Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
Sign up to receive blog posts via email and receive a free eBook!

World Vision Vs. Compassion International

All these bloggers in Uganda with Compassion International got Rose and I thinking about our ability to sponsor a child. As we’ve thought about it, I saw two relatively similar Christian organizations working around the world. This would be World Vision and Compassion International. I didn’t just want to choose Compassion simply because they were all over the blogosphere right now. I’m not trying to choose which one is best for you, I just want to compare them. I realize that by comparing just these two I am leaving out many others. I just see these two as the most well known and recognized within the Christian community.

  • They both equally emphasize the importance of teaching a sponsored child and the region about Jesus.
  • % of donated money that goes directly to program uses…World Vision (86%) Compassion (83%).
  • World Vision’s yearly budget is four times as large as Compassion’s.
  • Salary given to organizational Presidents…World Vision ($351k) Compassion ($187k).
  • Both organizations are worldwide. World Vision is in 97 countries, Compassion is in 24.
  • Compassion focuses almost exclusively on child sponsorship and working with children. World Vision has most of its focus on children but also offers family sponsorship.
  • Here’s the biggest difference: While child sponsorship is the gateway for most of the raising of $ for both, World Vision spreads the money raised throughout a community, trying to raise the overall community to a new standard of living. Compassion, however, focuses the money raised exclusively on the child.
  • Compassion offers sponsorship for $32/month and World Vision has sponsorship for $30,$35, or $40 a month depending on what where the child lives or whether you want to sponsor a family.
  • Compassion uses the majority of the sponsorship money to go directly to that child. Whereas, World Vision uses the money to help the sponsored child but also the child’s family and the community they live in.

My decision: We are going to go with World Vision. We came to this decision because I see World Vision having a broad focus and the desire to meet the needs of families beyond just feeding and educating one child. I really don’t see a big difference in them other than World Vision being quite a bit bigger, so there is no wrong decision in this.

Do you have a preference between the two?

(Update 3/25/14: World Vision recently announced that their US division is allowing for the hiring of gay individuals who are in same-sex marriages. This is obviously caused quite a reaction from WV donors. Here’s some great thoughts from Matthew Lee Anderson on how to move forward in light of their decision. I’ll also add this has caused an incredible debate among Christians and my message on unity from this past Sunday seems to be of particular interest in light of that. And finally I’ll include Jen Hatmaker’s post that is also helpful.)

(Update 3/26/14: World Vision has announced the reversal of their decision earlier in the week. Full statement here.)

  • Share on Tumblr
  • brian

    I like compassion because we have been sponsoring a child with them for 6 years. I haven’t done as much research as you but compassion has been fabulous to work with. They do a really good job of keeping the correspondence with the child or family going. We are really bad about writing letters back to our child, but we get a lot of letters from him(we suck). They have people that will write letters for you if you can’t or don’t write to the child. When we started with Compassion it was $28.00/month and it went up to $32.00 a couple years ago.

    It is a great investment to help a child somewhere in the World whom you have never met. Definitley right in line with what we are called to do as Christ followers.

  • brian

    Good job pulling off the set with out a drummer tonight. I am sure you guys were awesome.

    It seems like some of the best worship happens after our plans fall apart. Funny how God works sometimes.

  • Becky

    I ran across your blog from a link on Anne Jackson’s site and wanted to respond to your question about the difference between WV and Compassion. [I should tell you that I work for Compassion, although I’m sure you can see that from my blog.] I don’t know nearly as much about WV as I do about CI but here’s the main difference that I know of …

    Compassion’s ministry is entirely church-based. What that means is that every project is operated by a local evangelical church. Compassion works by partnering with small local churches all over the world and equipping them to help reach out to the kids in their community.

    As far as I understand World Vision, their approach is somewhat different.

    I hope that helps! I think it’s awesome that you are doing so much research up front.

    • Bill

      Check Wikepedia for a more accurate picture of World Vision’s core values and approach. Below is an exerpt.

      In a report on famine in Ethiopia, reporter Andrew Geoghegan visited his 14 year old sponsor child. The girl has “been part of a World Vision program all her life” yet says (in translated subtitle) “Until recently, I didn’t know I had a sponsor.” and when asked about her knowledge of World Vision sponsorship says “Last time they gave me this jacket and a pen.” Geoghegan was disconcerted to find that despite being “told by World Vision that [the girl] was learning English at school, and was improving… she speaks no English at all.”[1]

      In their response, World Vision states “World Vision unapologetically takes a community-based approach to development – a fact we publicly promote at every opportunity. Providing money directly to the families of sponsored children simply does not work, no matter how dire the circumstances. A ‘direct benefit’ approach creates jealousy among community members that do not have sponsored children and fosters an ethos of dependency. So while sponsored children may receive some direct benefits – like school materials or a jacket for warmth – this in no way represents the entirety of our work in a community, and it was disingenuous for the Foreign Correspondent story to imply this.”

