Our Business Model Is Out of Date. Help Us Innovate.

At the end of April, Compassion held an “innovation summit” in Colorado Springs. More than 100 people from multiple areas within the organization attended the two-day event.

One of the speakers was David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. At the end of his presentation David bluntly told everyone assembled that Compassion’s business model is out of date.

He didn’t suggest it. He declared it. As fact. “Your business model is out of date.”

He didn’t say it might happen in the future. He said it’s here.

He didn’t position it as his opinion to consider. He delivered this “truth” directly, firmly and respectfully. It was refreshing.

A month later, Jon Dale, of Dale Interactive Group, told me the same thing over lunch.

In our highly connected digital world the technology exists for you to speak directly to your sponsored children, via Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. So the idea of developing a meaningful, one-to-one, cross-cultural relationship via handwritten letters that can take up to three months to travel in one direction and another few months to travel back is outdated.

There are reasons we don’t yet offer you the ability to communicate directly with your sponsored children via social media. And there are reasons we ask that you don’t accept or initiate friend requests with your sponsored children via social media.

But we know that we must replace our antiquated communication process with one that offers you compelling ways to communicate with your sponsored children. We know that we can’t wait any longer to do this.

However, it’s not just the communication process we need to address. We also have to carefully consider what one-to-one child sponsorship should look like in the digital world. How can we use the tools of technology to make your participation in the development of these children more than just financial support and writing letters?

Although we’re not a sponsor-focused organization — we’re child focused — or a sponsor development organization, we know that “we” don’t exist without “you.” We can’t succeed without God’s blessing and your support.

What do you think about what I’ve said? Do you agree with David and Jon … and me? What do you think Compassion needs to do or consider when redefining what child sponsorship delivers to you?

Now is the time to share your opinions, particularly if you don’t normally comment. As our leadership team begins to answer these questions, it’s better that they know what you think rather than make assumptions about what you think.

206 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Julie McBride April 8, 2016

    I recently received a letter from one of the ministers at one of my sponsored child’s centers. He said that they now had the ability to Skype; however, I have yet to get any information from Compassion directly about this. I am looking through Compassion’s website now to read up on anything Skype-related and it brought me to this page. This page is 6 years old. And at the top it talks about changing things soon because it is outdated. So my question is…..have things changed yet?

    1. Susan Sayler April 12, 2016

      Hi Julie! I am so sorry for the confusion! Regrettably, we are not able to offer Skype conversations with your sponsored child at this time. I believe that the pastor at your child’s student center was referring to Skyping with the country office and other staff members to stay on the same page. Back in 2010, when this post was written, we had already begun the process to update our systems. Just yesterday we unveiled and went live on this plan. Please read more about the updates here.

  2. EldoradoAcademy March 1, 2011

    I know this would take a lot of time and work, but I’d love to see some sort of blog or web page for each of the Centers. I know it would not be possible for the more remote Centers, but the page could include updates from the staff, specific prayer requests, and photos of activities, neighborhood and mail days. It would allow sponsors to get a bigger glimpse of what happens there as well as catch some “real life” glimpes of their sponsored child. Sponsors who traveled to visit could add some of their personal pictures and stories for other sponsors of that project to see. If there is a natural catastrophe, the Center could immediately report on how things were on the ground (even if they didn’t list specific names, they could list numbers of children at that Center affected).

    1. Chris Giovagnoni March 1, 2011

      Child development center pages are on the horizon.

      1. Heather March 1, 2011

        Woot! I’m excited!

    2. Heather March 1, 2011

      I agree and I would also like to be able to give to my child’s project.

      1. Chris Giovagnoni March 1, 2011

        You can give gifts to benefit your child’s development center. They can be between $100 and $2,000, with an annual maximum of $2,000. If you’d like to do this, just give us a call. 800-336-7676.

  3. Andrea Watt February 16, 2011

    Hi, I know this is old but this has been on my heart lately and I thought this was the best place to grab your attention with it if you’re still watching this thread.

    I’ve become a correspondent sponsor in addition to my own sponsorships. I love it. I will admit that I had a sort of negative view of sponsors who didn’t write their children when I started (I knew that some had very legitimate reasons for not writing but figured a lot of them were probably just not willing to take the time).

    Then one of my correspondent children sent a thank you letter for a family gift, that his financial sponsor sent. I’d only had him a brief while (this was maybe the 2nd letter I received) but the gift was used to buy materials to rebuild a house damaged in flooding. I’m certain in my heart that’s why his sponsor sent the gift.

    I’m excited to write to him, and absolutely don’t want to give up writing him… but I really feel like the financial sponsor should have been able to see this letter. To see the picture of his whole family smiling next to supplies, and his words of gratitude for being able to build a new house. Even his prayer request that the new house will stand strong against future floods.

    I know we have to preserve privacy, but is there any way we could arrange for financial sponsors to receive copies of these letters? I wonder if financial sponsors will lose their connection with their child if they no longer receive letters. I would even scan the letters and email them if that was more convenient. Maybe the financial sponsors don’t want the letters, but I feel like they should still get to see the good their contribution is doing.

    1. Shaina February 16, 2011

      Andrea, that’s a great point. I believe there are a lot of circumstances involved that I can’t speak to, but I agree with you. If you’ll call us at (800) 336-7676 and ask for me, I’d be happy to look through the account and see if we can get a copy of the letter to his financial sponsor. I can’t guarantee that I will be able to, but I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and would like to try.

      1. Andrea Watt February 17, 2011

        I need the email address to send that too. Thanks!

        1. Shaina February 17, 2011

          Hi Andrea, I emailed you earlier yesterday. Sorry if you didn’t get it! You may email it to Attn: Shaina at [email protected]

  4. Heather October 2, 2010

    I love sending and receiving paper letters, but do agree that I would like to feel more connected to the child I sponsor. I am 20, and my “child” is only a few years younger than me, its more like sponsoring a sister! That being said, I think opening up some kind of digital communication is going to be vital, at least for the older children, especially as they are trying to break the poverty cycle. Anyone moving into the modern world needs to be able to communicate effectively over electronic mediums. What better way than to communicate with a sponsor? If they want to protect the kids, a monitored chat session or message board could work, as could filters. I am also perfectly willing to submit to a background check, interview, whatever if that is what they feel would be needed.

    Letter writing is an art form, yes, but if Compassion is about education, how can they leave this VITAL bit of education out?

    I also love the idea of mini-visits, as visiting my child is WAY out of my means- I am unemployed and a college student-I am stretching my budget by sponsoring one child! Taking a second job would be an option, assuming I could take a first one. I am competing with highschool students who will work for less, and other college students that already have one degree-so again, visiting is not an option for me. But I would love to know more than the bare facts about what Arya is up to, and would appreciate a faster option when I want to be able to talk to her when something difficult happens. It is deeply saddening to me that I found out 2 months after the fact that her father has died, and it will take at least another week to a month for her to recieve my letter- posted online for the speed factor.

  5. Dennis Miller October 2, 2010

    I think that when a child writes to their sponsor and poses questions it is unreasonable for that child to have to wait 6 months to receive an answer. I participated in a 2-week English seminar with children in China and now I communicate with a half-dozen of them via email and QQ (IM). These children have families and school pressures and other interests and I am only able to talk to them once or twice a week. However, the email and QQ responsiveness is essential to maintaining their interest. I appreciate the value of written communication. And I either print or save copies of communications with the China children. I agree with someone’s comment that the digital world is going to leave CI in the dust on this issue.

    1. Shari October 2, 2010

      I, so totally agree with Dennis Miler. I have to go back and read my last letter or read the old letter received from my child to remember what I have talked about and what they have requested to discuss. It is really old fashioned the way this is set up, and I hope soon, a computerized system can be entertained…along with an old style such as we are dealing with now for those who do not have computers. How do you suggest, Dennis, a child respond without a computer or without a translator? This is a question I have about the whole idea, but sure would like a simple more efficient way for us all to communicate.

