Customer Relationship Marketing: Plan International

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Executive Summary

This report focuses on Customer Relationship Marketing within Plan International as a not-for-profit organization. The study was done to determine how Plan International engages itself in taking care of its donors, volunteer workers, affiliate organizations, programs of the staff and also its relationship with the community which is the organization’s main reason of existence. The study also focused on the criteria used by Plan International in the process of doing its Customer Relationship Marketing and whether it engages its partners on long term or short-term basis.

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Major Findings

  • Plan international engages with its partners on both short term and long term basis
  • Plan international produces annual reports every year and present them to its partners
  • Plan international works closely with local leaders to reach the community members
  • The organization has highly qualified experts trained to portray its good image
  • It partners with other corporate and government organizations to achieve its mission
  • Plan International has a scheme of motivating its staff members including volunteers
  • Plan International uses various methods in reaching out to its donors and partners
  • The organization uses similar strategies used by any other nonprofit organization in Customer Relationship Marketing

Recommendations

  • Plan International should decentralize its decision making to its subsidiary organizations
  • The organization should concentrate its work with totally orphaned children

Introduction

Objectives

The objective of the study was to determine; first, whether Plan International is engaged in Customer Relationship Marketing or not. The second, in case it does, the study also wanted to find out how the organization achieves this.

Background of Plan International

Plan is one of the many existing Not-for-profit organizations that deal with children. It has been in existence for the past more than seventy years. The organization operates in a total of 48 third-world nations located in Africa, America, and Asia (Luce, 1990). Plan International has no religious, political affiliation or relationship with the government. Plan International helps children, the youths and the adult people to acquire knowledge and be able to discover and achieve their potential. It also focuses on health matters, protecting children from violence, assisting with the issues of water and sanitation, economic activities and also in times of emergency needs. Plan International makes use of volunteers to meet its mission and objectives. Plan International is registered and incorporated as a charity organization in the United Kingdom (Davis, 2000).

Literature Review

How Value Is Managed Through Different Donor Segments

Customer Relationship Marketing is important to both profit-oriented and not-for-profit organizations. This is the roadmap to establishing good relationships between an organization and its stakeholders. Customer Relationship Marketing can beneficially be used by the nonprofit organizations in attracting new partners and retaining the existing ones over long term or depending on the term of engagements. An organization’s partners can be categorized into three groups: there are partners who are satisfied with the activities of the organizations. This group of partners is always loyal and supportive to a nonprofit organization’s activities (Sargeant, 2004). Another group consists of partners who are indifferent; they are never much concerned with what goes on within the organization. They may include partners who engage with nonprofit organizations just for a short while or just make one-time resource donations and de-link themselves from the organization. The last group contains partners who might have felt disappointed by a nonprofit organization or any corporate organization. This type of partner always withdraws its support or funding from the nonprofit organizations.

The nonprofit organizations depend so much on donations from their partners since, in most if not all cases, they do not engage in profit-making activities. All the financial and other resource donations they get-go into charity work (Vedder, 2007). They therefore depend so much on donor partners for their operations. Therefore, there is a crucial need for these organizations to come up with mechanisms of attracting and retaining both international and local partners (Vedder, 2007). Most nonprofit organizations have adopted the use of Customer Relationship Marketing to ensure they meet their goals and objectives. The current growth in technology has facilitated the approach or intention to target, identity, acquire, and retain some of the best mix partners and donors by the nonprofit organizations (Foss& Stone, 2002). The use of Customer Relationship Marketing has helped many nonprofit organizations in making the profiles of their prospect, comprehending the various demands of their partners and establishing strong relationships with them by proper utilization of donated resources. The Customer Relationship Marketing helps the organizations to present their own clean profiles to both existing and potential partners (Foss& Stone, 2002).

