Child sponsorship is a type of fundraising in which a charitable organization associates a donor sponsor with a particular child beneficiary. The sponsor receives updates from the child, typically including photos and translated letters, which helps create the appearance of a personal relationship with the child. The donated funds are generally not spent specifically on the sponsored child but rather pooled with other contributions to fund a variety of education, health, security, infrastructure, or other projects in the child's community or country. One estimate is that over 9 million sponsors give over US $5 billion to child sponsorship programs. Other sources state the amount of child sponsorship funding is closer to US $3 billion per year.
Save the Children was the first child sponsorship organization, beginning individual child sponsorship in 1920 to help children following World War I. Children International was one of the earlier child sponsorship charities (starting in 1936), Plan International (started in 1937) and ChildFund (started in 1938) followed suit as the concept grew in popularity. In response to the unmet needs of children during World War II, Save the Children USA launched a sponsorship program to benefit British war orphans in 1940. In 2007, JAAGO Foundation started the child sponsorship program locally in Bangladesh.
A 2017 study found that "international child sponsorship increased monthly income by $13–17 over an untreated baseline of $75, principally from inducing higher future labor market participation. We find evidence for positive impacts on dwelling quality in adulthood and modest evidence of impacts on ownership of consumer durables in adulthood, limited to increased ownership of mobile phones. Finally, our results also show modest effects of child sponsorship on childbearing in adulthood."
Critics have argued that child sponsorship could alienate the relatively privileged sponsored children from their peers and may perpetuate harmful stereotypes about third-world citizens being helpless. They also claim that child sponsorship causes cultural confusion and unrealistic aspirations on the part of the recipient, and that child sponsorship is expensive to administer.  This latter problem has led some charities to offer information about a "typical" child to sponsors rather than one specifically supported by the sponsor. In some cases charities have been caught sending forged updates from deceased children.
Illusion: through an organization such as Save the Children, your money supports a specific child.
Reality: as Save the Children now discloses, “Your sponsorship contributions are not given directly to a child. Instead, your contributions are pooled with those of other sponsors to provide community-based programming for all eligible children in the area.”
More generally, David Roodman says that child sponsorship creates "a tension between creating the psychological experience of connection that raised money and the realities of fighting poverty".
- Children International Website "About Us" accessed February 2, 2011
- Child Fund , accessed February 2, 2011
- Child Fund "About Us", accessed February 2, 2011
- Save the Children history
- JAAGO Foundation
- Wydick, Bruce; Glewwe, Paul; Rutledge, Laine (2017-06-01). "Does Child Sponsorship Pay off in Adulthood? An International Study of Impacts on Income and Wealth". The World Bank Economic Review. 31 (2): 434–458. doi:10.1093/wber/lhv081. ISSN 0258-6770. PMC 6010066. PMID 29937613.
- Simply...Why you should not sponsor a child Archived 2006-07-12 at the Wayback Machine, New Internationalist, April 1989.
- Peter Stalker, Please do not sponsor this child Archived 2006-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, New Internationalist, May 1982
- https://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/doc/418452946.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Mar%2015,%201998&author=Hugh%20Dellios%20%20Lisa%20Anderson,%20Tribune%20Staff%20Writers.&pub=Chicago%20Tribune&edition=&startpage=6&desc=GREETINGS%20FROM%20GRAVE:%20`WE%20ARE%20ALL%20DOING%20WELL%27%20Series:%20THE%20MIRACLE%20MERCHANTS.%20Special%20report.%20First%20of%20two%20parts Archived 2016-03-10 at the Wayback Machine.
- The Rough Guide to a Better World a publication which was partly UK government funded, reviewing some types of sponsorship, including arguments for and against (pp83f).