Cover image courtesy of Feed the Children
–by Cheyenne Fulks–
This article is an analysis of the child sponsorship program within the established company, Feed the Children. Multiple issues and complications apply to the program of child sponsorship. The process of sponsorship can be demeaning to the children in their abroad programs in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda. A child can undergo tension in their community, whether it is pressure from their sponsor or competition amongst the children for the most unfortunate spot. Feed the Children’s funding does not always go towards all of the organizations it says it does. Through multiple donors, the profits have not distributed the way they claim it does; only a small portion of it goes toward the project, and the rest goes to the management. A majority of the issues with the child sponsorship program comes from the generalization of poverty of Feed the Children’s advertisements to the public and potential donors. These issues can only be settled if Feed the Children approaches the truth and becomes honest with their clients and those they sponsor and more transparent with their fundings and advertisements.
Child sponsorship is one of the leading and up-and-coming forms of fundraising for non-governmental organizations. It is a hands-free way for the West to get involved internationally, and solve problems halfway across the globe while still sitting at home. All it takes is for someone to sign up and choose a child, and then a swipe of the card (Maisha International). This article will primarily cover the child sponsorship program of the company Feed the Children. By researching the corporation that is Feed the Children, I plan to analyze its shortcomings and propose solutions.
Feed the Children’s Motivation
If someone is interested in the child sponsorship program, he or she is first offered a list of children. Within this list of children are bio’s for each one, explaining what their life is like and what their story is. The sponsor is asked to pick one of the following that touches their heart the most and is directed to a payout profile. After selecting, they receive a personal photo of the child along with more information about that child’s life (Feed the Children 2018). The website also offers a way of communication with the child in the form of letters. The sponsors are told that they will be annually updated on the child’s wellbeing, and there is the possibility of notes and drawings from their sponsored child. The child in return receives “nutritious” food, clean water, an education and school supplies, essential vitamins, and as a whole, a better livelihood (“Child Sponsorship: You Can Change a Child’s Life!” 2017).
I will specifically be critically analyzing the company, Feed the Children, and its program for child sponsorship. Feed the Children was founded in 1979 in the United States. Its headquarters are in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Their vision? “Create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.” This nonprofit organization serves those in need in the United States and ten other countries across the globe, four of them being in Africa (Feed the Children 2018). Feed the Children funds multiple projects, and even offers anyone the ability to create a project of their own as long as it meets requirements and goes through their organization. This nonprofit also is known for its disaster relief program. They send field staff and volunteers to a destination with loads of food in semi-trucks in order to help people rehabilitate after a tragedy (“Five Myths About Child Sponsorship” 2017).
The Sponsored Child
The organization doesn’t always distribute large amounts of money to the sponsored children. There could be the possibility that the money isn’t even going to the intended child, so a family cannot consider this a reliable source of income. There could also be tension in the community, possibly creating a rivalry between children to compete for the poverty position(“Simply… Why You Should Not Sponsor A Child” 2017). A sponsored child’s parents might feel threatened and demeaned from the income of these donations, feeling as if they are not doing enough for their household. If a sponsor decides to discontinue their sponsorship for a child, the child might not understand the sponsor’s reasoning and feel as if they’re to blame. This could lead to both the sponsor or the sponsored to feel upset that they can no longer communicate with one another. The sponsored children are usually chosen by elected members of the community, who are supposed to choose which child in the community is most in need.
However, this process depends on the elected members of the community having been fair and unbiased in their selection of their children. In some communities, there is the possibility that pre-existing imbalances like gender, age, or class come into play (“The Pros and Cons of Child Sponsorship – An Outsider’s Perspective” 2018).
What Sponsors Don’t Know
Feed the Children has excluded many details about their program to their sponsors. Non profitable organizations have been known for leaving out information about the process. Donors are sold the opportunity to change a child’s life, and more importantly, are sold a relationship with the child; there is a priority placed by ChildFund on how donors benefit from giving to them, rather than going into great specificity of what donors are paying for. Feed the Children goes out of their way to inform their donors that they are making a difference in the world (“The Pros and Cons of Child Sponsorship – An Outsider’s Perspective” 2018). It’s is great to reassure a donor of what they are doing, but this goes to show that Feed the Children is putting just as much effort in with their donors as they are with the children they are supposed to have their focus on.