      It is clearly stated on the World Vision website: “When you make a gift, your contributions are pooled with that of other sponsors of children in the community where your child lives. Your child receives health care, education, nutritious food, and the entire community benefits from access to clean water, agricultural assistance, medical care, and more.”

      The journalist and producer were offered the chance to view the full breadth of work World Vision is undertaking in the community, in health, education and food security, but this offer was not accepted.”[2]

      Foreign Correspondent replied to World Vision. In part, that response reads: “Foreign Correspondent sought answers from World Vision representatives on why the organisation’s literature creates the impression that donated money goes directly to the sponsor child. The World Vision representative failed to adequately respond to the questions and instead outlined the community projects where sponsor money is spent. Foreign Correspondent does not dispute the integrity of World Vision projects but questions the way sponsorship is promoted to the public. In its response, World Vision has ignored the reporter’s surprise at finding his sponsor child speaks no English, yet he has been receiving regular reports from the organisation that she’s learning English at school and has a good command of the language. .., Andrew Geoghegan has sponsored Tsehaynesh Delago for a decade and yet she claims she was unaware, until recently, that she had a sponsor and says the only benefit she has ever received directly from World Vision is a pen and the denim jacket she wore on the day of filming

      • Rochel

        Your response was helpful! I am also turned off with how much salary the President of World Vision obtains… For a Christian organization this is preposterous considering that much income can house a few families, even in United States…well maybe they do but someone please show me the proof.

  • Shaun Groves

    There’s quite a big difference between the two. See the link below for details.

    I love them both, but they different, not just in scope and size, but in many important ways.

    Thanks for blogging about this. Hope it propels more people toward benevolence of any shape or size.


  • Jeff

    I currently sponsor one Compassion child and two World Vision children. I can’t claim to be an expert on either organization, but I can share some of my experiences. I think while the news article mentioned above may have been overly harsh toward WV, it does make a point. The focus of World Vision is on community development through pooled sponsorships. I recently visited Malawi and toured the area development project where my sponsored children live (and had the awesome opportunity to meet both!). World Vision is doing great work there, providing wells, schools, farming assistance, medical care, job training and a number of other projects to promote sustainable development. I came away extremely impressed with what they were able to accomplish. However, the correspondence received from the families has been limited at best. Our first letter from both families was exactly the same (word for word) and not very personal. I doubt the families had any input in what was written.

    By contrast, I have been involved in Compassion sponsorship for years and find the correspondence to be fantastic. I receive letters from my child multiple times every year, with personal details and hand drawn pictures.

    Based on what I have written so far, you would expect me to be a strong advocate of Compassion over WV, but it is really a tough decision. While I love the personal interaction of Compassion and the knowledge that my money direct supports my child’s well being, I am not sure that the approach is as effective at eliminating systemic poverty. Providing a well for a community (example of WV approach) allows children in the entire community to attend school rather than walk miles to fetch water. It reduces disease in the community, again providing a tangible benefit to the sponsored child. The farm aid provided is done in a sustainable way, providing seed and training to a collective of farmers that is paid back at the end of the season, allowing more loans to be given the next year.

    Ultimately, I do not think you can go wrong with either approach. Limited resources go a long way in these countries, so rest assured your sponsorship dollars will not go to waste. However, knowing that most of the WV money does not go directly to the sponsored families, I will be sure to send the families gifts each year. That way I will be sponsoring them indirectly through community development, as well as directly to meet their specific needs.

    One final observation is that it seemed to me like WV focuses on partnership with government officials, whereas Compassion partners with local churches. One approach is not necessarily superior than the other, and I would recommend more research before using any of my observations to make a decision.

    If you want to see pics of my trip you can visit

    • http://n/a Bob

      Thank you for your comprehensive comparison of WV and CI. This is exactly what I sought from my web search to compare the two organizations. I wanted to know whether there was one agency that I should/could more wholeheartedly support. My wife and I have sponsored a WV child for a few years. One of my sons and his wife has sponsored a CI child for several years.

      We have observed the more personal communication with CI. The CI child writes frequently and it is incredibly encouraging to my son and his family… a real eye-opener for adults and children. It has also been a powerful example for his kids to help meet real needs.

      WV is indeed up-front about pooling money. We are glad to support these projects despite the limited amount of communication from and support to our individual child, especially after reading in more depth, the approach of each agency. We have received some direct communication from our child. But, we’ve also received letters and notes from area representatives as well.

