Tag Archives: Compassion International

How to Focus Your Giving for More Impact and Less Guilt

How to Focus Your Giving

Years ago, I struggled to find my passion and my place in this world and in the kingdom of God. I was still involved in helping out here and there and giving a little to this and that, but I felt like my meager efforts were spread so thin, and I wasn’t sure I was making an impact anywhere. I prayed for God to give me a specific passion, something to focus my efforts to multiply my impact. I actually sat down and made a list of all the things I was involved in and all the things I really cared about. That thought and that exercise were part of my journey, and as my passion for hunger began to reveal itself to me, that thought about spreading or concentrating efforts stuck with me.

So I have introduced you to a number of programs and organizations that are helping the hungry, and there are many more to come. But I don’t want that to become overwhelming to you. I don’t volunteer or donate to every hunger cause, and I don’t automatically say no to every non-hunger thing that comes up. So in the interest of transparency I’m going to let you in on what I actually do for those in need. I hope it helps you clarify your mission and learn to say yes or no with confidence instead of guilt.

First, as a Christian I believe that I am called to give 10% of my income to the support of the church (Malachi 3:10, Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 14:22). Some people accept this responsibility but include their other charitable giving in this number, and some think that tithing went out with the Old Testament. They both make good points, truly, and I don’t condemn anyone who sees this differently than I do. But if people are tithing by giving to a different charity or not tithing because they no longer feel obligated, how will the church survive? Because I believe in my church, because I want to live a more generous life, and because I see it in the Bible, I have chosen to give the first 10% of my income to my local church. In my heart AND in my checkbook I am invested in my church.

For us, that’s the big one. But there are smaller things we do on a regular basis or on occasion. We have a sponsored child through Compassion International. That costs us a mere $38 a month, and it lets us invest in the life of one individual. We also keep mini M&M tubes to collect quarters for Feed My Starving Children. When they’re full, we schedule a time to go pack meals at their facility and swap out our full tubes of quarters for new empty tubes.

And of course there’s Food Shelf Friday. Every Friday night (or another night if Friday doesn’t work) my family exchanges our regular meal for a simplified meal like food shelf users receive. The experience makes us more thoughtful donors (aware of things like protein sources and sodium overload in canned foods), and the savings allows us to donate the identical meal. I collect our Food Shelf Friday duplicate meals in grocery bags in my home office. When the bags are full I take them to my church’s food bank. Sometimes I donate it somewhere different. The Scouts and the mail carriers both hold door to door food drives. In October I’ll probably be giving it to another food shelf, as I am hoping to do a tour and interview for the blog, and in December I’ll bring my stash to work for the food drive we do at our annual community Christmas event.

So that is my family’s regular giving plan: tithe, Compassion sponsorship, quarters and volunteer packing for FMSC, and Food Shelf Friday. We also chip in now and then to one-time things like the recent Convoy of Hope event, or last fall’s Hope For Dinner. When we can, we give a little for school and sports fundraisers, benefits, and pancake breakfasts. Those things are kind of hit and miss and I don’t really think of them as giving as much as just being part of a community. When asked to donate or participate in something, my first consideration is if I can afford to do that without sacrificing my commitments. Second I ask myself if it will advance the kingdom of God, meet the actual physical needs of people, or help build my local community, because those are the things that matter most to me. This allows me to confidently say yes or no depending on my resources and priorities.

I hope this post helps you in two ways:
First, I hope it helps as you see many FSF posts about different programs and organizations to know that I don’t give to everything. I like to share about these organizations because it might be one that you want to participate in, and also just to give us all hope and faith in humanity by hearing about all the people and organizations that are out there doing good work for the poor.
Second, I hope that it helps you evaluate your passions and priorities so you can focus your efforts, giving to and volunteering with quality organizations that share your values and priorities.

Leave a comment – share the causes you’re passionate about and the organizations you love!

My Friend Ed: Compassion International


Do you remember those terrible commercials where Sally Struthers would come on the screen and cry about children in need of sponsors? Nothing makes me change the channel faster than a well-paid celebrity guilting me into donating. Don’t get me wrong, I know the need is real, and it breaks my heart. And I love the idea of sponsorship – the letters, the pictures, making an investment that impacts one life instead of being spread thin across an organization. But I’ve always wondered if those things were legitimate or if everyone gets the same little form letter and picture.

I don’t know which organization Sally Struthers was crying for, but I know legitimate sponsorship exists – it’s called Compassion International. I first learned about Compassion when Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline talked about it at concerts back in the 90s. Then my parents, sister, and a couple friends started sponsoring kids, and they all had great things to say about it. So about eighteen months ago, when my church held a Compassion sponsorship drive, I sent my son to the table to pick out a child.

His name is Edouard. He’s six, and he lives in a farming community in Burkina Faso. He likes to play soccer, and he has the most beautiful brown eyes. Every month, Compassion International charges me about $40, and they use that money to provide Edouard with education, including school fees and uniforms, health care, and an introduction to Jesus. He doesn’t write yet, but his teachers at the Compassion center read our letters to him and help him write to us. We’ve gotten pictures of him several times, and it’s fun to see him grow. He has drawn us pictures and asked questions about our lives (he was rather concerned last winter when his teachers told him about how cold it gets in Minnesota). We got a letter from his pastor once, and recently we got a picture of him with his parents. I am confident that he is a real child who really benefits from my sponsorship.

Charity Navigator backs me up on this. Compassion International is a four-star rated organization. Their income has been expanding each year, and their output has followed suit. 84% of money donated to Compassion goes to programming, and the other 16% goes to advertising and administration costs. That’s pretty good. The CEO makes under $200,000/year, which in the world of CEOs is pretty much minimum wage…

One of my favorite things about Compassion is that they organize missions trips every year, and if you go along to your child’s country, they will arrange for you to meet them and their families, and to see their Compassion center. They will also help you arrange a meeting if you visit your child’s country on your own.

I would love to meet Edouard someday, and who knows, maybe I will. But even if we don’t meet on this side of heaven I will enjoy exchanging letters and pictures with him and watching him grow up healthy and educated because of our little gift and the work of Compassion International.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child or supporting the work of Compassion, visit their website at www.compassion.com.

Do you have a Compassion child? Tell us about him or her in the comments!