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Save the Children

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LAST UPDATED: April 17th, 2020

Save the Children was originally founded in England in 1919. The U.S. headquarters was founded in 1932 in Connecticut. Save the Children uses a child sponsorship model, where donors' sponsored contributions are pooled with those of other donors sponsoring children in the community. These donations are used to fight poverty, provide better options for early childhood and primary education, and supply medical supplies and care to the community as a whole. Sponsors are able to communicate with their sponsored children if they desire.

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The Good

  • Low administrative expenses
  • 87 percent revenue goes to program delivery
  • Awards and recognition

Total Income

Income for Save the Children has risen slightly and steadily over the last several years:
  • 2015: $678,277,000
  • 2014: $655,761,043
  • 2013: $641,793,672
  • 2012: $567,822,259
  • 2011: $593,991,339
  • 2010: $535,723,715

Administrative Expenses

Save the Children allocates 5 percent of its revenue to administrative expenses. This is comparable to other similar organizations.

Fundraising Expenses

Save the Children reports an average fundraising budget of 8 percent of its total revenue. This percentage of fundraising expenses is comparable with other similar organizations.

Program Percentage

Save the Children reports that it used 87 percent of all revenue received in the last year for program delivery. Charity watchdog organizations usually state that 80 percent of an organization's income being used to deliver its program is illustrative of sound fiscal management practices.

Accessible Financial Information

Save the Children's fiscal year end is June 30. The organization has not published its IRS Form 990 for 2015-2016 at the writing of this review in August 2016. Save the Children only publishes its current year's annual report online, but has its 2011-2015 IRS Form 990 on its website. In addition to publishing raw financial data, Save the Children has created several pie charts explaining its revenue and program costs. Each chart was representative of published financial data by the organization.

Donor Communication

Save the Children uses its social media and electronic newsletter to maintain communication with interested parties, whether or not they are current donors. Those who choose to support Save the Children will receive additional information for fundraising efforts or after natural disasters or other emergencies. Sponsors are encouraged to share letters, photos, etc. with their sponsored child and vice versa, but Save the Children does not require sponsors or sponsored children to do so to be in its program.


Save the Children has been awarded high ranking by several charity watchdog organizations, which rate charities on transparency, program percentage, etc. These include the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits, Forbes, and, and the Wise Giving Alliance. None of these specific recognitions are given for the quality of the work which the charity accomplishes, rather the organization's transparency, which while important, carries somewhat less weight than those which would be given for its program.

The Bad

  • Negative press
  • High CEO salary

CEO Salary

Salary data for 2015 is not available, and not yet published on the organization's website (this information is disclosed on the IRS Form 990). The president and CEO, Carolyn Miles, earned a $439,753 (0.06 percent of the organization's revenue) in 2014. This salary is significantly higher than comparable salaries from other similar organizations.

Negative Press

2014: Tony Blair Save the Children Global Legacy Award Save the Children was originally founded in Great Britain, with the organization's global headquarters remain in the United Kingdom. The American organization recognized former English Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with its Global Legacy Award. The award sparked significant controversy in Great Britain from those who were against the United Kingdom's entry into the Iraq War as an ally of the United States, saying the Mr. Blair was responsible for thousands of civilian deaths as a result of the war. Some especially loud critics went as far as to accuse him of being a child murderer. Within days, Save the Children responded to its critics, apologized and clarified that while the award was named the "Global Legacy Award," and that awarding it to Mr. Blair was specifically recognizing his work in Africa, not globally. There remain several people on Facebook who have posted about this award and calling the organization hypocritical. 2006, 2009: Madonna, Malawi, and Adoptions Madonna adopted a young boy from an orphanage in Malawi in 2006. The controversy began when news sources revealed that the child had a surviving father in the country. The little boy's mother passed away a few days after his birth, and his father took him to an orphanage to care for him after losing his wife and two sons (both older than the child whom Madonna and her husband adopted) to malaria. The couple met the boy's father and he gave his blessing, stating that he had been promised that Madonna and her husband would honor the culture and traditions of Malawi as well as that when the child grew older that he would visit his home country. Save the Children became very vocal in its criticism of Madonna when the couple returned to adopt a little girl from the same orphanage in Malawi in 2009. The organization stated that the superstar was putting on a "puppy show" with her adoptions and that all children should remain in their original environment. Additional criticism came from other sources stating that Madonna was using her wealth and fame to bypass child protection guidelines. Malawi officials granted Madonna rights to take her newly adopted children out of the country, with cooperative agreements made for further observations to protect the children in the United Kingdom and the United States. The second adoption was contested by the child's family members who left her at the orphanage as an infant, with an agreement to return when she was six to resume her care. The Review Team, some of whom have adopted multiple times, found the practices and statements about children being paraded as a puppy show by a children's charity offensive. There is little mention that Madonna and Mr. Richie, her husband gave $3 million for orphans in Malawi. Many international adoptive families prepare gifts or give generously to the orphanages from where their children were originally housed, as a way to give back to those who gave so much care to orphans. It is conceivable that Madonna's generous gift directly to those in need created a tenuous relationship with Save the Children, since the organization did not receive their administrative "cut" with a direct gift from the family to the orphanages.

The Bottom Line

Save the Children has fewer negative stories in the press or controversies than some other children sponsoring organizations. The organization's statement that Madonna's adoptions were nothing but "puppy parades" and that the children were better off remaining in the orphanages are troubling as there is a disconnect between statements and the mission of the charity. This is in a conflict with statements made by Malawinese government officials which say that the country's children in orphanages are a growing burden to the government as far as their care was concerned and that even one child being adopted and removed from the orphanage system was a benefit to all concerned. As far as whether to support Save the Children, the organization demonstrates a good percentage of revenue being used to deliver its program and has a good reputation, and deserves a second look when considering sponsoring a child.
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Christie Tustin, CA

I donate periodically because I don’t have a lot of money and have been doing so for 40 years. I have never been deluged with emails or phone calls. I gave them my phone number (it is not required) and they call once in awhile very briefly. Same with the emails, periodic. Everything I have read about them from responsible sources has been very positive and they consistently have very high ratings with the various charity watchdog organizations, including Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. I especially like that they operate in the U.S. and internationally among the poorest people.

3 years ago

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DO NOT DONATE TO THIS CHARITY. They will send you SEVEN (no exaggeration) emails a DAY for the rest of your life. There is no way to escape this. You can't block them because it's from a different email address every time. If you email them to ask them to take you off the mailing list they will ignore you (I tried FIVE times). The only way to escape is to delete your entire email account. Find a different charity because I regret the day I ever gave this one money.

4 years ago


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Luna Rockville, MD

A heart touching organization. It is great to see them helping and saving the children.

4 years ago