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Report cover: Changing lives

Changing Lives: An Analysis of Child Sponsorship Data

Executive Summary


Plan International is a learning organisation. We seek to continuously understand more about the areas in which we work and to be held accountable for the work we do.

Through previous studies we sought to assess the influence of child sponsorship, although these were limited in different ways.

This is the first study that comprehensively uses the complete dataset of 12 million surveys for a full-scale, independent analysis of child sponsorship. 

With this study we wanted to satisfy four aims. 

  1. To create reliable and objective evidence on the influence of our sponsorship model on development outcomes for sponsored children and communities –such evidence will be invaluable to the work of Plan International staff.
  2. To fill a gap in a field where rigorous empirical research on the influence of  child sponsorship is scarce – this is despite the widespread use of sponsorship programmes by international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).
  3. To test the relevance of our sponsorshiprelated work to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to highlight gaps in our approaches.
  4. To use our huge child sponsorship dataset more to inform our work, track our progress, and to ensure we are accountable both to our sponsored children and communities, and to the development sector more widely.

Working with RMIT University

To these ends, we commissioned RMIT University to conduct a quantitative study of the influence of child sponsorship. The research team probed the impact of Plan International’s child sponsorship model on sponsored children and communities. It also studied different groups of children, including comparing girls and boys, children living with a disability, and children in different locations such as rural or urban settings and conflict-affected countries. 

This report presents a condensed version of the full study findings by RMIT University.4 It also offers our responses to those findings, in which we see particular relevance for sponsorship operations, the programmes and influencing work that we do in communities, and marketing and fundraising activities.