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Compassion International

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22 User Reviews
Founded in 1952 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Compassion International is a child-sponsoring charitable organization that was originally known as the Everett Swanson Evangelistic Association. The sponsorship model was launched in 1953 and the organization officially became Compassion International in 1963. 

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The Good

  • Total income
  • Administrative expenses
  • Fundraising expenses
  • Program percentage
  • Accessible financial information

Total Income

Over the last several years, Compassion International has reported a steadily growing income. All totals are for the organization's fiscal year ending in June of the reported year.
  • 2015: $765,156,592
  • 2014: $712,969,008
  • 2013: $656,893,101
  • 2012: $596,083,005

Administrative Expenses

Compassion International reports a lower percentage of its income going towards meeting its administrative expenses than fundraising activities, which is not the norm among most charitable organizations. For the fiscal year ending in June 2015, the organization reported that 7.4 percent of its income, or $57,323,669, was allocated to administrative support. Top executives received salaries which were less than those given by many other charitable organizations. Current president and CEO, Santiago H. Mellado, received 0.03 percent of total revenue, or $296,044, in 2014.

Fundraising Expenses

Compassion International uses an average of 10 percent of its annual revenue for fundraising activities.

Program Percentage

The percentage of an organization's revenue directed towards delivering its program is a very important measure of the quality of an organization's fiscal responsibility. Most charity watchdog organizations consider a percentage of above 80 percent as an indicator of effective program delivery. Compassion International states on its website that the organization works to keep its program percentage at or above 80 percent. For the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2015, Compassion International used 83.1 percent of its income for program delivery.

Accessible Financial Information

Compassion International publishes its annual reports (2011-2015), auditor's reports (2011-2015) and IRS Form 990s (2009-2015) on its website. This information can be easily found and is comprehensive.

The Bad

  • Negative press
  • Donor communication
  • Awards

Negative Press

Legal Battles about "Compassion" Once in 1997 and once in 2015, Compassion International's legal representation sent threatening cease and desist letters to two organizations which used the word "Compassion" in the name of their organizations. Both entities were surprised at the demands and, without funds to fight a battle in court, changed the names of their organizations. These start-up organizations did not attempt to confuse or deceive, as they were accused; they simply chose a word to illustrate the mission of their organization. Support of "Son of God" Movie Compassion International voiced support for the 2014 movie Son of God, which depicted the life of Jesus Christ. However, many Christians found the film to be contrary to their beliefs in the Bible. As such, many have expressed concern about the Christianity of the mission of Compassion International.

Donor Communication

Donors are promised that they will receive updates on the status of the child whom they have sponsored from the organization, as well as directly from the child or child's family. This seems to be highly variable; some donors report that they wait months or even years before receiving information directly from their sponsored child, while others report more frequent communication. However, donors can expect a high level of communication from Compassion International. In fact, many donors report receiving excessive fundraising requests via postal mail after they have begun to sponsor a child.


Compassion International has been recognized for its workplace environment, as well as the quality of the organization's public relations. The awards that the organization has received are not spontaneously given; rather, the organization submitted information to another organization for entry into a field. The entrants were judged and awards were given out among the pool of eligible entries. While these awards do represent achievement, they are not weighted the same as recognitions that awarded spontaneously.

The Bottom Line

Compassion International has many positives in its model. The administrative costs are very reasonable when compared to other programs. Additionally, the organization's program delivery percentage reflects fiscal responsibility. However, Compassion International has received some negative press and has been accused of over-communicating with donors.
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22 Reviews

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Elizabeth New Preston, CT

Signed up to sponsor at a Christian concert it was a little girl and we sponsored her until after years they sent a letter stating that her family moved and she could no longer be in the program. They sent another photo of a different girl and without asking just kept taking money from the credit card. This continued but raised a red flag as to how you would cancel if they don’t even give you the option of if you want to continue your sponsorship with. So fast forward more time goes by and no way to contact anyone. This year my husband suffered a severe debilitating stroke and isn’t able to work anymore and if someone hadn’t made a false charge on his credit card that I had to dispute and cancel the card Compassion International would still be making decisions about my finances without my approval!