  6. Rachel B August 26, 2010

    Also, I would love it if we were able to opt-out of receiving monthly contribution statements without having to sign up for ACH/Billpay. Although I make my contributions every month, the day really varies, as my paychecks are inconsistent, and I like being able to pay when I have the money. But I don’t use the paper statements, and I have a hard time understanding why, when I make my payments online, I get paper statements in the mail…
    As someone else suggested, I would like to opt-out of receiving other supplemental information in the mail, as well. Email is more effecient for me.

  7. Rachel B August 26, 2010

    I would love it if we received child updates with new photos more than just every 2 years. Even once a year would be a great improvement. I also agree with others who have mentioned it that more information on my childrens’ day-to-day lives would be much-appreciated. I have a hard time trying to “imagine” what they live like, what they do.

    I disagree that there should be a fund for sponsors to visit their children. I realize that it is a life-changing experience for both the sponsor and child, however, so is sponsorship itself. I don’t believe that sponsors should feel guilty for not being able to visit their children if they truly do not have the finances, and I also don’t believe that children are being deprived by any means if their sponsor never visits.

    I know my children would love it if I visited, and I’m hoping to in the next few years, but I know that they are thankful for my sponsorship either way, and have been blessed by it; and I have been immeasurably blessed by them and their families, as well. Meeting them face to face would be amazing, but God doesn’t always work in the ways that we think He should, or wish He would. His ways are higher, and there are reasons why some of us will never meet our children here on earth.

  8. David August 25, 2010

    Case in point for providing alternatives to the current “snail-mail 3 month between letters” system. My 7 kids are truly like my own children, and I was aghast to open a letter from my El Salvador girl yesterday (sent mid-June) telling me about they were hit by Tropical Storm Agatha (back in May), but, thankfully God protected them and they survived, even though others died and were left homeless!!

    In an age of instant communication, why should I have to wait 3 months to find out my precious girl was living in the middle of a flamin’ tropical storm, and I had no idea??

    I have visited three of my kids, am a Compassion advocate, and would defend them to the ends of the earth, but this is not good enough, I’m afraid.

    1. David August 25, 2010

      Since writing this, I have been made aware of the Crisis Updates and Country News sections of Compassion’s website, so unfortunately it was written out of genuine ignorance.

      Love your work Compassion! 🙂

  9. Elizabeth Marvin August 17, 2010

    We have to remember that the child comes first in the sponsor-child relationship. I think that if writing to my children online will cost too much and take money away from their basic needs, then I do not want the letter writing system to change. However, I admit that the letters sometimes take way too long to arrive. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal if a letter takes a while. (For example, I do not mind getting Christmas cards in March or April rather than December!) However, sometimes my children have asked me to pray for healing for a sick family member. If the letter was written 3 or 4 months ago, I assume that the person is already healed. This was not the case for one of my children’s mother … I received a letter from him asking me to pray for his sick mother, and then a few months later, I got another letter where he mentioned that his mother had passed away. I did not realize how sick his mom was, and that she had cancer. I assumed that his mom was sick with a cold, and that by the time I received the letter, she was better. I guess I shouldn’t assume anything, but if there was a way to write to my child quicker, I could have received his letter quicker and responded quicker

    I like Andrea’s Idea. This is what she posted:

    “many projects don’t have internet but the county office does right? So allow sponsors to purchase a “mini-visit.” When visiting you have to reimburse expenses for child & compassion rep travel, meals, and a translator. So if you want a Voip call you pay for those expenses (plus any necessary internet usage fee), submit to a background check (just like a normal visit), and sit live with your child and the compassion rep & translator. But you get say a couple hours with your kid. This would be more affordable for many people (no international air fare) and would ensure that compassion resources aren’t diverted. It would also limit an increase in burden because they would be scheduled and planned in advance, and expenses would be the sponsor’s responsibility.”

  10. Keith July 27, 2010

    Quick point:
    I received a “Form Letter” yesterday. There is no name and date on the letter. There is of course the bar code and printed name, but no hand written name and no date at all.
    All correspondence should have a name and date!

    July 27th, 2010

  11. Susan Rodenbaugh Martin July 26, 2010

    If the question is always asked – How is this nourishing the children? – when changes are considered-then the focus will remain on the children. That is what Compassion is all about, right? I am very selfish when it comes to my sponsored kids. Where is my letter? I haven’t gotten a letter in a long time. Those are my needs- I need to be reinforced with letters. But, am I writing my child enough-am I centered around what my child needs to grow and flourish in all ways through Christ? Yes, I would love to receive more from them and from their pastor and from Compassion, but is this for me? Yeah, but, the more I know, the more I can do my part in growing our relationship. Pastor letters give great insight to our child’s lives and the projects(though I have never received one, I see those of my friends on OC) -can they be required too to send letters-maybe once or twice a year? and, maybe if there were videos of the projects available on OC that would foster development of relationships. I realize that a lot of the projects are very remote, but, why restrict the ones that aren’t so remote? Anyhow, just my humble opinions. God bless you, Compassion. God bless all the people who work with you. God bless all the thousands of sponsors out there who are doing what God has asked us to do.

  12. Marvin July 26, 2010

    This is an interesting conversation…and I feel a little sorry for the staff at compassion because it’s really a big issue and a very complicated issue. I am an American but I live in Taiwan/ China about a 2 hour flight from the children I sponsor. It’s complicated in part because of culture. If you have never lived in a different culture it’s hard to explain. So much of what we are saying is so American…I totally agree but I also understand the issues and problems with cross cultural relationships. We are not just dealing with the children but the family and the projects and churches…. What happens when the older sister of your sponsored child asks your 17 year old son if he will marry her? Sounds strange but in many places the idea of marrying an American is good. And the family and church will see no problem with this…. What happens when they start asking for money…? In many ways I wish I could have more involvement with the children and families I sponsor. I understand the culture…but if I did not it could be a bad situation. How does compassion build a system that makes the American side of me happy but not spend more money and a system that works well for sponsors that only write twice a year? If they let me use facebook it probably would work. The church has internet access and they speak English and I know the staff…but I am only one of 1 million sponsors; what about the advocate in the Midwest that wants access? She or he finds sponsors for hundreds of kids, what are her wants? We might say it’s not about us, but American culture is about us…my needs. I see it in myself. I hope compassion becomes more of a bridge organization that connects us with churches that need help reaching children. They let us just send in our money and get 2 letters a year…and or creates a 2nd level of commitment that lets us help the local church in new and different ways. Maybe only a select number of churches are part of this program but it could transform the life of that church and the children in that church. Maybe we are sponsoring the staff and supplies at the church rather than a child or maybe it’s the country staff. I don’t think that direct connection to the child and Childs family will ever work. The cultural gap is too great but connection and support for the staff could be a way to reach and help more children because we underwrite the cost of administration and let the church spend more money on the kids.

  13. Rachel K July 21, 2010

    I think that (eventually) having a more instant and one-on-one communication with our sponsored children would be great, but I think that this should start with baby steps. It would be great to have a website of each child development center but as probably most areas don’t have any form of internet services I think that maybe each country divided up into regions would give some updates every couple of months. I personally would like to know what they do on a more regular basis. (i.e. letter writing day or other acitivities that they do) and then if a particular center has very specific needs, they could say so on the site and then have a separate account for people to donate to. it would be some initial set-up headaches but in the end I think it would be a great step into getting some form of more “instant communication” between us and our sponsored children. although I do think that the letter writing should still be used as a main form of communication between us and our children.

    1. Anna Pancake August 10, 2010

      I like the idea of dedicated CDC websites too, they would give us sponsors more information about the project(s) our kid(s) attend without the risk to them of direct online interaction, it could be set up in much the same way elementary school websites are here in the US, to minimise the risk of online predators becoming involved. I really feel like Rachel is on the right track here.

  14. Sarah T July 19, 2010

    Hi, me again. I can’t say I agree that handwritten letters are more meaningful than typed ones. As a blind person, I can’t handwrite, but hopefully it’s hearing from their sponsor that the children value most, whether in a handwritten letter or an E-mail.

