It’s an unfortunate truth that many charities use donations irresponsibly – spending huge amounts of money on fundraising and CEO salaries instead of actually helping those in need.
Having a desire to help others is an amazing thing, but you want to make sure that the money you give is actually doing some good in the world!
Sponsoring is one of the most popular ways for individuals and families to make donations.
A large part of this is because of the personal connection that can be formed across the world through letters, photos, and updates from the program. For many people, knowing exactly where their money is going is important and helps them feel more confident in the donations that they have made.
In general, pledging a certain amount of money each month towards a sponsorship or a charity initiative that you believe in can be a great financial choice for most people. For many, the monthly amount is easy to work in to your personal budget without breaking the bank and most donations allow you to receive a charitable donation receipt.
Criticisms of Sponsorship Programs
The ethical, economic, and moral implications of International Development are incredibly complicated, and the research that I’ve done on the topic is by no means enough to offer a comprehensive outlook on these topics!
However, it is important to know that donating to charity isn’t as easy as “the rich helping the poor,” as much as we’d like to think so.
Most criticisms of child sponsorship come from the model that was used originally, where the families of sponsored children were given money but others in the community were not. This strategy created conflict within communities, and often caused problems for children and families after a graduation from the program.
Redistributing wealth is hard to do in an effective way that supports the development of communities instead of creating instability and social issues. While it was not necessarily done with bad intentions, charities have created a lot of harm for those they were trying to help in recent history.
Other criticisms of child sponsorship have included cultural confusion (especially with respect to the religious undertones present in many charities), high administrative costs, the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about different cultural groups, and a continued harmful emphasis on Western individuals “saving” children in other countries.
For more reading on this topic, I’d recommend The Rough Guide to a Better World published by the UK Department for International Development, this BBC article entitled “What’s it like to be a Sponsored Child?”, and this study from the Journal of Political Economy to get started – but there are hours upon hours of study on this topic out there!
How have Sponsorship Programs Changed?
Thankfully, many sponsorship programs have learned from the mistakes of the past.
Now instead of sending your donations to a single child, sponsoring programs funnel donations into a community fund that works in cooperation with local experts to enhance the community in ways that makes life better for everyone living there.
These initiatives may look at building new schools, paving roads for better accessibility, increasing local hires, and providing programming for all youth in the area no matter whether or not they are technically sponsored.
While charities may not have it perfect yet, most have learned from the mistakes of the past and are working hard to ensure that they are using your donations to help others in the least harmful and most effective ways possible.
7 of the Best Sponsorship Opportunities Available
Technology has made it incredibly easy to donate to almost any charity you can think of. Between charity apps that help you donate to local charities with the touch of a finger and websites that give back by donating money earned from advertisements, it really has never been easier to participate in charity.
However, just because these options are easy doesn’t mean that they are the most effective methods.
These seven charities may not have a text to donate feature, but instead were selected because of their high Charity Navigator scores (based on transparency, use of donations, and accountability), the percent of each dollar that goes directly to programming instead of administration or fundraising, the absence of any active religious affiliations, and the success of the programming that they currently have in place.
1. Sponsor Children Around the World and at Home with Save the Children
Sponsorship Type: Donation, gift catalogue, or individual child sponsorship either within the United States or Internationally.
Charity Navigator Rating: 90.29
Money used in Programs: 89.6%
Charity’s Purpose: Save the Children strives to ensure that children in the United States and across the world are protected from harm, have access to medical care, and have education available to them. These goals are supported through a wide range of programs focused on education, emergency response, health and nutrition, HIV and AIDS, U.S. disaster response, and child protection.
2. Sponsor Child-Centred Community Development with PLAN
Sponsorship Type: Donation, gift catalogue, and child, community, or project sponsorships.
Charity Navigator Rating: 95.07
Money used in Programs: 80.4%
Charity’s Purpose: Plan has been working for over 75 years to ensure that children can live a life of justice, equality, and dignity through programs that focus on education, child protection, child participation, economic security, emergencies, sexual and reproductive health, healthy starts, and water and sanitation. All of Plan’s programs are implemented with the desire to collaboratively develop communities with a child-centred focus.
3. Sponsor a Classroom with DonorsChoose
Sponsorship Type: Supporting individual classrooms across the United States
Charity Navigator Rating: 96.37
Money used in Programs: 93.0%
Charity’s Purpose: Teachers in the United States are often limited in the amount of resources that they can provide their students due to a lack of available funds. DonorsChoose allows you to partner with a classroom project posted on the website by a teacher in need (over 68% of American public schools have posted at least one project on DonorsChoose to-date) by donating any amount you wish towards their project goal.
4. Sponsor Worldwide Healthcare with Direct Relief
Sponsorship Type: Donation
Charity Navigator Rating: 99.94
Money used in Programs: 99.2%
Charity’s Purpose: Direct Relief places a priority on providing everyone with access to healthcare, both in the United States and worldwide. The charity focuses on programs specific to maternal and child health, disease prevention and treatment, emergency preparedness and response, and strengthening health systems. Direct Relief works in partnership with locally-run facilities in 72 countries, strengthening existing infrastructure and increasing the availability of health care.
5. Sponsor Refugee Services with American Refugee Committee
Sponsorship Type: Donation
Charity Navigator Rating: 92.15
Money used in Programs: 89.1%
Charity’s Purpose: The American Refugee Committee offers hope to refugees and displaced persons through programs that focus on disaster relief, reproductive health care, economic opportunities, gender-based violence prevention and response, and the provision of services that allow refugees to access shelter, clean water, skills training and business development training, and education. With over 39 million persons in the world currently living as refugees or displaced persons, the work being done by ARC in countries like Sudan, Liberia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Somalia, and Syria should not be overlooked.
6. Sponsor Access to Clean Water with Charity:Water (97.05)
Sponsorship Type: Donation and the Pipeline investment program.
Charity Navigator Rating: 97.05
Money used in Programs: 83.4%
Charity’s Purpose: Nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide currently live without access to clean water. Accessible clean water gives people (especially women and girls) the chance to improve their health and well-being, and the time to pursue education and income. Charity:Water works with local experts and communities in need to determine a sustainable solution specific to their needs. The charity also provides training to the community about sanitation and hygiene and their new Pipeline initiative ensures that the technology required for water access remains in good repair using local maintenance and repair programs.
7. Sponsor International Small Businesses with Kiva
Sponsorship Type: Microloans
Charity Navigator Rating: 96.90
Money used in Programs: 82.4%
Charity’s Purpose: Kiva challenges the typical understanding of “charity” by providing an infrastructure through which loans are provided to small businesses across the world. Each Kiva donation is applied to a small business of the sponsor’s choice, and is repaid by the business owner as their business grows. Once the loan is repaid, the donation can be applied to another small business. This structure focuses on enabling individuals worldwide to create their own future and is an incredibly positive way to make a difference in the life of small business owners and their families.
Your Preferred Charity Not Listed?
When looking at other charities that you may want to donate to this year, be sure to check out their reputations on sites such as charitynavigator.org or a similar site for your country (Canadians try www.charityintelligence.ca). Be sure that the money you’re investing is actually making it to the people who need it, and that it isn’t being eaten up by advertising or CEO salaries!
While it’s amazing to help on an international scale, don’t forget about the good that you can be doing close to home – local charities are often at a greater disadvantage when it comes to donations, and they are doing incredible work with people in your immediate community.
These seven charities are obviously a very small selection of the hundreds of organizations currently doing amazing work in the world.
If there’s a charity that you support that I didn’t include on this list, or if you have a differing opinion about one of the charities I did include, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Image Credit: szefei via Shutterstock.com