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Compassion International

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LAST UPDATED: July 12th, 2023
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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32 Reviews

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Jayson Lewis

We began sponsoring a child after a Casting Crowns concert. We randomly picked a child and a young boy was selected. We received a picture and a single name and everything seemed good. We recently received a letter that the child had moved and Compassion International no longer served this child. In the letter was a photo of our child but the name was different. I was so very suspicious. I called in and they tried to explain the reason but it still did not make sense so we cancelled our sponsorship and are going back to World Vision.

2 months ago

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Shelley Mutrie Downers Grove, IL

My family has been sponsoring a girl in Peru since 2015. We have been consistently writing her and donating extra money where we could. I was a little upset when we wanted to send her a bike and the CI said that the bike would be given to another needy family based on the CI decisions. So we just gave our sponsored girl money instead. Pictures came back of this girl holding up items that the letter said she purchased with the money we gave. Over time and as we sent more letters to her, it became clear that the letters appeared very "canned". There was never any mention of comments from our previous letters and I really could not tell if she was receiving our letters at all. I was really hoping to hear about her life in Peru and learn something about her life and life in Peru in general. I wrote letters, attached pictures ... her responses were always about Lord and God being great but really nothing personal nor any response to my detailed letters. That got me thinking if she was even receiving my letters! When I called the headquarters, they pretended to be looking things up and were full of excuses and information that were not logical. I looked up salaries of the management 990 (this site wont let me post a url so google to see site shows the amount of salaries these people make and I am horrified. I have also posted the last one that is showing from 2019 (2020 and 2021 say unavailable to download. I'm sure they are making a lot more money than 2019. My family is very sad that they are taking advantage of people and we will be stopping our donations to this company.

1 year ago Edited August 30, 2022

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Steve Tracht Chelsea, MI

I had been contributing to Compassion for decades. Over my time with them, I sponsored four children. In the beginning, it was fine. Then, I noticed that they constantly sent packets of ways to give more money. That is a red flag that an organization is too focused on collecting money. When your child times out, they automatically assign you another child and keep taking your money. I called to make them switch that on my account, and it worked for a while, but then when my last child timed out, it happened again. All of my previous children timed out at 18, but my last child timed out at 22. I don't remember being informed of this upfront. Their marketing is slick to pull on your heartstrings, better than most secular organizations. It gave me a suspicion of the organization overall. You cannot close your account on the website and must speak to a "representative". Once they have you, they don't want to let you go and employ guileful tactics to keep you.

1 year ago

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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!

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.

4 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.

4 years ago

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Cody Parker Staunton, VA

I have four children I give to in compassion but then I noticed one letter was clearly not the girl I'd been writing for years the handwriting was not hers the communication style she actually reintroduce herself like we had never talked before ! and the drawing was clearly not like all her other letters something's wrong and I tend to find out who's forging the kids letters!

1 year 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.

4 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.

4 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.

4 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.

5 years ago


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Teela Harris Detroit, MI

I have yet to receive anything from my sponsored child . I stopped all payments. I even sent a late birthday gift. I have no idea of she got it or not.

2 years ago