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of giving a sponsor the option to pay for a Skype-chat with their child, possibly once every 2 years, at around the time the updated photos come out? I realise not all projects would have access to the Internet, so the sponsor would have to pay for a child and parent’s/project-worker’s transportation to Compassion’s country-office, + the cost of having a translator there, but I think this is very practical. Even if a sponsor didn’t have Skype themselves, they could find a friend/colleague/family-member who did, and it’s a much more realistic option for some than travelling to visit their child. Personally, I have children in the Philippines, and friends who’ve been there: No pavements; open sewers; rats running around everywhere … I feel it would be too much to ask of anyone to go specially for me and have to watch my feet as well as their own, but to hear the voices of my children would be wonderful.

  15. Abby DeHoff July 15, 2010

    I think the best way to protect the child and the sponsor but still be “current” in communication would be letters via email. Let the sponsors type and email that gets forwarded from headquarters in CO to whichever country office and then the translation and delivery to the child. If you can email from the countries office to the project awesome, but because these are local churches who may not have the money for a computer or internet you have to have a fall back plan. Another thing that could “speed up” process slightly is a translation software that could automatically translate the letters. Even then those need to be proofread as dialects are different and they don’t always translate right!!!! Other than that I think Compassion’s business model is very successful even if it is “out of date” and I’ve heard a lot lately about how we should get back into the habit of hand written letters because of the joy it brings knowing that some one took the time for you to sit and personally write them by hand!

  16. CaliMum July 13, 2010

    One on one sponsorship in the digital world is an exciting frontier to consider. I agree with the focus to protect the children; the idea of communicating directly with the sponsored child is something that should be carefully considered.

    There are some realities to one on one communication. Language barriers, availability of persons able to translate a conversation, a place for the communication to take place, possible travel for child and parents. Is the sponsor aware of cultural social manners of the child’s country? (It would be a shame to do or say something to offend or embarrass someone unintentionally.) Should the sponsors submit to background checks for personal contact with the child?

    Maybe a compromise? Perhaps a short video recording could be sent to Compassion (much like this “add a comment”) it could be translated into a written script to accompany the video. This way, the sponsored child has a visual memory of their sponsor. It communicates the reality of a live person who has chosen to care for them specifically and uniquely.

    This could also be a vehicle for the children to share a glimpse of their lives (maybe even a school event, or holiday celebration…) with their sponsors.

    The ablilty to cross communicate, face to face would be a unique use of the technology we have. It would be safe (reviewed and translated by Compassion staff and volunteers.) It could open cross cultural windows and allow sponsors & children to appreciate each other’s worlds.

    Another way to use the technology we have available to us, would be to share it with our sponsored children. There is a program called “One Laptop per Child.” http://laptop.org/en
    Certainly there must be a way for Compassion to partner or obtain these low cost/low energy computers for the children. Perhaps it could be considered by Compassion as an “add on” for the sponsors.

    My personal feelings of sponsorship~ I am grateful to God that He has provided the funds and desire to sponsor a child. I believe my role is to pray, support, and provide encouragement (through letters, small gifts and the annual birthday & Christmas gifts.) I believe we are to be the ‘background’ in the production, not the star attraction. Our consistant financial support and regular contact should be an extension of the love that Christ has for us and we can share HIS love as one family.

    1. Ying August 11, 2010

      From the field point of view, many children are suffering in not recieved any letters from their sponsors!! But they ‘re required to write and ask questions to those who never write back. At the project, when courier arrived, it might be a good day for some and sad day for many. What will they feel? Can we do something to help? How can technology absorb those tear?

      1. Marvin August 19, 2010

        If each project had one person/ sponsor in the USA that had contact with the project electronically…email or facebook… Maybe they could encourage sponsors to write. They could pass on information and pictures and answer questions about the project. That one person could be trained…and be a bridge between the project and the sponsor’s home country.

  17. Valerie Long July 12, 2010

    Debbie – I see where you’re coming from and how that could end up being so. Perhaps then a site that’s set up similarly but is separate from OC might be better then for communication between sponsors and their children.

  18. Debbie July 11, 2010

    Valerie (and a few others). I have to totally disagree about allowing the kids on OurCompassion. I don’t know if you use it much, but I am on there at least an hour a day (and many will say it’s more than an hour!). It’s a ‘safe’ place for sponsors to get together to talk about their kids, and to have a place where I will not be judged for sponsoring kids. We share our joy about letters and sponsoring kids, and talk about Compassion things. If the kids are on there, basically our conversation will go down to nothing, as we will not want to talk ‘with the kids around.’ I have one kid for sure that has access to fb (and some days it really bothers me that I can’t talk to her on there), so I have to be careful what I say on the Compassion boards on facebook.

  19. Valerie Long July 10, 2010

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the blog on not accepting Facebook requests was posted earlier.

    While it would be nice to be able to use the technologies available to communicate faster with our children, I applaud Compassion’s commitment to the children’s safety and to going about these changes with a cautious attitude. As an adult who *was* sexually abused by a “Christian” adult as a child, I am a huge supporter of any kind of measures and checkpoints that help prevent that from happening to the children that we sponsor.

    Someone above mentioned the possibility of having the children on “Our Compassion” which does seem slightly better than Facebook as it’s a little more “closed” and private. Perhaps even a completely separate site for sponsors and their children to communicate on. One that is very securely controlled and sponsors must register and perhaps even have a background check done before participating on the site in order to help control who has access to the children. A site like this would be *really* helpful in regards to things like prayer requests and emergency situations. For example, one of my kids stated in her letter that her mom was going to have hemmrhoid (sp?) surgery and would I pray for her. Of course by the time I received the letter, the surgery was long gone. So for timely matters like prayer requests, having a site like this where we could communicate would be great.

    Not being an IT person, I have *NO* idea what it would entail to put something like that together, especially when having to consider things like translation and checking the postings for appropriateness. The initial costs might be daunting, but there is the possibility of it helping to defray costs in the future as it takes out the need to spend money on postage and stuff.

    Another small thing that would be nice is if sponsors could “opt out” of receiving a sheet of stationery and envelope everytime they receive a letter. I always use my own stationery because I decorate it with graphics from my computer and stuff. I never use the stationery that’s sent to me, so it ends up being recycled. I’ve taken to sending the envelopes back when I send a packet of letters because I never use those either (I called and the sponsor relations person I talked to said yes, they can reuse them so I could send them back if I wanted). If we could “opt out” of having that sent to us with each letter we receive, that might help with printing costs as well.

    All that being said, I don’t think letter writing should be completely cut out. I like sending handwritten notes to my children and getting handwritten notes back. Plus, the digital divide is bigger than we think it is and there are many who don’t have computers or reliable internet access.

    I also like the idea of using Skype or some other VoiP system for “mini visits” and agree with the idea of having there be some sort of charge to the sponsor to set that up so that a translator is there and any traveling costs are covered (in case a rural area doesn’t have internet access and they have to take the child to a city center). I would LOVE to be able to do something like that. Being a graduate student, all my extra time goes to studying and homework so there’s no time to work a 2nd job to save to go on a sponsor tour right now. But, something like a Skype visit wouldn’t be as expensive since there’s less money being spent on hotels/meals/etc. and no international airfares so it might be more affordable to some.

    I also like the idea of a fund being set up like the “Unsponsored Child” funds where people could give money to provide scholarships for those who would like to visit their child but due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e. illnesses, disabilities, extended unemployment, etc.) are unable to afford the cost of a trip. Yes, many people can work a 2nd job and cut out some expenses to save the money for a trip, but there are many who can’t do that for various reasons whether it be illness or a disability that makes even working just ONE job difficult or they live in an area with very high unemployment or whatever the reason. It’d be a voluntary fund. There would be no money diverted from other funds into it, but those who felt led to give in that area, could. There could be an application process which would help provide insurance that those who receive help from the fund truly need it. It could also be used to help out those who have disasters in their life after they’ve signed up for a trip. Say you’ve signed up to go to Tanzania and you’ve saved the majority of the money and then you have a house fire or a car accident. This fund if it existed could help make it possible for the person to still go on the trip even though they’re now going to have to spend their savings on replacing what was lost.

    I applaud Compassion for being willing to look at these new technologies and change the way they do things but I’m also very grateful that they’re going about this cautiously so they can protect the children they are serving. It’d be great to be able to communicate in a shorter span of time with my sponsored kids and perhaps it’d even help to establish better relationships with those who do not write as well/often as some of the others, but I wouldn’t want to do it if it would sacrifice their safety, physically or emotionally/spiritually.