3 months ago

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Mark Kowitz Hudsonville, MI

I have always been a big fan of Compassion International! Things have changed—let me explain. We became Compassion International sponsors in 1997, sponsoring a young boy named John from India. It was joy to write and receive letters, as our kids were about the same age. We sponsored him until Compassion had to pull out of India, and our sponsorship was transferred to Nuttapong in Thailand. In 2002 our sponsorship again was transferred, this time to a young girl, Nelly, from Bolivia. Nelly was a joy to sponsor, and when my wife left me in 2008, Compassion was very helpful in how I should inform her via letters. I was actually able to sponsor her from age 5 until she had to leave the program at 18 years old, in 2015. Compassion gave me the choice to replace my sponsorship with another little girl named Jhuliana, again from Boliva. I have been enjoying sponsoring her, supporting her monetarily, and writing and receiving letters. However, all things changed two weeks ago, when I received a letter from Rick Management of Compassion International (I don’t know what his position is there), informing me that my sponsorship of Jhuliana had been cancelled due to “updated child protection policies,” which includes (from their website: “We immediately terminate the child sponsorship of anyone found on a sex offender registry. We also terminate the sponsorships of anyone living at the same address as a registered sex offender.” My story is this: about 10 years ago, I was approached by a person I used to work with, who explained his son had gotten into trouble, and needed a place to live. I immediately thought of the Bible, Matthew 25: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, "I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ I offered him a room at my house (please note that this same passage is the reason that I acted on to sponsor children from Compassion International!). I personally don’t understand how the fact that I have a sexual offender living at my address, affects my relationship with Jhuliana in Bolivia. I am curious what Compassion will be telling Jhuliana about why her sponsor is not in her life anymore, they would not answer that question, when I asked.

8 months ago

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L Hawthorne Chicago, IL

I have supported multiple Compassion children for over thirty years and have been 99% happy with the experience. Their decision to build a data system from scratch led to a few glitches recently, but I have always received letters and news. I went to El Salvador to visit the three children I was sponsoring and was impressed with all the children were learning at the centers and with the staff we met. We support many charities and I consider Compassion one of the best.

1 year ago

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Compassion is the most effective charity I have ever seen. The children in the program are given such wonderful opportunities to grow up healthy, well educated and having hope for their future. I love supporting my two sponsored children through Compassion. We write to each other and I know that they are receiving love and protection from their local church. I have also visited Conpassion projects in Africa. The love that the staff show to the children is amazing and the joy on the faces of the children and their families is so evident.

1 year ago

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Bryan Kim La Habra, CA

I Have been sponsoring my child from another mother in Togo, Afrika for past 3 years. My goal is to provide her education and faith to God that anything is possible, and Compassion is providing me with the opportunity to serve God and do God's work at the same time. I thank God for everything and I pray this company will last forever and spread the God's message over to the millions of people in the world.

2 years ago

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Kristen Corona, CA

I have been a sponsor for 17 years. Compassion is an incredible organization, and I am happy to have seen first-hand what an amazing job it is doing in the poorest of areas. In my many encounters with Compassion staff both here in the US and abroad, everyone is passionate about the mission of Compassion. I am continuously amazed by the work they do and the lives they transform.

2 years ago

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Sam Ahia Lahaina, HI

I have been a sponsor of children for several years. I have found Compassion International to be above reproach in every way. Yes they do consistently ask for help but I never felt like they were doing a "sales job" on me or my wife. We are able to answer letters that we receive from our sponsored children and get to know them a little. Compassion International has been a shining light in making people aware of the tremendous need little children have in poor countries.

3 years ago

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Jennyne Johnson Augusta, GA

I attended a Christan concert and they were handing out sponsor packets. I sponsored a little girl but the picture was of a boy. It took awhile to get a photograph of the little girl. I sent a $100 for her birthday and it took me asking and writing Compassion before I ever heard if this child received the $. Something happened to her mom but I never heard. I sent stickers (the ONLY allowed item us sponsors can mail) and frequently sent coloring sheets. I NEVER heard if she got these items. I found out her family moved right before her birthday and Christmas. If I had not called asking that the $ I contributed to both of these occassions be refunded I never would have received it. Compassion sent me another packet for a new child to sponsor. My husband was just laid off from his job so it wasn't a good time to commit to this again. Compassion AUTOMATICALLY enrolled me. I got letter from family saying how happy they were and pictures of their new baby. It was heartbreaking to call Compassion and terminate this sponsorship. Compassion should never just enroll people without consent and deduct $. I really wish it was possible to mail gifts to these children along with monthly contributions. I disagree with Compassions reasoning behind this policy. I miss the girl I sponsored. It was on my bucket list to fly and meet her. I might try again at a later date

