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Compassion International

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Compassion International
FounderEverett Swanson
TypeChristian child sponsorship non-profit organization
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
Area served
27 countries across four continents
Key people
Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado (president and CEO)
US$ 1,001,200,000 (2020)[2]
ExpensesProgram Services:
US$ 813,929,000 (2020)[2]

Support Activities:
US$ 185,251,000 (2020)[2]

US$ 999,180,000 (2020)[2]
Websitewww.compassion.com Edit this at Wikidata

Compassion International is an American child sponsorship and Christian humanitarian aid organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that aims to positively influence the long-term development of children globally who live in poverty.

A 2013 independent research report, in the Journal of Political Economy, concluding that as of that time, Compassion International had large and statistically significant impacts on participants' years of school completion, the probability of later employment, and the quality of that employment, in part as a consequence of improved self-esteem and expectations in participating children.


The Everett Swanson Evangelistic Association was founded in 1952 by the Rev. Everett Swanson (member of Converge) to help children orphaned by war in South Korea.[3] Swanson had traveled there to preach the gospel to the US Army troops, but during his visit he was deeply moved by the plight of the scores of abandoned children he saw. In 1953, he began to raise funds, and the next year he developed sponsorship programs to help support orphans for a few dollars a month.[4] The name of the association changed to Compassion, Inc., in 1963, inspired by Jesus' words "I have compassion on the multitude. I will not send them away hungry" (Matthew 15.32).[5] In 2022, it would be present in 27 countries.[6]


As of November 2019, the board chair of the organization was Judy Golz, and the president and CEO was Santiago Mellado.[7] In 2019, Mellado's annual compensation was $419,184 according to the organization's IRS filings.[8]


Compassion helps those in impoverished areas, using a holistic approach to child development.[9] This approach goes well beyond simply providing food and medical aid, involving education and training to prepare the individuals for contributing back to their communities.[10]

The organization also helps in emergency situations and in the funding of health centers.[11][12][13]

Child sponsorship[edit]

Children in the child sponsorship program are provided food and clean water, medical care, education, life-skills training, and spiritual guidance through a direct sponsorship. Sponsored children are selected by the sponsors from lists provided by the ministry, and two-way communication is encouraged between the sponsored child and the sponsor. As of November 2023 the cost to sponsor a child through Compassion was US$43 (£32)[14] per month, and globally there were over two million babies, children, and young adults in its programs.[15]

Sponsors are able to visit their sponsored children through trips planned by Compassion International. Compassion's goal is to provide a trip to each country every other year. Compassion coordinates every aspect of the trip, including travel, meals, tips and gratuities, fees related to the travel, and sightseeing fares.[16]


Compassion International is a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.[17] As of February 2008, it held a grade of "A" from CharityWatch.[18][19] As of January 2012, it had met the "20 Standards for Charity Accountability" from the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance.[20]

In 2013, a primary research report in the Journal of Political Economy provided evidence in support of the conclusion that child sponsorship via Compassion International resulted in significant positive outcomes for the children in the study set.[21][22] The research, by Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe, and Laine Rutledge, evaluated Compassion efforts in six countries, with 10,144 children studied, reporting "large, statistically significant impacts on years of schooling; primary, secondary, and tertiary school completion; and the probability and quality of employment." They went on to note that the evidence, while early, "suggest[ed] that these impacts are due, in part, to increases in children’s aspirations."[21][23]

Through 2015, Compassion International had received Charity Navigator's highest rating for 15 consecutive years, thereby receiving special recognition on their "10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings" list.[24] However, Charity Navigator changed its rating system in 2016,[25] and Compassion International's 2016 overall rating dropped to three stars out of four, for its accountability and transparency.[26]

In 2016, Compassion was ranked the 15th-largest charity organization in the US by Forbes magazine, with $799 million in private donations received.[27]

Shutdown in India[edit]

Compassion operated in India for 48 years, with $45 million in transfers annually, making it India's largest single foreign donor.[28] Compassion provided services under its Child Sponsor Program to 145,000 Indian children.[28] In 2015, Compassion affiliates' offices were raided by tax investigators seeking evidence on whether it was funding religious conversions.[28] Compassion said that attempts were made to force the ministry to divert funding to non-Christian Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh groups.[28] Compassion refused to do so as it would be a misuse of funds entrusted to them by donors all around the world. After talks back and forth, in 2017 the BJP-led Indian government barred Compassion from transferring funds into India, forcing the group to close its operations in that country.[28] The Ministry of External Affairs later stated that the ban had nothing to do with the ideology of Compassion International.[29]