  20. Jeff White July 8, 2010

    It might be possible to set up something similar to Facebook or MySpace but much more controlled. Also sending an email to your sponsored kids – which might in fact to to snail mail at some point – would be nice. That would also allow the email-to-snail-mail translator to edit out inappropriate information – size of house, how many cars, salaries, etc. I would be willing to have my email pass through a filter. Twitter would be nice but only as a quick email option.

  21. Linda Bolt July 8, 2010

    I would love to be able to at least get an e-mail or other quicker electronic message from my sponsored child. I do enjoy his letters, but the turnaround time makes it hard to form a relationship. I wish I knew more what his exact needs are.

    Another big reason, though, that I think Compassion needs to come up with some type of electronic communication is that the young adults today (who are and will become sponsors) are used to instant communication, and if Compassion doesn’t keep up, they will find another way to sponsor a child somewhere. My children are becoming young adults, and they have a global worldview. But I think the reality is that tomorrow’s adults will expect a quicker form of communication with their sponsored child.

  22. Crystlgib July 6, 2010

    Well as someone who did give up home internet (went to the library) and cable (still on rabbit ears) for two years and worked two jobs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for months to pay for her sponsor visit, I say where there is a will (and God’s blessing) there is a way. It isn’t easy, but I don’t believe it is supposed to be easy. “I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing.”

  23. Andrea July 6, 2010

    I looked at the question again… about the value we receive. I’m here to help the kids, and Compassion does a great job doing that. To me a better “value” so to speak would be more of my money making it to the child. If technology at any level (after initial investment) could help lower overall costs then I’m for it.

    For example… mailings. I write my kids by hand (because I want to send stickers, photos etc) but I do everything else online. I don’t need to get any mail but the letters from my kids and their pastors, and a year end contribution statement. If you want to update me about the AIDS initiative email me. If you want to send me news of an upcoming event, email me.

    I realize not everyone has email but for those of us that do you could save all of that printing&mailing cost by using our email. Banks allow you to sign up for email statements, allow us to do the same on CI. People who aren’t tech savvy can still get theirs by mail, but those of us who already bank online can take the option to reduce the amount of printed mail being shipped.

    1. Elizabeth Kennickell July 8, 2010

      I totally agree about saving the costs of mailings. I also “go green” when it comes to paper documentation. It troubles me when I see so much mail – knowing the postage, printing, and administrative costs – pile up when I just skim through it and collect it into a pile. Couldn’t I see this information on-line in a matter of seconds without all the time and expense of a mailing?
      Letter writing from children is so totally worth this time and expense, but impersonal news updates and solicitations for help with projects can be done completely on-line for those of us who have the access and opt for this communication format.

      1. Andrea July 8, 2010

        Also it’s actually easier for me to find my email. I just go to the appropriate folder that I sorted it into… my child letters go into a binder I have but any other mail could be anywhere.

  24. Stephanie July 6, 2010

    I’m so proud of Compassion for stating the obvious and for striving to innovate w/ community feedback. I look forward to seeing what you will do next.

    I do agree that the model is out-of-date, but I’m not sure what is the best use of time/resources. I do think it’s absolutely fantastic that Compassion has sent several teams of bloggers to various parts of the world. It’s inspiring to hear their stories (and see their photos).

  25. Nancy Bieberstein July 6, 2010

    I don’t like the idea of Facebook or most of the social sites. They are too full of problems with security to make them viable IMO. Also, we may be forgetting that not all sponsors have computer access. The computer is becoming such a way of life for most of us here but not everyone even in the USA hs a computer or wants one. I like the idea of limited or controlled contract. Even when you go on a sponsor trip, there is a certain amount of control exerted by Compassion here at home and at the sponsored sites. To open this up too far could be dangerous in both directions. I’m sure younger people who have never known a world without computers get frustrated with letters and the time it takes to go back and forth. This is an instant world now. I don’t know what the answer is but the children need to be protected at all costs.

  26. eric July 6, 2010

    I’m not sure if this is related or not, but our Youth Group signed up for 2 “Child Survival Programs”. We get letters from the program, but in this day and age, it’s difficult to get the students motivated without seeing what they’re supporting.

    It would be great to get emails with photos and/or videos of the program that they’re supporting.

    1. Andrea July 6, 2010

      It would be great to have more updates about those. But with the Child Survival Programs you are sponsoring the project and not individual participants as in the Child Sponsorship Program so a report would be more general or would focus on different people each time.

      I’m not sure if it’s an option for your church but I know some youth groups have missions trips for young people. Have you considered having a mission to the area where your program is? I suppose that would be very ambitious and may not be possible depending on where you are sponsoring, but I think seeing poverty first hand is much more real to young people.

      1. Vicki Small July 6, 2010

        I know that they were talking, last year, about increasing communications from Child Survival projects, so that sponsors would receive something every couple of months…not sure if I’ve had anything that often, but I have had letters from moms enrolled in the project with photos of mom and child, as well as from the pastor of the church that runs the project. It’s neat to be able to show potential CSP sponsors a copy of a letter from an enrolled mom, with a photo of her and her child. Heck, it’s neat to get that! 🙂

  27. Amy Norris July 5, 2010

    It is faster and easier to email letters via the Compassion website. I am in my forties and I acknowledge this. I’m sure younger sponsors feel even more strongly. However, the communication between child and sponsor has to be monitored and screened by Compassion. Otherwise, what would prevent a sexual predator from reaching out to a sponsored child inappropriately via facebook or other means?

  28. David Dunning July 5, 2010

    I agree that your sysem is out of touch. We as sponsors have little contact with the child and very little sense of their needs. I have sponsored this child since the end of last year and the information on her is two years old. I know that her home was destroyed and the development center was probably destroyed, but she and her family survived. I feel very detached from the child with little sense of helping their situation and very little satisfaction of helping out. I don’t need direct contact, but the translations are remote and vague, slow and of little value.
    I read what Compassion is doing from Compassion, but no independent scource writes about your efforts.

    1. Vicki Small July 6, 2010

      David, independent sources do write about Compassion; I’m unable to generate a list, because I don’t keep track. But I know Christianity Today has had more than one article about Compassion; Charity Navigators has given Compassion its highest rating 8 years running; Ministry Watch puts Compassion in the top 30 charitable ministries (http://www.ministrywatch.com/pdf/2009shininglightministries.pdf); and those are only a few. There was the write up by a self-acknowledged skeptic that was reprinted in this blog, but it appeared independently, first.

      I say all of that in the hope of encouraging you. I’m always sad, when I talk to a sponsor who feels no connection with the sponsored child. You didn’t say how often you write to your child, and yes, I agree that sometimes the translations–indeed, the letters, themselves–often leave much to be desired. But as has been written many times, in this blog, many of the cultures are not letter-writing peoples. Even where that activity is less strange, the children need time to learn the social art of letter-writing; they need to develop their writing “voice,” and many never do–as is true for a lot of people right here in America.

      I find that sponsors who write often, having invested more into the relationship, by and large feel a much stronger connection with the child. There are exceptions, but as with most anything, the more we invest in these relationships, the more we–AND the child–will derive from them.

      If you do write often, then I simply encourage you to give the child more time to develop; give yourself and your child more time to develop your relationship. Oh–Compassion updates every two years, so you should be getting a new photo, soon, I would think; and information about your child should be updated at the same time on the website. Updates are only as good as the information sent by the project/country office.

      1. David Dunning July 6, 2010

        I am not discouraged with Compassion or sponsoring a child, but the subject is improving the system. I don’t think we as sponsors should have more contact with the children than what is encouraged now. I am not familiar with the assets available at a child development center. My thought is that it would be helpful if the center blogged on what they are trying to do and what they might need. If they need assistance, are they functioning or not? The earthquake was in January and this is July, have conditions improved or worsened? Peace, David Dunning

  29. Fred Rehbein July 5, 2010

    The discussion has focused on communication between children and their sponsors but may I propose another use of currently available technology? This could be a list of needs broken down into doable tasks that people could identify with. It could be a simple as, “Jane needs a pair of shoes.” to “The school in Sometown needs paper and pencils.” to “Somecommunity needs an ambulance.” By learning the details of the needs and being able to identify with the help being given, people can respond with prayer and purpose. Thank you for considering my comment.