      You have helped me decide with confidence that both agencies are worthy of our support. I will have no reluctance to support children through either agency (or both).

  • Chrissy

    Thank you all for your dialogue on this topic. I appreciate all of the input and personal experiences. We have been stuck in the decision mode for too long, and have decided to go with Compassion, for the benefit of the personal communication. For us, I know our family and 4 kiddos will learn so much from the correspondence. Getting stuck in the decision is not helping either way. Faith & Action=Furthering His Kingdom!

  • Donna Ward

    I sponsor two children through World Vision. World Vision is able to go to places Compassion International cannot. There are pros and cons to this. The little girl I sponsor in Ethiopia lives in an area that does not welcome Christianity. Therefore I cannot refer to Jesus in letters I send because this might put aide workers and maybe even sponsored families in danger. World Vision provides Easter cards for the boy I sponsor in South Africa, but they provide a card with a Springtime theme for the girl in Ethiopia. I have learned Compassion International works differently than World Vision. Compassion works through local churches and can only go where churches can go. It is not required that anyone convert to Christianity to be a sponsored child, however, their program emphasizes education about Jesus along with humanitarian benefits. I continue to sponsor my World Vision kids but I also contribute to organizations like the Horn of Africa program of the Church of the Nazarene which focuses on church planting in Ethiopia. I am looking for the day when a church is able to be established where my sponsored little girl lives.

    • peter

      Very well explained Donna. I spoke to staff of WV today at a church event. I asked about the difference between the two. I like that WV do not just work with churches and do not discriminate between Christian and other communities. I like to think I can give hope to non church-based communities.I like that WV can go anywhere and are much bogger.I like that WV’s emphasis is on communities rather than the individual child.Just about everybody who sponsors a child only thinks about their child;they wouldn’t donate funds to that child’s community…but they will donate to a child. But child sponsorship is the only way all these organisations can survive.If people gave to community projects the money would go a lot further and do a lot more.The structure needed for child sponsorships is costly.But it is the only way people will give money.

  • Donna Ward

    The little girl I sponsor through World Vision in Ethiopia lives in Omo Nada. As I said in a post above, Christianity is not welcome in her villiage yet. The closest Christian church to her may be in Jimma, Ethiopia just southwest of her. There are two teenagers who live in Jimma who are available for sponsorship through Compassion International. They have hearts on their profiles because it has been more than 6 months since they were registered by Compassion. Their names are Besufekad (17 years) and Tewodros (18 years)–they would be toward the end of your Ethiopian search. They speak Oromiffa which is the same language my 8 year old child from Omo Nada speaks. Maybe the work done by Compassion in Jimma will lead to Jesus being accepted where World Vision is active in Omo Nada. I sponsor two children and cannot give one up to help another. I can only pray that Besufekad and Tewodros will be sponsored.

  • Donna Ward

    Besufekad has been sponsored. Prayer answered. I hope no one is turned off by Tewodros’s scowl. Teenagers can be that way, you know. :-)

  • Pingback: Podcasting for Compassion Day 3 | Podcasting for Compassion()

  • Franky

    I’ve been sponsoring with Compassion for several years now, and needed some clarification on the letter writing process. I found that I was asking a lot of questions and getting zero responses. I spoke with a representative about this. I was advised that the children have designated letter writing days several times a year. These days do not coincide with when they receive a letter. So, if they receive a letter today, and the letter writing day is still two months away, they will likely forget the questions asked and forget to bring their letter on the letter writing day to respond to. Thought this might help prevent some disappointment.

    Blessings as we change the world one child at a time.


    • Stephanie Green

      As an Advocate for Compassion, I want to clarify about the correspondence issue. Some countries still have letter writing day which occurs 3 times a year. But most of the countries have been transitioned to the reciprocal system which means you will receive a letter from your child for each letter you send. For more information, see this Compassion Blog entry:

  • Gale

    Thanks! This is really helpful! I had sponsored a Child through compassion when I was in college and had to stop during a period where we were out of work. Now we are in a stable position again, and I have three kids and I am considering starting up a sponsorship again. I was looking at both World Vision and Compassion this time.

    I am leaning towards Compassion now…the correspondence is important to me because I am going to use this as a teaching tool with my children, to help involve them, and I know Compassion handles this well.

  • Melissa Benson

    I have been a sponsor with Compassion for 2 years.Their dedication and committment to the children they serve is unwavering.Although WV reaches out to more countries,Compassions smaller outreach is, in my opinion, more productive in ministering to the childrens needs.I am allowed to contribute extra financial gifts if I choose,and all of that goes directly to the child/family.The correspondence with my children is outstanding and Compassion also has its own social networking site where sponsors can connect with other sponsors.