Majority of nonprofit organizations have their department with sole task of dealing with the image of the organizations in public. These departments are sometimes referred to as media relations departments, campaign departments or just communications departments. The choice is according to the nonprofit profit organizations’ preferences. Within the limited resource at their disposal, nonprofit organizations have become innovative in creating partnership support for their courses (Greenberg, 2004). They have engaged in Customer Relationship Marketing through the use of blogs, social networking sites like twitter, facebook, and Misplace. With the growing number of nonprofit organizations, the competition amongst them becomes stiff and their source of funds and other resources are diminishing. To be able to enjoy competitive advantage the organizations always try to make effective use of Customer Relationship Marketing. This strategy enables them to remain noticeable in the public domain. In some cases most of these organizations have established alliances among them in order to get collective funding (Plan International, 2010).

The donors are mostly business-oriented entities; they are therefore, usually concerned with every detail on how their donated funds are used by the beneficiary nonprofit organizations. To maintain lasting relationships with these donors, nonprofit organizations have kept well audited financial statements that are presented to the existing and potential donors to prove their steadfastness. These statements communicate to the donors how their funds are used. The nonprofit organizations can also enlist the services of their partners through the use of personalized address labels as strategies for Customer Relationship Marketing. This strategy is relatively more effective than others; however, it is very expensive and cannot be afforded by many nonprofit organizations. In many cases it leads to short-term donors (Malbin, 2006).

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Nonprofit organizations, in many cases, use the strategies adopted by profit-oriented corporations in establishing relationships with their partners and donors. The organizations have made use of billboards on which they clearly state their missions and objective statements, they have used posters some on which they indicate their accomplishments and ongoing or future projects; they have also used the print, radio and television media through which they advertise their courses and appeal for resource donation in the process. Another strategy that has been used by most nonprofit organizations is the use of tee shirts. They have managed to produce very attractive tee shirts on which their missions, visions and slogans are printed. These tee shirts are mostly used during events that champion their courses. In fact the organization of various relevant events has helped the nonprofit organizations to establish contacts and attract new donors to contribute in support of their courses (Malbin, 2006).

The current technology has provided many nonprofit organizations to use software-based Customer Relationship Marketing which has enhanced their contacts with their potential and existing donors. Some of this software is tailor-made for the nonprofit environment. An example of the available software for performing Customer Relationship Marketing online is the TeamRaiser. This kind of software is designed to enhance the recruitment of new participants, optimize event revenues; this also helps to motivate the event participants to be loyal during an event. The organizations can also use such software to establish event sites for greetings, modifiable online registration forms. The features of this software permit the contributors or partners to make personal pages for raising funds by use of emails and shared media to tap into their individual networks to engage other contributors and raise funds (Suchlicki, 2003).

The mobile usage as part of nonprofit organizations’ strategy for Customer Relationship Marketing has gained high momentum. The organizations engage the commitment of supporters and fundraisers to mobilize funds and all other forms of support. The nonprofit organizations have embraced the use of mobile phones also in carrying out their outreach programs. Nowadays donors can make their donations through short message services without having to engage face-to-face with the nonprofit organizations. Normally, the organizations collaborate with mobile phone companies in order to successfully receive donations through mobile phones. Apart from using mobile phones to appeal for funds, the nonprofit organizations also use them for campaign purposes. On many occasions, mobile services providers have attached certain campaign messages to their information intended for their customers (Goehring, 2007). This has become one of the effective ways through which the nonprofit organizations reach many individuals at personal level. An example where mobile phone was used in enlisting support and donations was the case of Haiti after the earthquake. Many donations and assistance were made through the phone after a high magnitude earthquake hit the country. Nonprofit organizations are still coming up with various strategies for carrying out Customer Relationship Marketing.