Where the Money Goes
A sponsor is asked to donate thirty dollars each month for as long as the donor chooses to donate, and their money will supposedly be given to the chosen sponsored child. In most cases, the money is bundled and distributed through multiple donations (“The Pros and Cons of Child Sponsorship – An Outsider’s Perspective” 2018). As stated by the American Institute of Philanthropy, their rating criteria, Feed The Children received an “F” rating for financial efficiency, for purposes of spending only 20–23 percent of its donated budgets on their charitable programs. Feed the Children has since denied this rating since the American Institute of Philanthropy does not include “gifts in kind” in its ratings. In recent years, there has been an increase in profit for the charitable funds and less given to the management party (“Charity Report – Feed The Children”). The long-term wellbeing of a child largely depends on what life their parents are able to offer them. In some instances, a monthly donation may not be enough to permanently change a child’s future, as there are many issues to take into consideration (“Simply… Why You Should Not Sponsor A Child” 2017).
The Simplification of Poverty
Child sponsorship is a direct popular connection between the West and third world countries. Many claim that it is because of the generalization and advertisement of poverty that brings the West to their assumptions (Bornstein). Africa is labeled with multiple issues: widespread poverty, corruption, a lack of political accountability, famines, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and civil war. These issues bring about the Western’s drive to help Africa. This gives the West one more reason to pursue programs like child sponsorship because all they have ever been told is these issues, and they are never told about Africa’s successes (Parker and Rathbone 2007).
In Feed the Children’s blog, their advertisement is solely directed at the hungry children in need of help. This advertisement gives the West the idea that they need to do more, especially in the third world countries. The West is known for thinking that all children in Africa are impoverished, starving, and wanting anyone’s help. The phrase, “there are starving children in Africa,” is said far too often (Wainaina 2011). The absence of parents or financial funds from the parents is common to see in the advertisements. This displays the idea that most of the kids are orphans and this leads to further issues, like volunteer tourism and international adoption (“Simply… Why You Should Not Sponsor A Child” 2017). The underlying problem is assumptions like these that could possibly be resolved if advertisements stopped generalizing poverty.
Philanthropic movements like child sponsorship are successful practices and indeed bring monthly donations to a community. However, these donations bring with them some negative effects. Those on the receiving end of these donations may experience strain within their community and still face uncertainty financially. Organizations like Feed the Children do not always offer the truth when budgeting and advertising. Feed the Children needs to continue to work on addressing the problem of their program’s effects on the donor and sponsored child. They have a lot of work to do when it comes to providing the truth about their donations and portraying a more complete picture of the children and the communities in need.
This post may have been edited by admin for clarity and length.
“Partner with Feed the Children to Create a World Where No Child Goes to Bed Hungry.” Feed the Children, 2018, www.feedthechildren.org/.
Staff. “Child Sponsorship: You Can Change a Child’s Life!” Feed the Children, 18 Apr. 2017, www.feedthechildren.org/2017/04/child-sponsorship-you-can-change-a-childs-life/.
Feed the Children. “Five Myths About Child Sponsorship.” Feed the Children, 10 Apr. 2017, www.feedthechildren.org/2014/04/five-myths-child-sponsorship/.
“The Pros and Cons of Child Sponsorship – An Outsider’s Perspective.” Develop Africa | Changing Lives, Nations and Destinies, 4 May 2018,
www.developafrica.org/blog/pros-and-cons-child-sponsorship-–-outsider’s-perspective. “Simply… Why You Should Not Sponsor A Child.” New Internationalist, 5 July 2017,
Bornstein, Erica. “Child Sponsorship, Evangelism, and Belonging in the Work of World Vision Zimbabwe.” American Ethnologist, 2001, pp. 21-22., doi:10.1525/ae.2001.28.3.595.
Maisha International. YouTube, YouTube, 4 Oct. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=39&v=pxdBb-FNqGc.
Parker, John, and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2007.
Wainaina, Binyavanga. How to Write about Africa. Kwani Trust, 2011.
Krotz, Larry. “Introduction: Outsiders In Africa.” The Uncertain Business of Doing No Good, Michigan State University Press.
“Charity Report – Feed The Children.” Charity Report – Jewish National Fund, www.give.org/charity-reviews/national/relief-and-development/feed-the-children-in-okla
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www.feedthechildren.org/2017/04/child-sponsorship-you-can-change-a-childs-life/. “The Benefits of Being a Sponsor.” Digital Image. Feed the Children, Staff, 18 Apr. 2017,