Have you ever wondered where your money goes after making a donation? In this series of blogs, GPP co-founder Simon Moss explores how you can understand where it goes, why, and how you can help it go further.
Ja’mie King proudly shows the camera around her room, beaming at her record as the person with the highest number of sponsor children in the country – 83. Although she’s just a character in Chris Lilley’s mockumentary series’ We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High, she’s a prime example of a child sponsor, the most common and highest grossing source of donating to aid agencies.
A few years ago, I was leading a high school camp, and upon hearing that I worked in the aid sector, I was asked by Sam, a year 10 student how child sponsorship worked. They and their family had a child for years, and although he thought it was great, he didn’t understand how his sponsor brother got the money they sent each month.
As I explained that the neither his sponsor brother or his family actually got the money, Sam’s face turned to anger. “What do you mean they don’t get the money? Do they spend it all in administration? I knew it!” Trying to placate him as we picked through rocks on a steep ascent, I clarified.
I said that no, the money wasn’t wasted. The vast majority of the money is spent in the local community on things that the family wants and needs – like books for the school, nurses for the health clinic, maintenance for the water pump and on extra nutrition programs and support for the community.
I went on to explain that it makes no sense to hand out the money to individual children and families, as that’s not how these communities work. Resources are shared amongst many people, and it won’t work for everyone to have a tiny bit of money for water. Instead, we need to pay for the whole system, and the most efficient and effective way to do that is to pool resources, and make things available for everyone.
It’s how we do many things in our own countries with services provided by the government. And, it’s often the only way of providing services to the poorest of the poor, who would otherwise never get the opportunity to go to school or get to see a doctor.
Nodding his head, Sam had just one more question. “Why is it then that I get told I’m sponsoring a child when I’m actually sponsoring a community?” I was puffing by now, exhausted from climbing a hill laden with a rucksack whilst explaining how child sponsorship worked. So, I paused for a moment, considered how to say it, then continued;
“Because most people don’t want to have a ten minute discussion about their donation before they give it. They want to know that it’s going to make a real difference in someone’s life, that as a direct result of their gift, a child will get to learn to read and write. We connect with individuals and stories of people like us doing the things that we do, not numbers and graphs about the proportion of villagers with access to clean drinking water.”
I finished by noting that when we explain things completely, people get bored, wander off, and don’t donate. That’s not helpful to the charity trying to fundraise, and it’s certainly not helpful for the kids, families and communities who stand to benefit when we do choose to give.To learn more about how poverty affects children, read here.
If you’d like to become a child sponsor, contact your local Plan, World Vision, Save the Children or Compassion office today.