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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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Peggy Broady

I have sponsored a child for 6 years. I don't even know how I have managed it for that long because in America, I am below the poverty line. I really wanted to do this for the longest time, so I signed up when my church had a Compassion Sunday. From the beginning, I had problems with the billing, because they promised to not withdraw the money from my account until after my disability check had been deposited. That was their first lie to me. That and the fact that I couldn't send gifts to my sponsored child. I endured many overdrafts to my checking account because of CI. Over time as I sent stickers and bookmarks/coloring pages, I never received ANY confirmation that she had received any of them! I was constantly solicited to send money for more gifts, and when I did, there was no acknowledgement that she had received anything. I don't want to feel as though I am abandoning her, if I cancel my sponsorship. But I lost my disability income when I recently married, and they just hiked up the monthly donor amount again. We will see how it goes, but even though I sent pictures of my wedding, the person who writes her letters is still calling me "Miss Peggy". No acknowledgement of my prayer request. (I have stage 3 throat cancer.)

3 months ago

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Sky Brooke Decatur, GA

Oct 2021 I have been supporting two girls from Africa for 7 years. I rarely get photos of the children and when I do it's the same old sad poor looking photo I was given initially. 1x they sent me an updated photo and then the very next time I heard from them they were back to the old original photo where the girls were young and poor looking. I've written online and complained about photos w 200 likes. 1 reply from a woman compassion rep. said I needed to find another charity if I thought I was going to get updated photos on a regular basis.!! . Needless to say I was floored with that response. Also their accounting is wrong. And the last 4 years I have been paying annually. But yet I keep finding out at the end of the year that I have a balance. Although that's impossible I have paid that so-called balance twice and guess what yes it is back again. Received a progress report from the president and they were off by over $300 of what I have contributed. That is a lot of money, so I wrote a letter to the president explaining the problem end of October 2021. It's almost Christmas and I still have not heard back from anyone. Compassion hold off some of those beg letters and please send out a How am I doing annual survey and please be sure to read them. It's a great program...I hate to pull the rug from under my girls after so many years, one is 19 now and will be graduating out of the program very soon. Kudos to the donors who have had an opportunity to visit their children, I plan to do that too I think it would make me feel much better. Oh and I just thought about it while there I can take my own darn photos. LOL

1 year 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

3 years 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...

4 years ago