February 28, 2011 05:00 ET

Understanding Child Sponsorship

Smart Ways to Make a Global Difference

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - February 28, 2011) - Most people have heard stories or seen images depicting the dire conditions faced by families living in poverty in developing countries. These stories can make people feel compelled to get involved, but often they are left with questions about the best way to help families in need.

Bob Hentzen, president and co-founder of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), believes that child sponsorship is one of the best ways to connect with and assist families throughout the world trying to survive in extreme poverty -- often on less than $2 per day.

"Sponsorship benefits are designed to meet critical needs and help families build a path out of poverty," Hentzen said. "Sponsorship says, 'We are equal and we need each other. We are interdependent.'"

To shed light on global poverty and the benefits of sponsorship, Hentzen, who is 74, is currently on an 8,000-mile walk through 12 countries. (See sidebar story for more about Walk2gether.)

Basic Sponsorship Models
Child sponsorship programs, like the one offered by CFCA, give people the opportunity to impact global poverty through recurring, monthly contributions. Sponsorship donations are then used to provide families in need with basic resources like food, education and health care benefits. There are three basic models, although some organizations combine two or more of the basic sponsorship models to carry out their mission.

Community Projects -- Some child sponsorship organizations pool the funds from individual sponsorships to help support larger community projects like the development of new schools or hospitals. These organizations also might distribute general goods like food or clothing to entire communities.

Direct Support -- Organizations such as CFCA connect individual sponsors with children in need, providing them and their families with resources such as food, education, vocational training and micro-loans.

Third-Party Support -- A few organizations use the sponsorship dollars they collect to support local groups or organizations that already provide resources for people living in poverty, including schools, churches, shelters and food banks.

In addition to financial support, some child sponsorship organizations provide a way to create a personal connection with sponsored children through letters. These letters allow sponsors to witness the impact of their contributions and provide a way to offer words of encouragement.

"Sponsorship offers a lot more than financial support," Hentzen said. "What the child and family really are hearing from you is, 'You are not alone and I believe in you.'"

Unlike other charitable options, child sponsorship requires a personal, long-term commitment from sponsors. This is why it's not only important to understand how sponsorship works, but also how to find the right partner organization.

Narrowing the Field

  • Research the organization's finances. A recent study by Hope Consulting showed that 65 percent of donors don't research an organization before making a donation. Form 990 is an IRS document available to the public that provides detailed information on an organization's operational activities, including what percentage of financial contributions are used for program support.
  • Review third-party ratings and comments. Organizations like the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator rate charities to ensure they meet financial and accountability standards. In addition, pay special attention to the comments made by other sponsors regarding their overall experience with the organization.
  • Evaluate for impact. Program ratios don't tell the whole story. Look for specific evidence of meaningful impact. Go through each organization's website and literature carefully. Look for testimonials and program specifics provided by sponsored families, donors, volunteers and staff.
  • Ensure the organization's values and mission align with yours. The values and mission of sponsorship organizations can be very different and impact how the organizations operate as well as the services they offer. Don't judge a child sponsorship organization by its name. Instead, focus on how the organization carries out its mission.

Christian Foundation for Children and Aging is an international sponsorship organization serving people of all faiths in 22 developing countries. CFCA's Hope for a Family sponsorship program connects individual sponsors with a child, youth or elderly person in need to provide them with the basic resources and support needed to create a path out of poverty. More than 94 percent of CFCA's expenses go toward program support.

Visit, or call (800) 875-6564 for more information.

"Sponsorship benefits are designed to meet critical needs and help families build a path out of poverty." -- CFCA President Bob Hentzen

74-year-old man walks 8,000 miles for kids

On Dec., 29, 2009, Bob Hentzen embarked on Walk2gether, an 8,000-mile walk through 12 countries -- from Guatemala to Chile.

The trip, which spans about a year and a half, is Hentzen's unique way of helping counteract the isolation of people living in poverty, and showing them that someone cares.

"By walking with people living in poverty, we are saying, 'You are not alone,'" Hentzen said. "We are listening to you and learning from you."

Hentzen's day begins around 2:30 a.m., when he wakes up in an old Toyota camper. He covers an average of 20 to 25 miles daily as he makes his way through vast terrains.

Despite the mental and physical demands required to complete each day, Hentzen, 74, finds the time and energy to visit with families CFCA serves -- many of whom make their way to Hentzen to support and encourage him in the same way that he does for them.

Hentzen hopes that his efforts will inspire people in the U.S. to sponsor at least one child for each of the 8,000 miles he is walking during Walk2gether.

As a CFCA sponsor, a tax-deductible contribution of $30 per month provides a child and family with:

  • Basic resources such as food, clothing and health care.
  • Educational benefits such as school supplies, uniforms, tuition and other school fees.
  • Recreational activities such as Christmas and birthday celebrations.
  • Literacy training and livelihood programs for parents.

To follow Hentzen's journey or help him reach his goal, visit