the scholarship fund.

“The ESOMAR Foundation scholarship initiative aligns perfectly with our goal of advancing the contributions and voice of women in research.” says Kristin Luck, founder of Women in Research. “Ongoing support from our community for these types of scholarship programs reinforces that arming women with the tools they need for success is of great importance to our global community. We are so pleased to be able to help Esther achieve her educational goals.”

Based on the success of this Scholarship program, ESOMAR Foundation and WIRe plan to continue to collaborate in 2018 to fund additional scholarship initiatives in emerging or disadvantaged markets.

About ESOMAR Foundation
ESOMAR Foundation is a charitable Foundation representing the Market, Social and Opinion Research industry. Our industry has a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be applied to every aspect of society to ensure a more transparent, reliable and sustainable world. The ESOMAR Foundation is the charity arm of ESOMAR, the global industry association of market, social and opinion research. http://www.esomarfoundation.org

About Women in Research 
Women in Research (WIRe) is the only non-profit organization solely dedicated to the advancement of women in the market research industry, supporting educational programming and networking events across five continents. WIRe programming also facilitates leadership, entrepreneurship, mentoring and other career development goals. WIRe’s mission is to advance the contributions and voice of women in research, both for themselves and the greater good of the market research industry. www.womeninresearch.org


Media Contact: Jessica Sage, jessica@womeninresearch.org

Make every moment worth remembering

This is the fourth blog-post from Paola Loy Villagran, the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in Guatemala. 

I am glad to confirm that I completed the first year of studies. Thank God, grades were good but I must admit that it was quite a challenge. I followed a statistics class with a pretty demanding teacher, so I was very busy between exams, group work, homeworks, tutorials and many others.

Honestly, everything was for a good reason because I learned a lot about statistics theories, probabilities techniques using mathematics and above all how to make decisions based on data. It was a year of much learning and profersional growth. I am very excited about the new courses and challenges that are coming.

In my personal life, I admit that Christmas is my favorite time of the year, I love to spend time with my family and friends. In Guatemala, it is celebrated in a specific way because we have many religious and old traditions that people respect, like:

 “Quema del diablo,” or “the burning of the devil,” that occurs every December 7th. Piñatas designed to be the devil are burned as a symbol of releasing any negative energy or letting go of any bad things from the past year.

“Posada” a procession that symbolizes the journey that Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night, a wooden float with the statues of Mary and Joseph is carried to three different houses. At the first two houses, a part of the group in the procession enters the house and performs a dialogue; those carrying the float are denied entrance, symbolizing those who turned away Mary and Joseph. At the third house, Mary and Joseph are allowed to enter and are placed in a designated area, generally by the Nativity scene.

 “Nacimiento” the Nativity Scene is the central piece of Christmas decorations in Guatemala. If the Nativity Scene dolls are big enough, the baby Jesus is formally dressed in a white gown on New Year’s Day.

During this time, I also had the opportunity to help a friend I met years ago, but the interesting thing about this story is that he and other friends formed a nonprofit organization called “Heroes of Happiness” with the objective of helping families living in situations of poverty in the country. Especially in this time of sharing and helping people in need we organized activities for children from various communities so they could share with Santa and receive a gift.

Children waiting for Santa!
Families receiving bags of food.

In addition to that, we also prepared bags with food so that people can have a better nutrition during these months. Our next project is to build houses so that people in need can live in a better place and prevent fires and diseases caused by drastic temperature changes.

Houses destroyed by fire in a poor community.

Happy New Year to all, I wish all your dreams come true. Make this new year full of joy, peace and purpose.


How you can support Paola

If you wish to support Paola and be the donor of this scholarship, we would be happy to connect and provide you more information. Please contact: info@esomarfoundation.org

How you can support in your country

If you are a market researcher, a national market research association, an NGO involved in research or a university interested in a scholarship in your country please contact us at info@esomarfoundation.org

Partners & Sponsors

We are always on the lookout for partners and sponsors. If you are an organisation looking to understand more on how you can support us, please find more information here or contact:  info@esomarfoundation.org 



How to make a difference and bring out the holiday spirit!

This is the fourth blog from Nutsa Kvitashvili who is following the BA Program of Sociology at Caucasus School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Nutsa is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation Scholarship sponsored by Inizio.

I’m halfway through the first semester of my 4th year at Caucasus University and everything is going pretty well. I wrote my last midterm few days ago so it was a busy month for me. In this semester I study very interesting subjects such as sociology of education, sociology of religion and so on but sociology of arts and visual sociology are my favorite subjects. I have great lecturers in every subject. It’s my senior year in university, so during classes we are more focused on discussions and seminars rather than quizzes. The homeworks are so interesting that I’m reading them like an adventure book.

Every year my university (Caucasus University) has a lot of fun activities during the holiday season to cheer up students. In the hallway we have charity boxes so students can put warm clothes, toys, Christmas trees and food in them, and all those things will be donated to children’s orphanage and to the families with social vulnerabilities. This kind of activities really make a difference and brings out the holiday spirit.

Also, we have activities like Secret Santa which is a Christmas game. If you want to be a part of this game you have to register on the site and each registered student will receive a name but doesn’t tell which name they got and after registration they are responsible for the gift for the person they received. All the gifts are placed in a general area for opening at a designated time and each recipient then finds out who their Secret Santa is. Students, university managers and workers are participating in this game so this time of the year in our university is filled with a holiday atmosphere.

