Alyssa Milano – Thanks for the Reminder! Just 50 Cents a Day May Help Save a Child … But How? BBB Explains.

I’m not ashamed to admit I spent New Year’s Day catching up on some much needed zzzzzs and a few of my favorite TV shows. Glad I did! Had I done something productive, I might have missed Alyssa Milano’s UNICEF ad encouraging me to give 50 cents a day to help save a child. (Full disclosure: United States Fund for UNICEF is a BBB Accredited Charity.)

UNICEF is just one example, but it got me to thinking: how many people understand how child sponsorship organizations work?

Q. What are child sponsorship organizations?

A. These organizations solicit funds to assist needy children in other countries or the United States. Typically, donors are expected to make a recurring gift (usually on a monthly basis). That’s why you see so many “x cents a day” commercials.

Q. How do they work?

A. Child sponsorship organizations typically operate in one of two ways. The first kind  – and by far the most common – pools together your monthly contribution with other donations to support projects benefitting the local community where the children live rather than conveying your monthly contribution directly to a child (or children). Example of these projects include building schools, providing medical care, offering disaster assistance, constructing water wells, distributing food, etc. The second kind – and far less common – allocates a portion of your monthly contribution towards a cash grant, which is directed to the sponsored child’s family.

Q. How do I know which type of child sponsorship organization it is in the commercial?

A. Research!  Ask the organization for copies of their literature, visit their website, check with BBB, and carefully learn about their child sponsorship program before making your monthly commitment. There’s a lot of variety today – make sure you agree with the organization’s philosophy and how it approaches assisting communities.  Also, don’t feel pressured to make a contribution just because you happened to see the commercial.  Legitimate charities will provide you with all the information you need to feel confident and comfortable about your gift, and they will gladly accept your gift when you are ready.


Q. Can I correspond with the children?

A. In some instances, you can correspond with the children.  Ordinarily, the letters must go through the sponsorship organization rather than being sent directly to the children.  Translation services are usually provided by the organization or a member of its field staff.  If interested, you should contact the sponsorship organization to obtain details.

Bottom Line:  If you are interested in child sponsorship, go for it. Just make sure you do some research to find the kind of organization you’re looking for and an organization you can trust to spend your contribution wisely.

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About Erika Lehman

I started at BBB|Cincinnati in 2004 as a Co-Op in the Charity Department. Today I am the Director of The Center for Ethics at BBB.