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Cost Effective Compassion

I read an interesting article the other day in Christianity Today (the link to the full article is here).  To quote from one of the opening paragraphs…

But what are the best ways to help those living in developing countries By “best,” I mean most effective: things that actually help people rise out of poverty, and that carry with them a sizable “bang for your buck”—programs in which the impact on the poor is significant per donated dollar.

The article goes on to talk about how this is really hard to measure, but it did so anyway with the help of 16 different researchers.

To answer this question, I polled top development economists who specialize in analyzing development programs. I asked them to rate, from 0 to 10, some of the most common poverty interventions to which ordinary people donate their money, in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness per donated dollar.

….. And they showed remarkable consensus in their ratings.

I strongly suggest reading the full article to get the entire gist of the story, but the one that stood out for me (no surprise here) was the one on Child Sponsorship.  Overall, it ranked as #4.  Let me quote again…

Of all the long-term development interventions, child sponsorship received the highest rating. Sponsors typically pay $25 to $40 per month, which covers a child’s educational fees, school uniforms, tutoring, health care, and, in faith-based sponsorship organizations, spiritual mentorship. Many development economists today favor interventions like child sponsorship that remove practical constraints to education while building a child’s self-esteem, aspirations, and goals. In this way, sponsorship relieves both external and internal poverty constraints.

They go on to say…

Two researchers and I recently carried out a study (sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development) on the long-term impacts of Compassion International’s child sponsorship program. The study, gathering data from over 10,000 individuals in six countries, found substantial impact on adult life outcomes for children who were sponsored through Compassion’s program during the 1980s and ’90s. We statistically compared formerly sponsored children to older siblings who were too old for sponsorship when the program started in their village. In adulthood, formerly sponsored children were far more likely to complete secondary school and had a much higher chance of having a white-collar job. They married and had children later in life, were more likely to be church and community leaders, were less likely to live in a home with a dirt floor and more likely to live in a home with electricity. [Editor’s Note: Christianity Today will feature a full report on this study once the findings are peer reviewed.]

… and further…

There are some caveats: Although the impact in the child’s life is significant, compared with other forms of interventions, child sponsorship is comparatively expensive. In addition, some economists are concerned that some child sponsorship organizations, such as [other organizations not including Compassion], use sponsorship funds for development projects in the village where the child lives rather than investing them directly in the lives of sponsored children, resulting in diffuse impacts that are more difficult to rigorously assess.

Of course there were other items on the list that Compassion is involved in as well like Mosquito Nets (#3), clean water initiatives (#1), micro-finance loans (#6), surgeries (#7), and giving farm animals (#8).

It’s great to see however, that Child Sponsorship is way up there as a cost-effective, long-term initiative.

So why not get involved today?  Here’s the links so you can find out more.


Oops! Just realized that Compassion blogged on this very topic yesterday 🙂  For their article, click here.

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