It's that time of year again. Compassion International is taking bloggers with large followings to an exotic part of the world to show them what life is like for people on the edge of existence. Please, take some time to read a bit about life in Kenya, and ask God whether he might want you to help provide food, clothes, education and basic healthcare to a child for about $1/day. I've sponsored a kid through Compassion for nearly a decade now, and though I have yet to get anything but no response or an evasive answer from them on the approach of their staff to Catholics, they do good work overall.
I've sponsored kids through all 3 of the top rated child sponsorship agencies according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, and Compassion does the best job of facilitating communication between the kids and their sponsors as well as promoting their work to those unfamiliar with the concept of child sponsorship. This makes them the most expensive organization, but allows them to help far more kids than relying on word of mouth.
Incidentally, if one is ever considering visiting their sponsored kid, one might consider CFCA, since the costs run about 1/3 or less of the cost of visiting a Compassion Project. But if one is really new to the concept, a Protestant, and looking for an organization that values your time and makes everything convenient, Compassion is probably the way to go.
Below is a my own quick overview of the three highest rated child sponsorship agencies. Feel free to make corrections, if you spot anything outdated or inaccurate.
1) Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA)
$30/month - 94.6% goes toward program work. Lowest fundraising and management expenses of any large child sponsorship organization. Quite amazing, actually. Founded by Catholics, but accept kids of all religions and there are no hard sells regarding religion. Nobody is required to learn the Christian faith as a condition of receiving aid. Very low rates for sponsors visiting kids ($450 to visit Latin America for a week, not including airfare to the country). They are the only group to have specific programs dedicated to sponsoring teenagers, the elderly and the handicapped. Some sponsorship agencies are focused on young kids because they area more easily converted to your religion, among other reasons. However, it is in the teen years when sponsorship is often more necessary as education costs increase dramatically and the child becomes a potential wage earner, making their continued education all the more difficult. Also, living in the US, with its robust elder care system, we forget how destitute many elderly in the third world are. Sponsoring grandma in diapers isn't nearly as glamorous as sponsoring a bright-eyed 5 year old.
2) Compassion International
$38/month, 82% for program expenses, including sponsor/donor relations. I think other groups include sponsor/donor relations in this percentage, too, but am not sure.
Largest organization reaching over a million kids. All outreach is done through local Protestant churches and every kid is taught and sometimes required to learn a Protestant version of Christianity from what I gather. It appears that the group has actively evangelized the Catholic kid I sponsor into the small Guatemalan sect that they work through. I haven't been able to get a straight answer on their approach to Catholics, so I don't recommend them to Catholics, agnostics or people for whom sheep stealing and Proselytization into sects through monetary gifts is a problem, but many Protestants wouldn't consider sponsoring a kid through a Catholic or secular group, so this would be the best fit for them.
3) Save the Children
$28/month, 92% goes toward program services
One of the oldest and most revered aid agencies in the world, Save the Children is based out of the UK. They are strictly secular and forbid people to mention religion in their correspondence. This is a big part of my life, so I felt like I was hiding part of my life from the kid we sponsored, and this group wasn't a good fit for me. They also offer child sponsorship as part of a much larger approach to aid, as opposed to being focused primarily on child sponsorship, as Compassion and CFCA are.
4) World Vision
$35/month, 89% goes toward program services
B+ rating by the AIP and I have no personal experience with child sponsorship through this group, but they have such devoted fans I would be remiss if I failed to mention them. A cross between all of the above groups, they offer child sponsorship as part of a much larger aid program. They are Christian in character, but similar to CFCA don't do the very active (and some would argue disrespectful) proselytization that Compassion does. The only group to have a program dedicated to sponsoring children affected by AIDS, which is an incredible need in some parts of the world.