How Customers Weigh Up Benefits and Sacrifices

Many corporate organizations are willing to engage in various community activities. In fact some companies and business entities have departments of community social responsibilities through which they give back to the society. There are some of these corporations that prefer to partner with the nonprofit organizations to realize this mission. They always want their sacrifices to be used for their intended projects. In fact some of these corporations always identify the nonprofit organizations they trust and specify to them the specific projects the donations must be used for (Machtynger, 2000). This kind of donation is known as designated funds. Some nonprofit organizations come up with project proposals and request the donors some funds for implementation. The partners or donors always scrutinize the project proposals and determine the authenticity of such projects before committing their funds to them.

There are indeed some nonprofit organizations that have been reported to misappropriate funds hence losing the trust of donors. Some of the customers may be willing to donate their efforts and finances but due to their mistrust, they may not give donate. Needless to say, many committed donors and partners always identify one nonprofit organization they trust and regularly give their donations (Machtynger, 2000).

How Not-For-Profits Benefit From Donor Retention

Retention of donors by nonprofit organizations has many benefits. The nonprofit organizations have access to regular sources of funding and are therefore able to concentrate on their core businesses. Most organizations that have no retained donors always spend a good percentage of their limited resources looking for new donors who may not be easy to come by due to very tight competition in the third sector. Such organizations never have adequate time to concentrate on their core businesses. When nonprofit organizations retain their donors, they are able to establish trust over time. The organizations will take their time to prove to their donors their stewardship and may not need to have elaborate project proposals to convince their retained donors to provide them with funds. Retaining such donors also make them loyal to the nonprofit organization. Both the donor and the organization are able to establish partnership agreement so that the organization knows the amount to receive at a given time and from which source or donor. This will also reduce the cost of following up pledges that sometimes may not be honored or may be paid late. With the knowledge of the regular sources of funds the nonprofit organizations can draw their annual plans early enough to allow time for their implementations.

Methodology

The research was done by use of qualitative method. A stratified sampling of 80 respondents was done in which 20 of them were selected at random amongst the top management of Plan International and the remaining 60 were also randomly selected other members of the staff.

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Hypothesis

The hypothesis provides the research study with a narrowed focal point to be analyzed about how Plan International carries out Customer Relationship Marketing. The selection of hypothesis was guided by the results literature review which focused on finding the information that already exists on how different nonprofit organizations engage in Customer Relationship Marketing. The hypothesis that was used in this study is what study sought to either prove to be true or false;

“The successful operations of nonprofit organizations are dependent on their engagement in Customer Relationship Marketing.”

Questionnaire Design

The data used in the study of Plan International was collected through structured questionnaires. The following questions were used in the questionnaires:

Does Plan International do Customer Relationship Marketing?  Yes…… No……

If “Yes” is it done through

  • specialized department
  • As need arises

If “No” briefly explain the reasons…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

If you answered question two, list the forms in which Plan International does its Customer Relationship Marketing (e.g. use of internet etc)

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Does Plan International retain its donors and partners? Yes…….. No……..

If “Yes” list only five benefits

  1. ……………………………………………
  2. ……………………………………………
  3. ……………………………………………
  4. ……………………………………………
  5. ……………………………………………

If “No” then list only five challenges associated with this.

  1. …………………………………………….
  2. …………………………………………….
  3. …………………………………………….
  4. ……………………………………………..
  5. ……………………………………………..

In the process of undertaking Customer Relationship Marketing, does Plan International seek to establish a partnership with other organizations? Yes…….. No………

If “Yes” then mention only 6 of such organizations

  1. ……………………………………………
  2. ……………………………………………
  3. ……………………………………………
  4. ……………………………………………
  5. ……………………………………………
  6. ……………………………………………

Data Collection

Questionnaires were administered to 80 staff members of Plan International. 20 of them were at the management level while the remaining 60 were either field workers or subordinate staff. Some of the questionnaires were answered online by the respondents who could not be reached physically. Others were administered directly by field assistants. The process of data collection took two weeks after which the questionnaires were returned for analysis.

The Analysis of Data

The data collected from the field were qualitatively analyzed. Two qualified data analysts were hired to analyze the data and provide an interpretation. The method used in analyzing data took care of all the possible marginal errors hence ensuring the information presented in the report has high level of accuracy and reality.