  30. Carol Hallifax July 5, 2010

    I enjoy writing hand written letters but I realize that most people don’t do this anymore. Now people communicate through the internet directly. Even when we write a letter on the Compassion website, it is treated like a written letter. There has to be a way to do this by internet that is safe for the children and sponsors and quicker.
    In April my husband and I were in Honduras visiting our
    Compassion child. At one of the Student Centers we visited they were constructing a new building that included a computer center.
    This could be a pilot project for others. Perhaps they could video what is going on at the center and have some of the children speak directly to their sponsors on video telling them about their school activities, friendships, favorite sports etc. The leaders could edit the video and make it available to be seen by the sponsors. This could also be a learning project for the children.
    I think that people who are computer savy should brainstorm and figure out ways to do this safely.

  31. Bryan DeHoff July 5, 2010

    I believe Compassion needs to maintain a layer of insulation between the child being sponsored and the rest of the world. Child exploitation is such a serious problem in many of the Compassion countries that we need to practice military like security schemes. At the same time, I see the need to provide sponsors rapid and accurate information on the status of their sponsored children after a calamity such as the Haitian earthquake, or the Guatemalan Hurricane. Through our involvement in international adoption, we have personally experienced the difficulty when relatives or friends of the family we worked with get the ability to directly email, or even call us, for personal donations. The only answer I can quickly see is to enable the local Project staff to have more internet capability and to establish a secure side to the Compassion.com website where sponsors can view status information on only their children. If I can access my department store credit account, and only see my information, then the capability is there to do the same with staff member updates on sponsored children.

    One other consideration to take into the debate is the number of projects which have reliable internet available to them. Are you looking at an issue for 50% of your business, or 80%, or 20%?

    Just a few thoughts. keep up the Christ Centered emphasis on the children.

  32. Katie July 4, 2010

    I’m not sure if someone’s already mentioned this, but it would be great to be able to email our children.

    Maybe CI could allow children at the age of 10 to communicate once a week via email to there sponsors. I’m not sure if if would work–and I definitely love writing and receiving letters–but it would be conducive to building relationships faster!

  33. Paul Clutterbuck July 4, 2010

    I’d like to submit the possibility of a Travel Assistance Fund for sponsors who are unable to afford to travel and visit their children. I’ve found that there is enormous pressure on sponsors, coming from both the children themselves and from other sponsors who’ve done it, to visit their children. This can be a real stretch for some people, especially where travel distances are quite long. There would have to be quite strict criteria for use of the TAF, but it would mean that children whose sponsors are on lower incomes or farther away wouldn’t miss out on a visit from their sponsor.

    1. Lizzie November 12, 2011

      I think it is a good idea. In responce to some of the other replies I say this- I do not think Compassion should provide the money. I think other sponsors should contribute to the fund. Then, if someone wanted to use the money, they should pay the “down payment” and they would need to fill out a “sponsorship” form (like the ones used to help kids go to camp). That is my opinion.

    2. Bob July 5, 2010

      Do you really want Compassion to divert contributions so that your child visit trip can be funded? In other words, do you want you child to pay for your visit travel? Preposterous, huh?

      Be creative and don’t lean on Compassion to fund your travel.

      Many sponsors I know send out letters to their sphere of influence (friends, neighbors, co-workers, Sunday School classmates, and so on, soliciting contributions to fund their visit.

      Or you could take a second job… Deliver pizzas for a few weeks to fund your travel… or examine your own finances to see where you could reprioritze pending… do you really need that health club membership? the cable TV hook-up, your fully-featured cell phone… downgrade your car to a more affordable one.

      If you a truly motivated, you WILL do what it takes… ask Mike about his exploits as a cabbie…

      1. Di July 6, 2010

        Yes, I agree with Bob on this. The money is better spent helping children out of poverty.

        While faster and more immediate communication with sponsored children would be lovely, I wonder how many sponsors would use it and how many resources would be diverted to the creation/maintenance of whatever system(s) are put in place? I wouldn’t like to see Compassion reduce the proportion of funds directly reaching children/projects from the current 80% without real and measurable benefits to the children.

        1. Andrea July 6, 2010

          I wouldn’t want to see them reduce their funds at all, if anything the goal would be to raise the percentage that makes it to the kids. But if putting some basic computer infrastructure (which would have an associated cost) would make things easier and faster then it’s a good investment that will slowly pay off. Having computer files instead of paper may well be easier to manage and maintain. The only problem I see is that truly rural areas won’t have the option for internet. But even there if they had power, a computer filing system might make updating and tracking the kids’ progress easier.

      2. Paul Clutterbuck July 5, 2010

        Haha, sending out letters to solicit contributions for a visit? You’ve gotta be joking! I live in a culture of tightwads, where no one gives anything to anyone unless there’s a fairly immediate payback. In the middle-class church I go to on Sunday mornings, no one puts anything in the offering plate, and the student outreach I go to on Sunday nights doesn’t even take up an offering because we don’t really have a giving culture around here. Instead, if anyone wants anything, it’s more like “who does he think he is?” How then can I expect the people I know to contribute to my travel?

      3. Paul Clutterbuck July 5, 2010

        The kind of people I’m talking about are those who may be unable to work because of illness or disability, who are already extremely conscious of their use of resources, and who would be able to benefit their children through visiting them, but who have no spare money to do so. It’s all very well to say “take a second job” or “downgrade your automobile” to someone who really is using excessive resources, but when a person actually doesn’t have a job or a car in the first place, that’s just piling on more frustration. Some of us really do want our children to benefit from our visits, but we genuinely don’t have the means. OTOH, I would be prepared to risk my health to go and visit my children, because I would make any sacrifice for them.

        The proposed fund doesn’t have to divert funds from sponsorships, any more than an individual making a trip to visit their child(ren) is a diversion of money from more sponsorships (we’ve had that debate on this blog before). The fund could be funded in much the same way as the Unsponsored Children Fund, through contributions from other sponsors who HAVE seen the benefit of sponsor visits, and corporations looking for a tax break. All I’m asking for is that those sponsors who are always encouraging us to go and visit our children should put their money where their mouth is.

    3. Kelly Willie July 5, 2010

      Wow Paul. I think this is a wonderful idea! I wold love to visit my sponsored child but financially I know I can not afford it. Of course, never give up! God brought me Kris Ann (my child) and in His time He will help me find a way.

  34. Andrea July 4, 2010

    Another thought, it might be more efficient for all the available children online to have one hosting area and then be transferred to the appropriate country office after selection. Right now if someone finds a sponsor that isn’t in the same country a lot of effort has to go into “switching” the child from one website to another.

    1. Paul Clutterbuck July 4, 2010

      I agree with Andrea on this. I’ve had a lot of trouble with TEAR Fund New Zealand over choosing children from Compassion’s US site, or responding to sponsorship blitzes on Facebook and the Compassion blog. I was told that each country office has to pay for its own unsponsored children, so they’d prefer that people in their territory take over those children rather than children from somewhere else. I think this needs to change, now that our communication channels are becoming increasingly global.

      1. Vicki Small July 4, 2010

        Paul, I’m asking Chris to clarify, confirm or deny what you were told, as I understood that all children–packets, websites, what have you–went wherever they go through the Distribution Center at the GMC in Colorado Springs. That is old information and may, in fact, apply only to child packets, but I’d like to know.

        1. Chris Giovagnoni July 8, 2010

          Here’s how the process works.

          Children must be allocated to a country in our database before they can be made available for sponsorship on the Internet, at a church event, at a concert, etc.

          Each child can only be allocated to one country at a time, and each child can only be linked to one account at a time (i.e., one sponsor per child).

          If a someone from New Zealand comes to the Compassion U.S. website to choose a child, we must go into our database and change that child’s allocation to New Zealand before linking that child to the new out of country sponsor.

