Is World Vision a good charity you can trust and support?

Aug 11, 2021
Have you experienced this before? Someone with an overly broad smile approaches you on the street, in a mall or knocks on your door. You know what she’s going to say before she opens her mouth. You sigh and roll your eyes. Another charity looking for money. Are they even legit? Chances are, yes!

Of course, fraud exists everywhere in society and the charitable sector is no exception. That’s why experience, visible effectiveness and longevity matter. They signal integrity, which is the basis of trust.

When you see the orange and white colours of World Vision, you’re seeing icons and logos that represent over 70 years of action on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children. Since our inception in 1950, we’ve grown to a global organization of over 37,000 staff in nearly 100 countries. It’s tangible proof of integrity and accountability.

It means World Vision is a charity you can trust. Let’s look at how that works in practice.

What does World vision do?

World Vision is organized as a global partnership between:
  • Support offices that raise funds, provide technical support and manage international grants;
  • Field offices that carry out the programs; and
  • Regional offices and the Global Centre that provide administrative support such as human resources and audit/financial services.
In the field and depending on scope, our work spans rural and urban communities where sponsored children live, all the way to entire districts. This work may include both development, and fragile and humanitarian projects. (‘Fragile’ means instances of extreme vulnerability for children, such as the refugee crisis in Syria.)

Our focus is on one or more sectors or themes, such as:
  • Livelihoods
  • Education
  • Child Protection and Participation
  • Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
  • Peacebuilding
  • Social Accountability
In Honduras, an SUV and workers in World Vision jackets carry emergency supplies along a muddy road.
World Vision reaches children in need, no matter where they are or what they’re facing. Here, teams in Honduras transport essential emergency supplies to children in remote areas. Photo: Gesler Seren

Combined with the far-reaching infrastructure of our global organization, donor support is responsible for helping World Vision:
  • reach one person with clean water every 10 seconds and reach three more schools every day with clean water;
  • help 89 per cent of the severely malnourished children we’ve treated over the last five years make a full recovery;
  • implement community-focused solutions that benefit four more children for each sponsored child; and
  • impact the lives of over 200 million vulnerable children by tackling the root causes of poverty.
Our key program is a model of child sponsorship that goes beyond helping an individual child to holistically empowering entire communities.

We’re Christian-based and in keeping with that faith, we serve everyone regardless of religion, creed or culture.

How does World Vision work?

Our programming, including child sponsorship, starts with an in-depth assessment of a community’s needs and situation, including gender and human rights. Then, with participation from the community, we implement the appropriate programs and measure them against targets we’ve set so we can see how the programs are performing. When and where possible, we then make adjustments.

These programs are organized at the community level and operate for around 15 years. That’s a period generally long enough to see substantive improvement in the sectors being addressed. At that point, the community ‘graduates’, and we move on to another community in need of support.

In Kenya, two women care for their goats in a green garden. One woman smiles broadly. The women are wearing headscarves.
World Vision listens to communities’ goals and works with them to see dreams realized. Through initiatives like savings groups, parents like Amina and Halima in Kenya grow their livelihoods to better provide for their children. Photo: Martin Muluka

World Vision involves the community throughout the project lifetime—programs are thoroughly discussed with communities, and local authorities and government. World Vision also creates accountability mechanisms to ensure the recommendations of the target communities are heard and considered.

Not all of the work is abroad. We do plenty right here at home.

Tens of thousands of Canadians walk alongside World Vision Canada in faith and compassion as volunteers, advocates, organizers, child ambassadors and corporate partners. They have fun and help change lives (sometimes their own!) when they participate in events and citizen action such as: It’s a level of participation and engagement that’s only possible with a clear record of action and effectiveness.

Accountability and transparency make World Vision trustworthy

Every program is carefully monitored and administered, including detailed reporting direct from the field to track program performance. This includes explicit protocols for addressing and rooting out any fraud or other illegal activity that may occur. All World Vision and World Vision Canada staff are required to successfully pass criminal background checks.

