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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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Magdalena Cogbill Roswell, GA

I have been sponsoring a girl in Ethiopia for over 2 years. Since she was 17 at that time, I thought we could have a good communication and I could learn something about her life and life in Ethiopia 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! I really wanted to help a child and make a difference. What I sent her a Christmas gift to her and her family in the amount of $155 and few months later I got her letter being thankful for the $13.93 she received, I was furious!!! When I called the headquarters, they pretended to be looking things up and were full of excuses and information that just didn't add up! I am heartbroken that there are children and families in the world suffering and I wanted to help at least one. But I have a family of my own and don't want to be taken advantage of! I wish there was a company that was honest and transparent as we have no idea how some of these people have it and every little helps!

1 year 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.

3 years 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.

3 years 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 .

4 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.

5 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.

4 years ago