          It’s not a difficult process, but it’s manual and the more manual work we do the less cost efficient we are. This process also delays that finalization of the person’s sponsorship a couple of weeks.

          Additionally, it helps to understand that each of our partners (TEAR Fund New Zealand, Compassion Canada, Compassion UK, etc.) are independent organizations voluntarily placing themselves under the Compassion umbrella but still maintaining a great degree of autonomy. This adds an additional level of complexity – financially, logistically, organizationally, etc. – to the situation and probably contributes to the “trouble” Paul mentioned.

          When we receive a request for sponsorship and note that it is someone who lives in a country served by one of our partners we route the request to our International Program area so they can reallocate the child to the appropriate country.

          Then we notify our partner country about the sponsorship. The partner country then links the new sponsor to the child and contacts the sponsor with their new sponsor information.

          If the new sponsor does not live in a country served by one of our sponsors, but lives out of the U.S., we will create a U.S. account for them and send the sponsorship information to their out of the country address.


        2. Chris Giovagnoni July 6, 2010

          There is truth in what Andrea and Paul have mentioned. I’m looking into how the process works and why so that I can give a comprehensive answer.

  35. Sarah Rose July 2, 2010

    Hi, I sponser a child in Haiti who, she and her Mom survived the earthquake. I also love to hear from her, and since the earthquake, have becom more serious in my commitment to her. I have been wondering what is the possibility computers in the projects which would not only give them computer technology, but would also create more contribution. There are translation sites. Is sthis a realistic idea to updated the Compassion Program and still maintain the entegrity of the children and program format?

    1. Paul Clutterbuck July 4, 2010

      Unfortunately, AFAIK there are no software tools available yet for translating to or from Haitian Creole, so Compassion would either have to create one or continue depending on human translators.

  36. Eva Benitez July 2, 2010

    I agree that it would be wonderful to have a web page where I could get information about a specific project (CSP or CDSP). In addition to photos or videos of the activities at the project, I’d be interested in pictures of the community, so I can better understand how my sponsored children live. Also, prayer requests for the project for that week or month. Commentary from staff and pastors — I’ve had the privilege of visiting some Compassion projects, and I’ve asked pastors how they have seen the project affecting the community. Boy, what inspiring answers I’ve gotten! Everything from “The parents are coming to me and telling me they never realized before how talented their children were” (at a 1-year-old project in downtown Calcutta) to an established project in a fishing village where many, many children, parents, and neighbors had come to know Jesus! So ask the pastors or staff some questions to answer for us. Even at a country level, many of us don’t understand the school systems or the culture, and a web page describing what children in that country might be doing or thinking about that month could help sponsors be more connected.

    As a reality check, at the child development project level I realize that many of the workers have no concept of the context the sponsors live in, so they would need the help of communications specialists to ensure that what they are writing wouldn’t get misinterpreted by my American ears! That means more staff, more training, more cost. And I don’t want to create hassles for the project staff; they are amazing people of faith who are called to be focused on serving our sponsored kids! Photos are a little simpler than text.

    I agree with the cautions not to overspend on “extras”. At the core, the classic letter-writing model works, and works across many cultures. Technology changes very quickly — a few years from now FaceBook may be out of style, just as MySpace has fallen out of favor.

    The IT guys at Compassion’s national offices are some of my heroes, and I took photos of their set-ups on tours a few years ago because they are marvels of ingenuity and testaments to the difficulties of IT (on a budget) in some of these countries. In one office the PC computers had taken over a bathroom, and they had big rotary fans to cool them (No air conditioning, weather over 100 degrees F). Another office had improvised racks of back-up battery power because of power disruptions.

    I remember visiting a Compassion project in Brazil, watching young children rehearse a song and dance for an upcoming parent event. I teared up at how amazing those kids were, and how none of their sponsors were there to see it. If there’s a way that sponsors can better understand how unique and precious their sponsored kids are, a way that won’t take food from a child’s mouth or overburden a caring staff member, if it will move people to write and pray more often, or to keep sponsoring their child, or to sponsor another child, or take another action for the kingdom of God, then that would be a positive change.

  37. Andrea July 1, 2010

    Allow sponsors to set up a Voip call with their child. Limit it in time and frequency (1x a month 10 minutes? maybe more?) since there would have to be a translator/Compassion representative present, but it could essentially be a mini visit. A chance to communicate real time. I realize it is not practical for areas that are too rural but in places like the Philippines it is certainly a real possibility.

    People are worried about appropriateness with internet apps like Facebook, but maybe allowing the children to join ourcompassion.org might be an inbetween step? It’s smaller so we can police it better. Or we could set up a “3rd option” that was small sites for each sponsor/child. You would log on and post to your child. Someone would review and/or translate then it would appear for the child to read and respond to.

    I think that if still screened for appropriateness and translated, email could be very helpful. However I would hate to see the handwritten letters disappear entirely. I like being able to send stickers, and I like getting drawings. But if we spoke regularly through a “fast” media like email and then mailed small gifts or drawings it could be a good balance.


    1. Nancy Van Dam July 5, 2010

      I agree, but do not think my little girl in Kenya would have any access to even e-mail, I don’t know.

      1. Andrea July 6, 2010

        I’ve thought a little more about this… many projects don’t have internet but the county office does right? So allow sponsors to purchase a “mini-visit.” When visiting you have to reimburse expenses for child & compassion rep travel, meals, and a translator. So if you want a Voip call you pay for those expenses (plus any necessary internet usage fee), submit to a background check (just like a normal visit), and sit live with your child and the compassion rep & translator. But you get say a couple hours with your kid. This would be more affordable for many people (no international air fare) and would ensure that compassion resources aren’t diverted. It would also limit an increase in burden because they would be scheduled and planned in advance, and expenses would be the sponsor’s responsibility.

  38. Caitlyn July 1, 2010

    I would love to be able to hear from my sponsor child more often; however what is the cost? I love the personal letters that I receive from him. He draws me pictures and I can see his handwriting improving. Also, my sponsor child lives in one of the poorest regions of India, how would he be able to email or skype me? Also and most importantly, the safety and innocence of our sponsor children are at stake if their encouraged to talk online. Yes the world of the internet has become vital to society, but I don’t know if this would be a good way to go.

    Letter writing is becoming an ancient pastime, that doesn’t mean we need to stop doing it though.

    1. Rita October 6, 2010

      I agree with Caitlyn. I do enjoy the letters from my child, Flora. I also realize that she is living in an area that doesn’t allow her access to computers or other means of technology at this time.

      Her letters are so delightful to me. I see her writing and drawing improve and I just wouldn’t see that in a email. Many years from now, I will have a collection of letters from this sweet girl what I will be able to enjoy over and over again.

      I am satisfied with her mail, it isn’t necessary for me to have instant access to all things in this world. I would much rather wait for my letters to be translated correctly and delivered to her, than risk causing some injury because I don’t fully understand customs or tranditions from her culture.

      I just want to say thank you for letting me be able to write her via an email that then gets translated properly. I can still write the old fashion way and send photos, but I am more likely to send a quick email because of time issues on my end.

    2. Elizabeth Kennickell July 8, 2010

      Letter writing is a long-standing and valuable art form that we must protect in this burgeoning age of reckless electronic dependence. You could say it takes too long or takes up paper, but would you discourage a great artist from using a canvas and taking the time to brush strokes of paint? We all need to keep up this dying art form because of the social development skills it fosters in us, both intellectually and relationally. I was just discussing the other day with a mom how she was struggling to instill this important skill in her small boys by encouraging them to write thank-you letters to adults who had given them gifts. It is a vital exercise for children to develop communication skills to be able to formulate and draft thoughtful awareness of the world around them. Who can cherish an electronic script in a keepsake box from their computer screen? Having handwritten, personal letters to reference and track the relationship and growth is of invaluable measure.

  39. Michelle July 1, 2010

    How many people get pastor letters? I would love one….

    1. Vicki Small July 1, 2010

      Michelle, I have had exactly one pastor letter, from only one of the 5 countries in which we sponsor children. To be fair, we have sponsored in two of those countries for 6 months and 18 months, respectively. But I have not had a pastor letter from the remaining two countries, at all–and have sponsored in both for several years. So I take it this is not a requirement, part of the standards Compassion sets for our church partners.