An aid worker wearing a World Vision emergency response vest measures the arm of a young child to check for malnutrition.
World Vision teams care for vulnerable children in a variety of situations, like during the South Sudanese food crisis in 2015. Staff must be experienced, knowledgeable, sensitive and successfully pass rigorous background and criminal checks. Photo: Jon Warren

World Vision Canada’s annual Results Reporting publication lays out in detail what/where programs operated, how funds were spent and what the specific impacts were of the activities.

Short on time? Our Annual Report makes for a quick summary of the work we do.

A diverse board of directors drawn from various industries and Christian faith groups keeps the organization tightly focused on our mission of serving the most vulnerable.

This level of transparency, professionalism and due diligence has gained World Vision recognition from governments around the world and other independent organizations. World Vision Canada maintains contact with the

Government of Canada to directly advocate on behalf of vulnerable children and communities. This work includes authoring research reports, initiating and participating in parliamentary studies, sharing information about our program approaches, supporting petition drives and more.

Because World Vision is considered a credible partner by government, we receive grants and other funds that help deliver more support to programs ‘in the field’ and in times of crisis. Following the most recent earthquake in Haiti, for example, World Vision Canada was a part of the Humanitarian Coalition—an alliance of charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—for whom the federal government matched public donations.

In Somalia, several women gather around borehole taps to fill yellow buckets with water.
Global Affairs Canada funded World Vision’s work on this borehole project in Somalia, to reach thousands of people displaced by conflict and drought within the country. Photo: Gwayi Patrick

Similarly, the federal government provided significant funding for the $41.5 million ENRICH program, that focused on maternal and newborn health in five countries. The program was led by World Vision Canada and included several other development and health organizations such as the world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The vetting doesn’t stop there. World Vision Canada also receives publicly available charity ratings by independent organizations: Charity Intelligence Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and Imagine Canada

Where does the money go? Get the specifics

At World Vision Canada donor funds reach the people who need it most: vulnerable children and their families surviving in some of the planet’s most challenging environments. Administrative operations are continually adjusted to ensure that at least 80 per cent of funds get to the children and communities we serve.

A mother and her two children, all wearing protective masks, read books together. They are sitting on the floor of their home.
In Bangladesh and around the globe, World Vision provided supplies and support to keep children learning during the pandemic after thousands of schools closed their doors. Photo: Md. Golam Ehsanul Habib

Our latest five-year average shows that programs receive 80.9 per cent of expenditures, with fundraising and administration costs sitting at 13 per cent and 6.1 per cent, respectively. You can see the full breakdown in our Annual Report.

Here are just a few accomplishments made possible by donor support in 2020:
  • 377,888 children sponsored in 44 countries
  • 108,723 metric tons of food distributed with the World Food Programme
  • 527,000 gloves, 398,343 books and 3,536 solar panels shipped thanks to Gifts-in-Kind
  • 10 million children treated with de-worming medication
  • 12,270 children now attend after-school literacy activities
  • 24 communities graduated to self-sufficiency in 2020
An ideal place to see how funds are put to work is on the Our Work page. Here you can choose any of the 50+ countries where we operate and drill down to the community level.

Read (and watch videos from the field!) about the specific challenges faced, specific progress being made and, when those communities graduate to self-sufficiency, the specific results obtained.

The reality of charitable development work

This work is real and raw. There are victories, and we celebrate them. There are also setbacks—and we learn from those. In some cases, we’re not only facing entrenched poverty but also resistance borne of long-standing traditional practices and attitudes (such as those that devalue women and girls), or local government indifference or ineffectiveness.

In Uganda, a group of smiling school children stand at attention for the camera, each with one hand over their hearts.
In Uganda, World Vision is helping empower a new generation of advocates. Through groups like child parliaments, kids are learning their rights, speaking out against cruelties such as child sacrifice, sexual exploitation and child marriage. Photo: Nick Ralph

Progress can seem frustratingly slow, but this is what development work looks like up close. Deep-rooted, systemic problems are never solved overnight.

But when a child has the opportunity to attend school, avoid early marriage or access water that won’t make her sick, this creates a tangible advantage for her and hope for a better future. It’s worth whatever hurdles we have to leap along the way. We hope you see it the same way and consider returning that big smile you get at the mall.

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