  1. ^ "Compassion International". Charity Navigator. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT" (PDF). Compassion.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  3. ^ George Thomas Kurian, Mark A. Lamport, Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, Volume 5, Rowman & Littlefield, USA, 2016, p. 617
  4. ^ Victorien SAWADOGO, ONG "Compassion international" : Soutenir 22 000 enfants défavorisés, lefaso.net, Burkina Faso, August 24, 2004
  5. ^ Katherine Marshall, Global Institutions of Religion: Ancient Movers, Modern Shakers, Routledge, Abingdon-on-Thames, 2013, p. 167
  6. ^ Compassion International, THIS IS HOW WE WORK, compassion.com, USA, retrieved November 5, 2022
  7. ^ "Board of Directors". www.compassion.com. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  8. ^ "Form 990, Part VII" (PDF). IRS. p. 15.
  9. ^ Mae Elise Cannon, Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World, InterVarsity Press, USA, 2009, p. 153
  10. ^ Jean Daniel Sénat, Après 20 ans, Compassion International réoriente son programme de formation en leadership, lenouvelliste.com, Haïti, February 13, 2017
  11. ^ Stephen Offutt, New Centers of Global Evangelicalism in Latin America and Africa, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2015, p. 125
  12. ^ Le Nouvelliste, 45 ans auprès des plus vulnérables d'Haïti, lenouvelliste.com, Haïti, October 4, 2013
  13. ^ Stephanie Earls, Compassion International seeking donations to support ongoing relief in Haiti, gazette.com, USA, October 16, 2016
  14. ^ "Sponsor a Child | Child Sponsorship". Compassion UK. Retrieved November 22, 2023.
  15. ^ "Sponsor a Child in Extreme Poverty". Compassion.com. Retrieved November 22, 2023.
  16. ^ "Compassion Trips FAQ". Compassion.com. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  17. ^ "Meet ECFA's Charter Members". ECFA. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  18. ^ Daniel Borochoff (February 20, 2008). "American Institute of Philanthropy at". Charitywatch.org. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  19. ^ "Ratings and Metrics: Compassion International at". Charitywatch.org. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "give.org". give.org. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  21. ^ a b Wydick, Bruce; Glewwe, Paul; Rutledge, Laine (2013), "Does International Child Sponsorship Work? A Six-Country Study of Impacts on Adult Life Outcomes", Journal of Political Economy, 121 (2), The University of Chicago: 1–8, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1086/670138, JSTOR 10.1086/670138, S2CID 22131764
  22. ^ Wydick, Bruce (June 14, 2013). "Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child". Christianity Today. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  23. ^ Specifically, the study concluded, "the Compassion child sponsorship program increases years of completed schooling by 1.03–1.46 years over a baseline of 10.19 years and increases the probability of primary school completion by 4.0–7.7 percentage points (baseline 88.7 percent), secondary school completion by 11.6–16.5 percentage points (baseline 44.9 percent), and university completion by 2.1–2.4 percentage points (baseline 4.3 percent)... [and found] impacts of 5.1–6.3 percentage points on the probability of salaried employment in adulthood and a 6.5–6.7 percentage point increase in the probability of white-collar employment, as well as modest evidence for causal impacts on community and church leadership." See Wydick, Glewwe & Rutledge (2013), op.cit.
  24. ^ "4 Stars for 15 Years in a Row". Charity Navigator. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  25. ^ "Rating System Evolution". Charity Navigator. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  26. ^ "Page at charitynavigator.com". Charitynavigator.org. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  27. ^ William P. Barrett, The Largest U.S. Charities For 2016, forbes.com, USA, December 14, 2016
  28. ^ a b c d e Barry, Ellen; Raj, Suhasini (March 8, 2017). "Major Christian Charity Is Closing India Operations Amid a Crackdown". The New York Times. pp. A4. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  29. ^ Zeera, Rosheena (March 9, 2017). "No 'Ideological' Reason Behind Compassion International Ban: MEA". The Quint. Retrieved August 31, 2017.

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