  40. Marvin July 1, 2010

    I think they are correct. I am working in a church ministry in Taiwan. Churches can now go directly to USA churches and have them support kids. Taiwan can support itself, but I know people in the Philippines that contact me and as me to support a child in the church they serve at. I can contact the pastor by facebook, email… If you do not change smaller groups will start picking up support and leave older ministries….

  41. Kimberly June 30, 2010

    The speed is a big problem. Can Compassion use technology to make things faster? The pastor letters are great! Keep project updates and pastor letters coming! Can you do a facebook page for each project? We would love to see regular pictures, and get an idea of what the project/surroundings/community looks like.

    Thank you!

  42. Huw & Rachel June 30, 2010

    Developing a relationship between sponsors and sponsored children through letters is not outdated. Time and time again, sponsors and children and staff have attested how meaningful these letters are, and we add our heartfelt agreement.
    The options offered by modern technology may seem attractive – but they can present logistical problems. Plenty of Compassion children do not even have access to electricity, potable water, and sanitation, let alone a computer. Here are some questions to consider:
    • How logistically viable is it to provide all student centers with computers and Internet?
    • Will the technology work in remote and rural areas?
    • How on earth will there be translators for all the e-mails and Skype calls, when translators already seem to be overloaded and rushed?
    • Can security safeguards be effectively implemented if children and sponsors are using e-mail, Facebook, and Skype?
    • What is the cost for all of this, and how will it be paid for?
    We use Skype quite a bit. When it works, it’s wonderful – but it is not trouble-free. It can distort your face and voice. One friend’s picture sometimes breaks up in an unfortunate way, making his cheerful face look grotesque. Compassion children may not be used to being photographed, let alone talking to someone on a computer screen. The Western mindset often cannot comprehend how different life is for people in the developing world.
    Here are some basic changes and additions that could increase sponsor participation in child development:
    • Improving the two- to three-month turnaround time with letters.
    • Finding ways for letter translators to have the bandwidth to be more thorough. Sometimes key phrases (e.g., “Your child is feeling poorly”) or even paragraphs are not translated.
    • Providing more options for personalization in e-letters, such as font size, or the ability to scan something in.
    • Providing the opportunity for children to write reciprocal letters.
    • Providing sponsors with annual photos (digital camera technology could help here) and up-to-date child information (Case in point: One of our girls is listed as being in 2nd grade; she’s halfway through 4th grade.)
    • Providing sponsors with information on the child’s project (securely, if online). The letters we received from the Rwandan pastors of our sponsored girls were outstanding and gave us the “big picture” of our child’s community and church – and the letter gave us specific prayer concerns.
    The letter how-tos on the website are incredibly helpful, but there is nothing like specific information about a child’s community to equip sponsors to encourage their children. It also helps sponsors to understand cross-cultural issues.
    • Lastly, it would be helpful to have a faster turnaround time if there is a problem or emergency. We recently received a letter, dated April 10, to say one of our girls was in the hospital and was paralyzed. Compassion is investigating the matter, but has told us it may be months until we get an update. (Furthermore, if she needs help beyond the family gifts we have already provided this year, our only avenue for further assistance is the Complementary Intervention Fund.)
    So, can the tools of technology help with any of these improvements?
    Compassion and the staff of the student centers do an amazing ministry, and we are truly blessed to be a part of it. The heart of this ministry is bringing the love of Jesus to children.

    1. Becky June 30, 2010

      Yes, I just want to third (after Vicki) the suggestion about speeding up communication from the child to the sponsor in the event of a personal crisis. Perhaps certain criteria could be set up in which the center director would send a message to the country office. Circumstances I’m thinking about would be about a child’s parent or sibling dying or a situation when a family member is critically ill. Even if the note is only 50 words long, it could rapidly (say within a month-maybe even 2 weeks) convey to the sponsor what is going on such that the sponsor can respond with a letter/email immediately and perhaps also a 50 word message rapidly sent back. Yes, it isn’t instant communication (which I think we all know is fraught with potential problems), but I think a Compassion telegram (I’ve heard someone else use that phrase) would be extraordinarily useful. I know time is relative depending on where you live, but if there were specific circumstances identified that the center director had 1 week to submit a brief note to the country office, I think that would be much easier to implement than say safety precautions for a live video chat.

    2. Vicki Small June 30, 2010

      I have not read quite all of the comments, but I’ve read enough to rate this one among the very best, in terms of suggests and questions posed. I see so many problems with much greater use of technology, and most have been pointed out, in some of the comments, but this one strikes me as one of the most comprehensive. Thank you, Huw and Rachel!

      It also underscores one of the concerns I have, which I will state again, having stated it previously:

      If mail turn-around times cannot be greatly improved on a broad scale, due to lack of technology and/or lack of translators in some areas, then please, *please* take great steps to expedite communications when a child experiences a personal crisis (as opposed to a general disaster).

      In the most recent of the two cases I have faced with my girls, I got a letter from the project director…more than two months after she sent it. I immediately responded online, with a letter to my precious child, but I don’t expect her to have it for perhaps another month, at least. Compassion is waiting for clarification on the situation and an update–I don’t even know where she is, right now–but that takes time.

      Meanwhile, there is a child in great pain, waiting for word that I have not forgotten her, that I love her dearly, that I am praying for her, that I want so much to wrap my arms around her and just hold her…. As she waits, does she have any idea how much I am hurting for her? She knows I love her, but in this crisis, when the people closest to her have failed her, is she clinging to Jesus? Does she still trust Him? I want to know these things!

      In a different situation, I received a letter last year from another child two or three months after her mother died (I got conflicting dates). That is a case where an immediate letter from the project director or pastor would have been good; I might have known a month earlier, anyway, and could haver written that much sooner.

      Please. I’m begging you! Please find a way to expedite communications when personal crises strike!

  43. Handinata Tanudjaja June 30, 2010

    Wow…there are alot of replies on this topic so please forgive me if I am repeating stuffs that already had been said.
    I just would like to make a quick point in regards letter writing. I personally enjoy in doing hand writing as opposed to typing my letter through the site because it made it more personal.
    And I definitely would love to see the help of technology in terms of the letter delivery time i.e. scan the letter and send it through email.

    I would like to throw another question: “How could technology help a person from being a sponsor to become an advocate?”

    It took me a while to become a Compassion unofficial advocate (I am not a registered advocate but I do work together with the my Area Advocate coordinator) . I was struggling whether I should become an advocate or not because I have never seen my sponsored children in person, I have never seen the program that they are going through, I have never met the Compassion people who are involved with them, etc. After probably around 2 years with on and off researching about Compassion, I decided to become an advocate because God gave me peace through one of monthly (I believe it’s monthly) Compassion’s compelling magazine.

    Maybe my decision being an advocate would be sooner if I could have the access to see my kids, their situation, the Compassion workers with the help of technology.

    Just a thought.

    1. Joel Glovier June 30, 2010

      I think you have really hit the nail hard on this point – about using technology specifically to empower your audience. At CURE International we are facing a similar scenario, and asking ourselves how we can really use technology as a tool to empower our audience of donors to become more than just donors – to make them advocates, fundraisers, etc.

      We have really admired how another organization has been doing this very well. Charity: water has set up a tool called my.charitywater.org where their audience can easily set up a fundraising page to raise money for charity: water. They’ve (actually their audience has been) very successful with it so far.

      Obviously fundraising is just one aspect of the coin. There’s lots of ways to use technology as a tool to engage and empower our audiences. But it really should be a tool, and not just a convenience.

  44. Roma June 30, 2010

    I want to add to my earlier comment. The hand written letter I received from my child said “I like to eat chicken with rice.” My imagination added all that other stuff.

    To be fair, I think that if new technology is introduced, it should be made available FIRST to the coutries that don’t have Reciprical Letter Writing. Those sponsors have been waiting much longer than the rest of us for better communication with their sponsored children.
    My sponsored children are in Peru and I love the Reciprocal Letter Writing. I just wish I had known about it sooner.