Survey Findings

The study found out that Plan International has established a strong relationship with its donors, partners and other stakeholders. It is therefore, accountable in multiplicity to all the stakeholders. The study found out that the organization has properly supervised operations. This is in line with the findings of the literature review in which many organizations are accountable to all their stakeholders including those for whom they exist. Plan International has established a mechanism with which it is accountable to children, who are at the core of its business. It calls the children, whilst considering their ages, to take part in its advancement process. Children are encouraged to, without restraint; air their views with regard to proposed projects and their monitoring and evaluation process. Plan International has also encouraged the children to establish youth forums and clubs in order to exert influence on the leaders of the community in which they live and also the staff members of Plan International. It always invites youth representatives to contribute during their strategic planning sessions (Plan International, 2010).

The study also found out that Plan International is also accountable to families, communities and the host governments. It consults with the families and community leaders on various projects to be undertaken within the communities. It encourages them to own the projects and direct them the way they want under the guidance of Plan International. Families are constantly called upon to propose the children who are to represent them as support. Plan International jointly with the host regimes always sign memos of understanding. For instance, the activities that Plan International carries out in schools must always meet the required standards of the ministry of education and any of its operations must also meet requirements of relevant ministries. Plan International has several affiliate organizations which actually serve as the arms for fundraising. This means that the head office of Plan International performs the task of overseeing the operations of Plan International all over the world. It disseminates resources and formulates policies used by all the affiliate organizations (Plan International, 2010).

The research study also found out that Plan International has established long-term partnerships with many international corporate organizations like Accor, Rotary, Kenzo, Intrepid Travel, Footprints, Study Group, Jetabroad and Peregrine and Gecko’s Adventures. These international corporations and organizations are long-term partners that regularly contribute to and support the programs of Plan International. The main areas of their contributions are towards poverty eradication, emergency fundraising, and access to safe and sustainable water supply; and some of these organizations play the role of funds mobilization.

In the literature review process, the study found out that most, if not all, and nonprofit organizations use social network sites to establish partnerships and attract potential donors. The research work proved this with Plan International. Plan International has resorted to the use of facebook and myspace and other social network sites. Through these sites the organization can appeal for more donations, update its activities and also receive feedback from partners and donors. It is also able to connect its partners and donors through the social sites. The organization also, has an official website through which it communicates its activities and appeals to both existing and potential donors. Partners and donors can also subscribe to the organization’s online newsletter which they can receive through email addresses. The use of mobile phones has become common with most nonprofit organizations. Plan International has been involved in appealing for support through the use of mobile phones. The study revealed to Plan International has in certain instances been involved in using the mobile phones for the same purpose. Plan International also produces reports to present to its regular donors and partners. The reports show how it has utilized donated funds. As a policy, the organization always commits to use not more than 20% of its donated funds in administrational activities. It uses the reports to show its stewardship and proves that it can still be trusted with funds in future.

The research also found out that the retention of donors by Plan International makes it efficient in its activities. It is able to plan for its activities, start implementing and complete them in good time. This has ensured their projects to be completed on timely basis; because it has between operating efficiently, it has gained the trust of the community members and all other stakeholders. Through retention of some of its international donors, it is able to useless funds in looking for more funds. It is therefore able to concentrate its resources on doing its core business. The organization has been able to keep lists of contacts of its partners and donors in the form of database. It is therefore able to quickly reach them with its appeals within a short time. In other words the organization can enjoy the benefits of having long-term donors (Plan International, 2010).

Plan International’s work cannot go on without the support and hard work of its employees and staff. The research found out that the organization has a better scheme of motivation for all its staff members all over its operation regions. They are well paid and according to the work they do. Besides, Plan International has also engaged in very many vital activities that catch the attention of the donors. For instance, the organization has embarked on fighting child abuse, torture, bullying and gender-based violence that may negatively affect children psychologically. Many corporate organizations are concerned with the plight of the children and would not hesitate to give their donations towards helping the children overcoming these challenges. This strategy has enabled Plan International to get long-term donations from individuals and corporate organizations that are impressed with such an undertaking (Plan International, 2010).