1 year ago

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Melinda Fidler Spokane, WA

I have been sponsoring 2 Compassion children, one has graduated from the program. Her sister contacted me on FB and asked if I would be a friend of hers and of her sister whom I supported for at 10 years. I accepted the request. Nobody has asked me for help with money or anything else, however, much gratitude has been shown via my former Compassion child. I still have another child I'm supporting and have been supporting him for 12 years.. since he was 4 years old... Recently, he has sounded very down in his letters to me and has asked for prayer for him and his family.. I felt very sad for him and told him that my other now former Compassion child had contacted me on FB... Mind you, I did not encourage him to contact me on FB.. The Compassion staff deleted my letter and called me on the phone saying this was strictly prohibited. Why is that? It would be my choice to live with the consequences of whatever happened.. I'm still sponsoring my child and likely will until he's graduated out of the program... but this disturbed me a lot. So don't tell your current child about any of your former children that you were contacted on FB... or the hand of the law will come down and everything good you have done will come into question... and for what... That's what I don't understand... We have freedom of speech... and a need to be ethical... that's for sure... I've tried to write encouraging and uplifting letters to my child and comfort both children during times of need... Anyway, that's all.. I lost a little respect for the ministry... when I know that people meet their children and even have connections to where they live... I don't get it...

2 years ago

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June Powell Oviedo, FL

So far we have been very impressed with this ministry and hope to be able to continue to sponsor the child we have chosen. It costs money in anything you do these days but just knowing that a part of our donation is helping a child is enough for us!

3 years ago

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Becky Hopkins Andover, KS

Great ministry! We have been sponsoring a child for a few years, and we love getting updates to see how she is doing.

4 months ago

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ERO Washington, DC

I have been a sponsor to 18 years. It break my heart to write a review like this but I have been so deeply disappointed in the past few years, I feel obligated to say something. My last sponsored child was missing from the program's center for a while before they told me. I pushed to know if he was still attending because the picture had not been updated in years and in it he still looked like a child of 8 or 9 while he was supposed to be 14. Also, the letters I received were the same formula despite writing to him. Having worked with children in extreme poverty, I know what stunting looks like and this was not it. After pushing for a follow up for months, I received a letter stating he had left the program months before. I suspected that this was not the truth and that he had been out of the program for a while. I told Compassion that I wanted to end my sponsorship and did not take on another child. Three weeks later, I receive a packet and a welcome letter. I did not authorize this nor did I want to be a sponsor. When I called to cancel, they pressured me into staying. I stayed for a few months and then called back saying I could not afford to continue. This is true. I am in financial hardship at the moment. I believed that my sponsorship had been cancelled and so I stopped paying. Now, my account says I owe $200 of sponsorship fees and it is affecting my credit score. Currently, I am still a sponsor even though I no longer want to, or have the ability, to work with this organization any more.

1 year ago

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EV Glendora, CA

I started sponsoring 2 little girls : one from Mexico and one from Africa . I was receiving regular letters from the little girl from Mexico and I had no received any correspondence from the little girl from Africa. I had sent an additional Birthday gift donation to the little girl from Mexico . When I sent her a letter asking her how she liked her gift , I received a letter from Compassion stating they had disenrolled from the program because her parents did not comply with the program requirements. I’m very disappointed that a Christian organization would do this . I know question their program .

2 years ago

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Viktors Konters Prior Lake, MN

We were having a nice time with compassion and the child we sponsored until one day received letter from child stating it was last letter. I called Compassion and they said they were suppose to call me first before we received the letter. I mailed a last letter to our sponsor child. I got a call from Compassion stating that my address could not be in the letter. I told them to redact it, they said they destroyed the letter and I would have to write another one. I took quite a bit of time writing and putting pics in it. Then to top it off, we received a letter about two weeks later from Compassion thanking us for our new sponsorship, WHAT? We never approved any new sponsor ship and particularly after the disorganization at the end of the term of the first one. What is going on there? I went into our account, and there is no way to cancel your account or payment method.

