Better Directions with Better Results

Why should the market research industry help the non-profit sector measure impact?

NGOs are facing increasing pressure from donors to better measure results and show the effectiveness and the real impact of their work. More effective ways of measuring results is necessary to help non-profit organisations and funding entities to better plan their projects, improve progress, increase impact and enhance learning. With an estimated global spend of over US$350 billion per annum on development programmes by bilateral, multilateral, and not-for-profit organisations, improvements in result measurement has the potential to deliver benefits worth many millions of dollars.

When it comes to measuring results, there are some common challenges among non-profit organisations relying on donor support:

  • Growing demand to measure results and impact
  • Dissatisfaction with the use of findings to improve the delivery of new programmes
  • Resourcing as an important constraint for many organisations
  • Adoption of new technologies is lagging. Use of innovative technologies is in general low. The most widely used techniques are in fact quite basic (Log Frame, KPIs and Focus Groups).

Lack of access to quality data and financial restrictions are the key impediments to improving M&E systems (Measurement and Evaluation.)

We believe that there are great synergies between the skills and knowledge of the market, social and opinion research industry and these NGO challenges.

This is not a novelty – social research methods are often applied to help civil society organisations better understand their audience and measure results. ESOMAR Foundation wants to contribute and broaden the collaboration between the non-profit world and the industry as we believe great value can be added.

Why is market, social and opinion research important to the non-profit sector?

We believe that professional market research methods should be used to understand poor people as customers and to determine what they really need and what they can afford to pay for certain goods and services and to answer many more questions. This can be applied on many different fields where the non-profit sector work to reduce poverty, e.g.



An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, which is more than 35% of the world’s population. The consequence of this is, among other things that an estimated 800,000 children younger than 5 years of age die from diarrhea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of inappropriate sanitation facilities and clean water. For this reason improved sanitation is high up on the agenda for most donors and aid workers. Also entrepreneurs and the private sector try to come up with innovative and sustainable solutions to sanitation products in developing countries. Challenges they face are affordability as well lack of understanding on hygiene and sanitation. Questions that can be answered through social and market research are: How do people in a certain socio-economic groups use sanitary equipment? What are their needs? How much can they afford to pay? Is there currently a real demand or must the need first be created through education and information campaigns?



Seventy-five per cent of the world’s poorest people – 1.4 billion women, children and men – live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. Food security and food production are key in international development and the efforts made to eradicate poverty. Market research plays an important role in understanding the needs of the market both from a supply and demand side. Market research can play an important role understanding the supply and demand of goods and services in different markets and regions. For example, the use of fertilizers is key in scaling up and optimising the agricultural industry in developing countries. Yet, many difficulties arise when public and private organisations are trying to sell, distribute and apply fertilizers due to lack of funding, poor infrastructure and knowledge. Market and social researchers could play an important role trying to understand the purchase power, needs and understanding of using fertilizer in the agricultural sector in these countries.



In developing countries, breaking the vicious circle of poverty and ill health is an essential condition for economic development. A third of the world’s population currently lacks adequate access to quality health care, including medicines. To tackle these issues, a pro-poor approach is required, which includes improving governance, strengthening the delivery and quality of health services, reaching vulnerable groups, developing more effective partnerships with the private sector, and designing health financing mechanisms. Market research plays an important role in all of the above mentioned areas. Market research can help organisations better understand the needs of consumers/patients and which products and services to offer to make the concept of healthy behaviour change attractive to consumers. For example, a market research study can help answering questions like: What health care projects are needed in a certain region? What are the obstacle for a certain group of people receiving or getting access to medication that is available? By getting more accurate information about consumer’s needs the help from organisations, but also health care providers can be used and directed more efficiently.

What kind of support we give

ESOMAR Foundation works with Panels of Experts that consist of well-regarded members and partners from the social, market and opinion research industry. The overall objective of the Panel is to establish best practice for the non-profit sector to measure results. Our Panel of Experts does not implement entire projects, for example we will not carry out a research study on behalf of an NGO. Rather, they oversee the implementation of a project carried out by the applying/selected organisation by giving best practice advice. Examples of what advice  the Panel of expert  can give:

      • Assess projects, methodologies and results
      • Recommendation of best methodology and/or technology to apply e.g. Sample:  design, size, coverage etc. Data collection: questionnaire content and data collection method; Analysis: variables to be included in segmentation, statistical method to be used etc.
      • Advise on improvements of applied methodology
      • Best Practice on how to communicate the results internally and ‘bring them to life’
      • Best Practice on how to implement/use the results

Our Roster of experts

In addition to our Panel of experts, we also have a Roster of expert that we can draw on when we need certain specialists or support for certain projects. Our Roster of expert consists of representatives from our industry with an interest or skills that is relevant to our projects.

We are always looking for researchers to be part of our Roster of expert. If you are interested, please send your CV and a short motivation letter to :

Application & Selection of projects

We are open to receive applications at all times. Organisations are asked to submit a concept note that will be reviewed by our team and our panel of experts.
If you are an NGO who is interested in applying or a market researcher who would like to get involved, please contact us at:

If you want to learn more about our work or how market and social researchers can support non-profit organisations you can find interesting information on the ESOMAR Foundation Better Results Programme.