The organization has never encountered any incidence whereby a donor pulls out or stops supporting its activities because of misappropriation of funds. This means that it has been faithful with its donors and therefore trusted even by potential partners. It was also found out that Plan International has gotten into partnership with several other nonprofit organizations that are either working for children or engaged in other development activities. This means the alliances can together pull their resources and champion for a common course of action, lobby together or receive grand donations from foreign countries on behalf of the nations where they operate. There are donors who deal with governments but in order to make sure their funds are not misappropriated by the corrupt politicians they opt to use the local nongovernmental organizations.

To ensure it properly remains accountable to all the stakeholders and also be able attract more partners; Plan International has acquired memberships of a variety of international organizations. These organizations include but are not limited to the International Non-Governmental Charter, International Committee on Fundraising Organizations, Sphere Project, People in Aid and International Council of Voluntary Agency. In partnership with all these agencies, Plan International is able to gain integrity and check its performance against internationally approved standards for International nonprofit organizations. The research also revealed that Plan International, in conjunction with other nonprofit organizations has used the media to appeal for support, champion certain courses or encourage the general public to engage in certain activities, though it is not common for Plan International to use either of the media common media to appeal for funds or donations. However, it produces its own newsletters and brochures that it uses to explain its level of engagement with both local and international activities. These newsletters and brochures are also presented in their different meetings to be issued free to potential partners (Plan International, 2010).

Plan International has also come up with policies that are appropriate for both international and local engagements. Different nations have different legislations that govern nonprofit organizations. Plan International Inc. Exists as an independent entity from its subsidiary organizations. The subsidiaries are also registered in their countries of operations as independent organizations. This strategy has been to ensure that the subsidiary organizations are semi-autonomous so that they act as fundraising organizations on behalf of Plan International Inc. which is headquartered in the United Kingdom. Each subsidiary has, therefore, been able to work according to the statutes of the countries in which it operates (Plan International, 2010).

Conclusion

Plan International is one of the many nonprofit organizations that exist both nationally and internationally. It engages in Customer Relationship Marketing like any other nonprofit organization that requires funding and partnerships. It uses almost all the channels that all nonprofit organizations use to source funds and partnerships. As an international organization, it faces stiff competition from other nonprofit organizations that perform the same tasks. However, it is one of the many nonprofit organizations that enjoy the benefits of having long-term donors and partners. It has managed to establish a good and trusted relationship with other nonprofit organizations with which it works together and also international corporate organizations which regularly support its international programs. It has also ensured it is accountable for all the finances it gets. It produces properly audited financial statements on regular basis.

Reference

Davis, UJ. 2000. Lessons learned in local NGO collaboration: study of the experience of Plan International Mali, Plan International Mali.

Foss, B & Stone, M., 2002. CRM in financial services: a practical guide to making customer relationship management work. New York: Kogan Page Publishers.

Greenberg, P., 2004. CRM at the speed of light: essential customer strategies for the 21st century. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Goehring, J., 2007. Nations in transit 2007: democratization from Central Europe to Eurasia. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Luce, RH 1990, Time, Volume 135, Time Inc.

Machtynger, L. 2000. Customer relationship marketing: get to know your customers and win their loyalty. New York: Kogan Page Publishers.

Malbin, JM., 2006. The election after reform: money, politics, and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Plan International, 2010. Promoting child rights to end child poverty. Web.

Sargeant, A., 2004. Building donor loyalty: the fundraiser’s guide to increasing lifetime value. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Suchlicki, J.H., 2003. Cuban communism, 1959-2003. New York: Transaction Publishers.

Vedder, A., 2007. NGO involvement in international governance and policy: sources of legitimacy. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

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