  • Simon

    It really makes me sick that Christians here emphasize religion in choosing whether or not to sponsor children. How much money is it worth to you to get letters from your sponsored children to warm your hearts?. If compassion is 3% less of your donation that actually goes towards feeding starving people, or providing medicine to the sick then shouldn’t this be enough? Think – if someone can eat or not eat on a given day, wouldn’t you prefer to feed them and save the administrations costs or the whole letter thing?

    How would you feel to live in a country where to receive food for your starving family you needed to attend lessons in Hinduism? Yeah sure they don’t “have to convert” to Christianity to receive your money, but how quickly would you “convert” to whatever religion if it meant your children were fed? I can’t handle this linking of welfare to religion – I am really disgusted by modern evangelical Christainity’s assumption that it is in everyone on Earth’s best interests to agree with them and believe what they believe.

    • lex

      The letter that sponsored children receive from their sponsors greatly increase the rate of their success in school and in life. For many children they have never experienced a family, love, or someone who believes in them so when they hear directly though letters that they have a family who loves and believes in them that can change their entire life more than anything else.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for doing this research! I sponsor one child with World Vision and am thinking of adding another. So, I was looking around to see if my money was being used in the best possible way. Thanks for doing that research for me.


  • CSPeace


    I agree that it is different how children have to take classes in another religion so their chances of more food will increase. However, my opinion about correspondence letters regards the idea that everything is not what it seems.
    By receiving and being able to send consistent correspondence letters, one can be reassured that their child, or community is truly being sponsored. It is difficult to imagine any money going to the wrong hands.

  • Roger Litlejohn

    My wife Lorraine and I sponsor Zemin, a child living in Omonada, Ethiopia. We have been sponsoring him for about five years. When one considers how much we have, not just money, but our freedom to choose, giving a small amount monthly to a child like Zemin and others is very rewarding. My hope is that giving will result in a child that grows up to be educated and compassionate. The more children we can help will make their world worth growing up in.

    My wife and I are Christians, but our sponsor child is Muslim, and we respect that. We are not trying to convert anyone, but to show him and his family respect and compassion which may help people realize that we live on a very small planet and that we all need to respect one another’s values. Sometimes we think this is our world, it belongs to everyone.

  • Kimberly

    I sponsor 4 from World Vision and 1 child through Compassion. I like both ministries. Although I believe that World Vision’s ministry is more realistic in terms of development- to lift a child out of poverty- you have to change their circumstances including their local environment/community. As well as provide the child with oppertunities(including the ability to go to school).

    Compassion focuses solely on the child and the needs of the child… rather than try to fix the environment. Their belief is to rescue the community you you have to build strong Christian leaders in the children. Children in their projects receive direct benefits with their sponsorships…

    Whereas with World Vision both sponsored and unsponsored receive benefits since World Vision has a community developmental approach so all benefit from the donations of sponsors in the community.

    However Compassion places more an emphasis on building relationships with the children you sponsor… But I have to admit even with that emphasis I get less letters with the Compassion child I sponsor(they are required to write three times a year – but do not have to respond to every letter). You also have to deal with Compassion’s correspondance department which oversees the distrubtion of your letters(all letters are sent to their office in USA rather than their field offices)- unfortunately this delays the communication.

    The kids I sponsor through World Vision I feel respond much more frequently to my letters and often write to me indepnendantly.

    I also like the fact that World Vision seems very sensitive to local cultures, governments, and religious beliefs. Children do not have to be a Christian or attend Christian services to recieve aide… whereas Compassion works out of local churches so children have to attend church/church activities in order to qualify for the Compassion program.

    I’ll never drop the child I sponsor through Compassion – I’ve met her family and I truly love her. However I do like how World Vision handles their non-profit/their approach more. So if I sponsor another child it will be through World Vision and congratulations on sponsoring it truly is an enriching experience!

    • Jamie

      Hi Kim, I sponsor 2 from World Vision and 2 from Compassion. I also am a correspondent sponsor for 2 from Compassion that have sponsors but do not get mail. I also would not drop my Compassion children. I just started in March of this year and am already very taken with my sponsored children.

      I do agree with you on World Vision. I like sending mail, small packages, etc to their countries rather than Compassion sending directly to the USA office.
      Both are great – even though their are differences I am finding out as I get into it more.

  • Christian Mama

    Which one is more likely to push vaccines & IUDs? Not looking for a debate, but developing world vaccines are often inferior w/more toxins & it is not where we are called to give. We are currently with WV & quite attached but would love to sponsor more & need this question answered.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © 2014 by Tyler Braun. Designed and coded by Paul Bae...