I finished my midterm exams so now I’m looking forward to holiday vacations. This year I will spend new year with my family and my friends at the holiday dinner. Christmas is a time for making new memories, cherish friends, family and it’s the season of loving and sharing the spirit of the holiday season. I want to wish a merry Christmas and a happy new year to you, may this new year bring you peace, love, joy and happiness for you and your loved ones.

How you can support

If you are a market researcher, a national market research association, an NGO involved in research or a university interested in a scholarship in your country please contact us at info@esomarfoundation.org

Partners & Sponsors

We are always on the lookout for partners and sponsors. If you are an organisation looking to understand more on how you can support us, please find more information here or contact:  info@esomarfoundation.org




To a More Sustainable World Through Education

Dilek Ozler thoughts on her experience as a volunteer trainer at a series of workshops run in Sri Lanka on behalf of the ESOMAR Foundation



Dilek Ozler is Sr. Consumer & Market Insight Manager, People Data Center at Unilever and Executive Coordinator, Paragon Partnerships

One of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among the 17 that got adopted by all UN member countries unanimously in September of 2015 is “Quality Education”.  In fact, when the citizens of Developing Countries are polled to express the SDG that most matters to them and their families, “Goal #4: Quality Education” consistently comes up at the top.  It all starts with education!

Paragon Partnerships

In my view, the second most important SDG is “Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals”.  Nobody can single handedly implement the goals on their own.  It all requires alliances, partnerships and working with others to find the best way to implement the SDGs in the short time frame that we have until it is too late for our world.  That is why, I decided to commit part of my time and brain power to Paragon Partnerships.  Paragon is an organization spearheaded by our CMI EVP Stan Sthanunathan, with the sole purpose of helping UN, Governments, Academia and NGOs with the measurement of progress and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is a global network of market research companies and their clients coming together to provide pro-bono market research assistance in the shape of consultancy, training, ad-hoc researches, or adding questions to the already running questionnaires.  And I am privileged to be running it globally, trying to bring demand and supply together to help with SDGs.

Training the Market Research Society of Sri Lanka

In late November, I found the opportunity to volunteer at an activity that brings these 2 SDGs together.  In collaboration with ESOMAR Foundation, I co-facilitated a workshop to train the researchers of Market Research Society of Sri Lanka (MRSS), representing Paragon and Unilever.  The main purpose was to provide education to researchers in Sri Lanka that do not have the local resources or experience to deliver training themselves, with the ultimate objective of having more non-profit sector/NGOs come to them with market research requests; and hence help with SDGs.

The whole experience was one to remember and the 20-hour flight from New York City to Colombo was well worth it!  The facility where the training was held was right by the Indian Ocean, with unforgettable sunset views.  And, I was impressed to see the level of patriotism and the loyalty that the Sri Lankans have towards their country.  The 2-day training workshop kicked off with everyone singing the Sri Lankan national anthem, followed by the most memorable moment of oil lamp lighting ceremony.  The Exco of the MRSS, the ESOMAR Foundation representative (Phyllis Macfarlane) and I took turns lighting a tall oil lamp, which was brought to the venue for this purpose.  According to Sri Lankan tradition, it signifies “joining and becoming one”, which was quite appropriate to the overall objective.  We trained, in total, around 100 researchers during the course of the 2 days, and they were all in their best outfits throughout, with the female Exco members in their beautiful and colorful saris.

The hospitality and willingness to help of everyone I met in Sri Lanka was notable.  The delegates were coming from different market research agencies, all with varying degrees of experience.  And the most heartening thing was to see the enthusiasm and the attention they showed throughout the 2 days.

Upskilling researchers

The agenda for the training was split by Qualitative vs. Quantitative research, each through the lens of how to ensure quality market research, telling stories with data, and getting insights that are actionable.  There was also focus on the future of market research, where we touched upon topics like online research, using Social Media and Big Data, as well as using Video for impact on decision making, and Behavioral Economics.  The feedback we got was that their experience was truly inspiring and eye opening. The researchers were enthused to try out new things and embrace the changes that are taking place.  And I feel we have made them more aware of the shifts that are occurring in the global market research space.  And I was pleasantly surprised in the last day of the workshop when the MRSSS Exco showed us the newspaper article on Sri Lanka Daily Financial Times that featured us and the whole event.  That was definitely an assurance that our contributions were truly appreciated.

I also had the chance to meet Sajeevani Hewage, the CMI Manager in Unilever Sri Lanka, who helped us with her contributions in terms of learnings and case studies during this event.

NGOs and charities

I feel so lucky to be part of this experience!  While I helped improve the skill level of market researchers in a developing country, I also contributed in increasing their likelihood to provide help to NGOs, and charities.  These NGOs and charities are all working towards goals that are very much aligned with SDGs, i.e. women`s wellbeing, etc.  And therefore, through this activity I feel I ultimately helped with the SDGs. The additional bonus we got was also the fact that by upskilling these researchers, we were also making sure they provide higher quality market research to Unilever as their client!

All-in-all it was a great experience and I am so grateful that my organization and my leadership management supported me in this journey!

Our thanks go to The Sri Lankan Market Research Association, Himalee Madurasinghe, ESOMAR Representative and CEO Kantar Sri Lanka; Roshani Fernando, COO at Quantum Consumer Solutions for making this new ESOMAR Foundation training session a success!