Child Sponsorship Nonprofits

This week in readings as part of my Masters in Nonprofit Management Program we reviewed a discussion of Child Sponsorship Organizations. The case was made that Child Sponsorship Organizations solicit funds to the organization while presenting the faces of children to donors. The implicit connection between visual media and donor is that children are directly supported. However, it has been shown via investigative reporting that children often do not know they are sponsored or that organizations support community development rather than specific children. It is interesting that the instructional design takes this approach to the issue.

Sometimes the loudest things are not the things directly seen or discussed. The use case was presented in a way which allowed the audience of students to form a bias about the ethics of what the organizations are doing… it appears that they are advertising that for a tax deduction someone can support a specific child. However, this is not legally possible in the USA. Consider the text of  IRS Ruling 1962-113:

If contributions to the fund are earmarked by the donor for a particular individual, they are treated, in effect, as being gifts to the designated individual and are not deductible. However, a deduction will be allowable where it is established that a gift is intended by a donor for the use of the organization and not as a gift to an individual.

So under-discussed around this use-case are the legal ramifications to the organizations and their risk of endangering their donors with tax-fraud on the basis of their actions. Specifically in-class. That is, the IRS ruling was not mentioned in class at all.

A second under-discussed point (both in class and more broadly) is how these organizations are treating personally identifiable information in the people they are “sponsoring” California, Colorado, and Virgina all have personal data protection laws which cover businesses operating there and residents in those states. There should be some impact on how personally identifying information (data) is shared or not. Personal data protection schemes are becoming more frequent around the world. NGOs need to be aware of how they are collecting and distributing names, birth-dates, and photos, etc.

Course Readings

Scott, Esther (2002). Standards for Child Sponsorship Agencies Download Standards for Child Sponsorship Agencies (A), Kennedy School of Government, Case C16-02-1664.0 ;

Lisa Anderson et al. 1998. “Relentless campaign of hollow promises,” Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1998.

Diaa Hadid. 2016. “A World Vision Donor Sponsored a Boy. The Outcome Was a Mystery to Both.” The New York Times., 2 August 2016.

Other relevant readings

American Council for Voluntary International Action. 2008. “Guidance Document For the Interaction Child Sponsorship Certification Standards And Certification Manual.”

Watson, Brad & Matthew Clarke. 2014. “Child Sponsorship: Exploring Pathways to a Brighter Future.” Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Taylor Hallett. 2016. “A Dollar a Day: Child Sponsorship and the Marketization of Human Development.” M.A. thesis in Sustainable Development. School for International Training, Brattleboro, VT

Hugh Paterson III
Hugh Paterson III
Collaborative Scholar

I specialize in bespoke research at the intersection of Linguistics, Law, Languages, and Technology; specifically utility and life-cycle management for information products in these spaces.