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Ronald McDonald House Charities UK - Service User Survey

Service User Survey Participation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Mackman Research

Following a tender process, Mackman Research were commissioned by Ronald McDonald House Charities UK to conduct a Service User Survey on its behalf.  

The Research Project

  • Ronald McDonald House Charities UK provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation and support for families with children in hospital, running 14 Ronald McDonald Houses across the UK, and supporting approximately 6,000 families each year.  
  • The management team at the Charity were seeking to better understand the needs, expectations and experiences of those using the Houses (i.e. service-users) in order to optimise the service offering, and refine marketing and fundraising activities for greatest impact and effectiveness. 
  • Mackman Research integrated two simultaneous channels of engagement and feedback (in-depth telephone interviews and online self-completion survey) to ensure that high quality and meaningful data were gathered to meet the research objectives.  


  • Over a 6-week time period, 131 in-depth telephone interviews were conducted alongside 442 self-completions online.  
  • An extensive report detailing strengths and weaknesses of the Charity’s service delivery, perception, and appeal of specific Ronald McDonald House Charities UK attributes and overall satisfaction of the service users was provided. The scope of research also included the exploration of additional support desired by service users and their propensity to use the Charity again. 
  • Based on the evidence gathered, Mackman Research were able to recommend in detail areas of improvement for strategic change within key service areas. 

The Client

  • Ronald McDonald House Charities UK is an independent charity founded in the UK in 1989, and in that time has helped over 60,000 families stay close to their hospitalised children by providing free accommodation across 14 Houses in the UK. The Charity’s mission is to ensure every specialist children’s hospital in the UK has free, homely, and supportive accommodation for families. They aim for their service to provide more than a warm and comfortable space to stay, with support services and resources available for families when their child needs treatment and care.  
  • Many Houses have a “Grab & Go” free food scheme; where possible, they provide food donated by corporate supporters, baby clothes, toys and toiletries. All Houses are equipped with complimentary broadband and Wi-Fi, and most offer a space for remote working.  

Brand Facts

  • Ronald McDonald House Charities UK is an independent charity founded in the UK in 1989, providing free accommodation and support for families with hospitalised children across the UK.  
  • Since being founded, the Charity has supported over 60,000 families from all walks of life, living in the UK or coming from abroad for specialist care. 
  • The Charity currently operates14 Houses located in or close to partnered NHS hospitals with more developments planned for the future. 

Research Aims

The Charity wanted to understand the needs, expectations and experiences of those using the Houses (i.e. service users). The research objectives specifically were: 

  • To identify how Ronald McDonald House Charities UK services impact on the lives of families with children in hospital. 
  • To gather evidence-based understanding of service-user needs and expectations (and their feedback to refine services). 
  • To understand differentials in present service delivery across the Houses, to ensure greatest consistency into the future. 

The Research Design & Methodology

Together with the Charity, Mackman Research identified key service areas requiring investigation: general use of the Ronald McDonald House, working at the House, catering, amenities and activities, wellbeing, staff, follow-up support and overall experience. A semi-structured “conversational” telephone interview was designed with a combination of open (explorative) questions and some closed (rating/ranking) questions. A fully structured online self-completion survey was also designed, which was distributed and managed by Mackman Research. 

Mackman Research planned to conduct 130 telephone interviews, where participants would be a cross-section of service-users from a portfolio of 12 Ronald McDonald Houses. For the online survey, we anticipated a self-selecting sample in profile and number (i.e. a “natural fall-out”), which would be determined by the profile/number of outbound invitations and the degree of interest/motivation of recipients to complete the survey. 

The Research Challenge

Contacting service users to participate in our research (by phone and email) always held the risk of upsetting potential participants, as it would ask them to recall a distressing time in their lives where their child or loved one was hospitalised. Ronald McDonald House Charities UK was reassured by the processes Mackman Research have in place to mitigate this risk, and the experience that our in-house telephone researchers have in asking difficult questions using a compassionate approach. Consequently, we overachieved our telephone interview target and received over 400 self-completed surveys online.  

Research Outcomes

Rigorous analysis was conducted to understand both qualitative and quantitative trends within the dataset, resulting in a detailed report consisting of key findings, executive summary, themes of note and verbatim responses. Interestingly, findings from our research on the use of foodbanks by service users were in line with national statistics, both in terms of frequency of use and regions most affected in the UK. This revealed a real-time outcome for which urgent measures could be put in place by the Charity immediately following our research. Further pain points were also identified through the exploration of additional support required by service users. This allowed us to create bespoke recommendations for each service area, to help Ronald McDonald House Charities UK make well-informed, strategic decisions and improve their service offering.  

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