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Your 5 Step Guide to Ensuring Your Charity Donations Have the Maximum Impact

Compassion UK’s CEO, Justin Dowds, reflects on how to choose a charity to support.

charity giving

When you donate to charity, how do you know you’re making a real difference?

The UK is a hugely generous nation. It’s part of our national identity to support those less fortunate than ourselves, and two-thirds of us regularly donate to charities.

But with more than 200,000 registered charities in the UK, it can be difficult to know which organisations you can trust with your donations.

Justin Dowds


Before committing your support, time, or money to a cause, it’s important to evaluate them carefully, and to be certain that you’re supporting organisations that operate effectively. This in turn ensures that those who are being empowered by the charity’s activities can experience a long-term, positive impact.

Your charitable donations should do far more than simply feed a child for one day.

Breaking the cycle of poverty involves empowering a child so that they can take lasting strides into real change—this means giving a child not just food and clothing, but also education, health care, emotional support, and spiritual development.

For 67 years, Compassion has been working passionately to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. We have years of experience, helping us to recognise how to create a highly effective charity.

How to choose a charity to support in 2019: Your 5 step guide

It doesn’t take long to determine whether a charity stewards its donations strategically to make the biggest impact. So before you make a choice to commit your support, your time, or your money to a charity in 2019, take a moment to ask these simple questions:

effective charity donations online

Question 1. Does the charity take a holistic approach to reaching their mission and goals?

You may have heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

One question to ask any charity you’re considering is how it is working to resolve the core challenges behind the problem its mission is trying to solve.

Because Compassion UK aims to get to the core of why a community is in poverty, we do not simply feed and clothe the children in our programmes. We have several initiatives that help children living in the vulnerability of poverty from age 0 to age 18 and above.

  •  First, we have Child Survival interventions, to end poverty where it starts--with young mothers who desperately need help. We reach at-risk children even before they’ve been born. Through the provision of pre and post-natal care, nutrition, vaccinations plus critical support and training for mums, we give children the best start in life.
  •  Second, we have a Child Development Sponsorship Programme to end poverty mid-cycle. We connect one child born into the vulnerability of poverty with one sponsor. By sponsoring a child, you can send the child to school, feed them nutritious meals and protect their health with regular medical check-ups.
  •  Third, we have our Respond Interventions specially created for extenuating circumstances in high-risk communities. Poverty is complicated and sometimes the children in our child survival and sponsorship programmes have needs beyond the regular care we provide. RESPOND equips us to take action in emergencies. From the provision of safe drinking water, initiatives to tackle malnutrition or emergency relief after a disaster, RESPOND saves lives.
  •  Lastly, we ensure the future of the children in our Compassion projects, beyond childhood. Most children in poverty won’t have the opportunity to receive a post-secondary education. We give the older teenagers in our programme children vocational training. This allows them to learn a trade that is in demand in their community, so that they can break the cycle of poverty, and feel confident in their ability to provide stability for themselves and their family.

    You can learn more about our initiatives here.

    These initiatives aren’t our only commitment to our mission!

Question 2. Does the charity go beyond the call of duty to carry out its mission?

True excellence is defined by how far an organisation is willing to go in pursuit of fulfilling its mission. When situations are tough, does the organisation rise to meet the challenge with dignity, integrity, and strength?

Child with heart

In our interactions with communities in poverty, a few very tough situations present themselves to our Compassion staff and church partners, time and time again.

Did you know that the poorest children in a community are at the highest risk of being forced into child labour, prostitution, violence, or even human trafficking. They are more likely to interact with adults addicted to alcohol or drug misuse. These children, more than any other, will go without medical care, proper nutrition, and sometimes without any nurturing or parental support.

These are not children who merely need food and clothing. They need to be shown that they matter and are worthy of love and care. They need to be given stability, as well as hope.

Children running in Rwanda

Compassion works exclusively in partnership with the local church. This means our church partners know their communities inside-out and find children who are most in need and give them the opportunity to join the Compassion programme, regardless of their religion or background. We advocate for these children to be sponsored and helped as a top priority.

But we also support everyone involved in the care of these children. Once every three months, Compassion project staff hold special meetings for parents and caregivers where they run sessions on parenting skills, child protection, malaria awareness or good hygiene practice, depending on what is relevant to the local context. Every Compassion-supported family also receives a home visit at least once a year so that Compassion staff can get to know the family and understand their individual needs.

Which means that if they go missing for prolonged periods of time, or if the family has a high occurrence of upheaval at home--one of our staff will go check on the child and offer the family personal support. No child is left behind to suffer, and we do everything in our power to prevent the child from encountering FGM, human trafficking, addiction or violent situations.

This is far more than simply providing nutrition, clothing, or school fees. It requires that our Compassion staff are dedicated and passionate about the well being of every child. Every day, Compassion’s project staff and volunteers are sharing Jesus’ love and putting their faith into action by helping children in poverty.

Question 3. Has the charity conducted independent research to prove that their initiatives achieve their mission?

Whichever charity you decide to contribute to should relentlessly pursue objective measurement of their goals. This is part of having integrity with stewarding your donations, as well as having integrity in achieving the charity’s heartfelt objectives.

Compassion allowed a vigorous 2-year independent study, headed by Dr.Bruce Wydick, to examine if our child sponsorship programme truly and objectively had an impact on children living in poverty. The results were conclusive: Compassion works! Here’s an overview of the study’s findings:

Ask if the other charities you support are able to supply such strong evidence of their impact over a long time.

Question 4. What are your charity donations spent on?

This may seem like an obvious qualification, but it can sometimes be hard to find out how much a charity uses for administrative and marketing costs, or when you do discover the stats, the percentages can be worryingly high. While, yes, there are administrative and marketing costs for a charity, these should be the smallest allocation for the funds you give. 

In financial year 16/17 Compassion was proud to allocate 88% of sponsorship donations to charitable activities. At least 80% of sponsorship donations were used directly to benefit children in poverty, and 6% for direct support costs.

You can learn more, here.

Question 5. Does the charity give you the opportunity to see the difference you're making for yourself?

An interesting question to pose to an organisation, before you make a donation, is if there will ever be the opportunity to see how your personal donations are being used for yourself. 

Compassion is committed to fiscal transparency with our donors, sponsors, ambassadors, and partners. We're confident in the effectiveness of our work, and give sponsors the opportunity to visit their sponsored child to see the difference their donations have been making with their own eyes. 

Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a personal account from one of our Compassion sponsors:

Help a child break free from poverty, today!

Committing to a charity is an expression of your heart 

When you commit to a charity, you’re expressing your deep love and hope for the future of our world. You're responding to God's call to care for the poor. Ensure that your love and hope is spread by a responsible and trustworthy steward--choose a charity that truly makes a difference and stands tall with integrity.

charity giving girls in Indonesia

If you’re looking for a highly effective, trustworthy, and heart-based charity that has a proven record of making a difference, consider becoming a Compassion UK sponsor.

For just £28 a month, you can ensure a brighter and hope-filled future of a child in poverty, helping to end poverty at the source.

Help a child break free from poverty, today!


WORDS : Justin Dowds

PHOTOS : Compassion UK



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