2 years ago

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Adam Independence, KY

Sponsored a girl for many years when we were informed that she had left the program. We thought that was the end of it and were not going to sponsor another child as we were turning towards another charity that works here in the United States. I received a letter 3 weeks after being told of our sponsorship ending stating that we had agreed to sponsor another girl. At no point did we authorize this payment to Compassion. When you call them they act like they don't know how it happened. They make it impossible to cancel, act like you are a bad guy for canceling a sponsorship for a child in need you never signed up for, and generally giving you the run around so you get tired and give up. This is not a good Christian organization. They refuse to help in any way when you have an issue. Stay away and spend your money elsewhere. They will try to hoodwink you and your charitable giving.

2 years ago

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Gina Morgan Sturgeon Bay, WI

I donated to this organization for 11 years. My child grew out of the program and it wasn't until I received her letter saying goodbye that I realized she hadn't been receiving my uploaded letters over more than a year due to a malfunction in their website. The website would confirm receipt of my letters but never produce them to send to the child. The expiration date of her leaving hadn't happened yet but they purged her and my membership log in area where the letters I wrote her had been stored. Since my log in was purged, so were my letters. Then they asked me to give them a waiver that they could give her my address to stay in touch since she was out of the program and invited me to write a nice final letter which they would pass on to her. I wrote her the letter promptly and sent them two copies of the waiver (emailed where they told me to send it the day they requested it) and sent a copy of the waiver with my final letter in the mail. Well they sent her part of my letter but left out the parts about how to contact me and my heartfelt comments in that section because they said they didn't have my waiver. ? It was attached to my letter. They couldn't confirm what part of my final letter they gave her because they didn't have a copy any longer, so no one could say what was translated for her. This was all within a week of their receiving everything. Needless to say I was heart broken that they washed their hands of all of it, refused to help me over their mistakes of a malfunctioning website that confirmed they got my letters but never sent them to her AND botching up my final letter to Maria. I requested that they please resend (translate) my heartfelt letter and send it to make sure she understands I wish to stay in touch. They refused to try to do anything . How is this called "Compassion"? They are not interested in relationships.....only wanted me to sponsor another child and wash hands of years of writing to this girl in South America. I could sign up to send them money for another child. Sorry, not breaking my heart again. Management here has no desire to solve their own errors - very poorly run.

2 years ago

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Liv Columbus, GA

Felt like for personal reasons my family is being discriminated against because of our past. Felt like they were marketing to me. Advocate told me that I "wrote too much and that can beoverwhelming for the families" even though that goes agaisnt what all of their marketing to me stands for. I would not reccomend the heartbreak of ending the sponsorships and taking the photos off of the wall to anyone.

2 years ago

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Kristi Mooresville, NC

It was with great sadness I couldn't sponsor a child because of financial issues that I had hoped would be resolved. But I asked if I could send the child anything because it really bothered me and the response was no or I dont understand your question. I felt horrible enough, really.

2 years ago

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BOB H Carrollton, TX

My wife and daughter each have been sponsoring an individual child for the past 8 years. My wife went on line to provide additional donations to her child for christmas. Discovered her sponsorship, and my daughters were cancelled due to an offense I COMMITTED 20 years ago. So much for Christian values and forgiveness. 2 kids, 8 years, 75.00 a month. Over 7000.00 donated. SPCA will be pleased.

2 years ago

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Crystal Commerce, GA

I’m so heart broke, I had signed up to sponsor a child. 1st I kept having them say a boy then things saying they were a girl. 2nd my sponorship was abruptly cancelled b/c they didn’t think I gave enough. $ 3rd This has let me down also the child and their family. I can’t even say good by and it wasn’t my choice to leave.

2 years ago

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MLB Denver, CO

Being on the inside and also a past sponsor, please do not support this ministry financially. There is a lot of deception and darkness in this place. Money is spent outrageously and sponsors are lied to (with employees even encouraged to not be fully transparent) just to name a couple of things. Please pray heavily for this ministry.

3 years ago


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Allie Powell Long Beach, MS

This was a great experience. I loved learning children’s stories. However, it was very expensive to keep sponsoring a child.

1 year ago

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