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Global Outcomes

Farewell Letter Review

Global outcome report, October, 2012

Program background: The relationship between sponsors and their sponsored friends is one of the most highly valued aspects of sponsorship through Unbound. The primary way that sponsors and sponsored friends communicate is through the exchange of letters. Letters written by sponsored friends contain the voice of the sponsored member or in cases where their sponsored friend is unable to write that of a representative of the sponsored member (often times a family member or close friend). Through these letters sponsors have the opportunity to learn not just about the daily life of their sponsored friend but also about how their sponsored friend is participating in and experiencing the Unbound sponsorship program.

One of the moments in the sponsorship program when sponsored members are most reflective of their experience within the program is at the point of retirement, or when they are preparing to exit the program. It is at this moment that sponsored friends are asked to write their final letter, a farewell letter, to their sponsor. While these letters are regularly reviewed in the Unbound office at this time they are not reviewed for the purpose of outcomes.

Purpose of the evaluation: In 2012, Unbound initiated a global evaluation with the purpose of better understanding the intended and unintended outcomes of Unbound’s sponsorship program.

Methods and design:  A random sample of 288 letters of sponsored members who had been in the program for more than 3 years were reviewed for common themes and unexpected outcomes.

Key findings and conclusions:  Outcomes were present in sixty-one percent of farewell letters. This statistic jumps to eighty-three percent when isolating the analysis to the letters written by sponsored members (versus family or staff members). The outcomes were coded and organized into 15 groups. Educational attainment was overwhelmingly the most frequently occurring outcome and was mentioned in 127 letters. The frequency of educational attainment appearing in letters supports Unbound’s organizational focus on education as school attendance is a required part of the Sponsorship program for children and youth.

While the following outcomes were not as frequently present in the letters as educational attainment written by sponsored members it does not necessarily signify that they are less important or even that they are less frequent outcomes. Because the letters are written by the sponsored members for sponsors without structured exploration, the outcomes that were presented were those that the sponsored member instead chose to share with their sponsor. The next most popular outcome present is that of working towards or achieving a personal goal or dream. Goals or dreams were mentioned in 39 letters. Other outcomes were mentioned as follows: character development, mentioned in 32 letters; supportive relationship with sponsor, 28 letters; employment, 27 letters; positive self-image, 25 letters; economic self-sufficiency, 22 letters; general enhancement of quality of life, 22 letters; family outcomes, 17 letters; new skills acquired, 13 letters; health benefits, 8 letters; expanded worldview, 6 letters; giving back to local community, 5 letters; leadership skills, 3 letters; and family relationships enhanced, 2 letters.

Learnings: The farewell letter review allowed Unbound to hear directly from sponsored members their self-identified program outcomes. The prominence of education, goals, and character development help confirm and redirect additional evaluations and communicate the impact of the program, particularly in the area of non-tangible benefits. In addition, the lack of clear outcome communication in almost 40% of letters suggests that while sponsors are able to hear direct feedback from their sponsored friend, supplemental feedback is needed through periodic evaluations and participant listening exercises to give context to the individual experience. And finally, the communication of goals and dreams has become a recent strategic initiative for sponsored members around the world.

Lead Evaluators:

Melissa Velazquez, Unbound senior evaluation specialist
Becky Spachek, Unbound evaluation specialist