  45. Kathy Olson June 30, 2010

    I’ve been a Compassion sponsor for 28 years. Lots of good changes over the years. Two comments:

    1) I think Compassion has had a tremendous boom in growth in recent years. Put some energy/resources into making sure the integrity/quality that has been hallmark to Compassion is not lost in the growth.

    2) Any workable integration of available technology to speed up/improve the communication between sponsor and child would be most welcome by me. I’m not afraid of technology or change.

  46. Roma June 30, 2010

    If there is money to be spent on better sponsor-child communications, I would prefer that it be spent to help all the Student Centers get on the Reciprocal Letter Writing System. If it means spending more money for writing paper and postage, or hiring a person to help the children with their letter writing, I think it would be money well spent.

    I think having faster communications by email, or whatever, would change my relationship, not only with my child, but with God. I can imagine getting an e-mail saying “When I walked home for lunch at noon, my aunt was visiting. She had killed one of her chickens and brought us the neck, back, and wings. My mother is going to cook the chicken with vegetables so we will have a delicious chicken stew to eat tonight.” I know the proper response is “Thank you, Lord, for this generous woman who shares her food with her sister’s family.” However, I know myself, and I know I can easily fall into the sin of grumbling and complaining. I’m afraid I’ll be saying “Lord, you know a few bony pieces of chicken are not enough to feed this family. You should have provided a whole chicken!” I think I prefer to learn patience by waiting for a real hand-written letter from my child and leave the instant communication to God. “Please, Lord, provide adequate and nutritious food for my sponsored children today.” I know He hears and answers.

  47. Becky June 30, 2010

    Some recent developments on OC (namely, a fellow sponsor posting pictures of the child development center and church my child attends) have given me more insight into your first question: How can we use the tools of technology to make your participation in the development of these children more than just financial support and writing letters?

    I think that my letters (and emails) will be much more valuable to my sponsored child as I can ask relevant questions about the center (gym, classrooms, books available, Bible verse on sign, etc.) from the pictures I’ve viewed. I’m even thinking about printing out some of the pictures and mailing them as I imagine some of his friends are in them. I think that as mentioned above, pictures or prayer requests from the center on a semi regular basis would be helpful. I understand that is easier to implement in some centers with more technological access and languages that are well known. Another option would be if for more technologically savvy sponsors (and those who aren’t could get help), could send a brief video message to their kids (not a live video chat, but just a video message that could be emailed or drop boxed). I know that would be a logistical challenge though, so I would think there would be limited times-say each time the sponsor received a new photo- or if easier set biannual ‘deadlines’ for each center so all kids who would get messages would get them at once, but I could see that last option having more kids feel left out than they do on letter day. I got that idea as someone posted about sending a dvd of her family along with a fellow sponsor visiting a child development center and the child (and family and friends) loved it. I do not currently have the capabilities to send a video message with sound, but I’d look into it if I could send something to my child.

  48. Anna June 29, 2010

    I love the idea of writing letters to my children but I think that technology should be also included in the correspondence with our sponsored children. Lately, I encounter a BIG PROBLEM with the correspondence back and forth with my kids. Starting January 2010, I started to receive less and less letters from my sponsored kids. I knew that they don’t have to write me more than 3 times a year, so I waited patiently till June 2010 when I decided to contact Compassion’s office. I told the customer service representative that I didn’t receive as many letters as I was used to get before and 2 of my kids didn’t send me one letter this year. I was confused and disappointed, and I wanted to know what was going on. I was shocked to actually find out that the kids wrote me letters and they were mailed to me but I HAVE NEVER GOTTEM THEM and he told me that is safe to assume that the letters are lost! Do you mean the kids actually wrote me but I have never got the letters? I asked him: can I get a copy of their letters re-sent to me? The answer was: NO, we don’t keep copies of the children’s letters. Sorry! Well…I do believe this is ABSOLUTELY WRONG! I do believe that once a child sends a letter and it’s translated, then the translated letter should be SCANNED and emailed to the sponsor. That way, if the sponsor never gets the real letter ever, at least he/she would have the scanned version! I think this is a great idea, in order for us, the sponsors, to never lose the letters of our children or think that they have never written us – when they actually did! Have you ever asked yourself if you have not received a letter from your child lately if his/her letter might have been lost somehow? I will suggest you call Compassion’s office and ask when your child/children wrote you last and compare their answer with the letters you have received and see if you might have some letters that are actually missing, for unknown reasons. Don’t you think that you would like to get a copy of that lost letter somehow? I DO! Now the letters that were written were lost forever and I have no idea what those kids wrote me and what should I write them back now 🙁

    1. Paul Clutterbuck June 30, 2010

      I would concur with this comment. I’m sure my children would be absolutely heart-broken if they thought that their letters, prayer requests, artwork and photos weren’t getting to me as their sponsor. I would find it just as tragic. If communication was handled electronically, there would be much less room for things like this to happen.

    2. Marci C June 30, 2010

      I’m sorry that this has happened to you and know that it is just heartbreaking. I once had one of my children’s letters that I didn’t receive. I discovered it because my child had referenced it in a letter that I did receive; she was refering to a photograph that was attached. I wrote back to her told her that I did not receive that letter and asked if the project center could have her re-copy that letter and re-send it, and they did. I believe that the center keeps a copy of the letters that the children write. It may be an option for you to check out.

      1. Anna July 3, 2010

        Dear Marci, thank you so much for the idea. I will definitely do that, I didn’t even know that I have that option. And I also agree with Paul, if communication was handled electronically, there would be much less room for things like this to happen.

  49. Barbara Taylor June 29, 2010

    Having gone on the sponsor tour to Ecuador last Fall and seeing the painstaking efforts involved in the letter-writing/letter-interpretation/letter-delivery process I am not surprised at all to hear of this proposed change. It really seemed “too good to be true” to think that I was able to make such a life-changing impact on someone who knew me only through these efforts. Writing more snail mail was the biggest “take away” I received from making that journey to meet my child. I was encouraged and convicted to put more effort in letter-writing myself once I heard with my own ears how he has saved every letter I have ever written. Consequently, I am committed to the importance of snail mail and its ability to let our sponsored children see what lengths we will go to in order to show they are valued.

    Also, at the Compassion headquarters we learned that they couldn’t afford the ink and toner necessary to print out pictures even if sponsors email them.

    Hope this helps as you seek God’s leading and wise stewardship. I am praying for all the decision makers at Compassion. God bless you all.

  50. Crystlgib June 29, 2010

    Sorry for the additional posting, but I recently contacted Compassion because I sent family gifts over a year ago and never received acknowledgement of their receipt. I was told “It will be our pleasure to send the inquiries. It can take up to eight weeks to receive a response from the field. We will let you know as soon as we receive each response.” I know this is a bit off topic but it does speak to the current inadequate communication process used by compassion.

  51. Richard Cooke June 29, 2010

    Don’t be taken in by these consultants Compassion. This is NOT what you should be worried about. If we could shorten the time between letter and response that would be great but the last thing we need to do is spend a lot of money on unnecessary technology. With respect to the person who said if this gets sponsors who don’t write to write thenits wor it. I don’t believe having access to easier tech ways to communicate will getnthose folks to write. Only God impressing upon eir hearts to do so will accomplish that.

    Don’t be taken in by the Compassion, please. There are far more important things to spend money on.

  52. Crystlgib June 29, 2010

    Like many on here I think the idea of a blog/message board, to supplement the snail mail, is one of the better ideas. Since it is not instantaneous it would possible for the leadership/translators to screen comments, while still affording a much faster mode of communication. I believe it could greatly reduce expenses as snail mail is expensive and, as I understand it, considered part of child development and not administrative cost by Compassion. I also believe this mode of communication would help foster valuable skills needed by the compassion children. One of my children once wrote me “I have never seen a computer. I have heard about them, but have never seen one.”

  53. Joel Glovier June 29, 2010

    I agree that you have to keep with the trends and meet people where they are. But I would disagree that writting letters is a bad or antiquated way to communicate with the children. I actually had a pen pal as a young teenager. The kid was in Kenya. I wasn’t a very good writer (ie – more lazy than lack of ability) so it only went through a small handful of letters till I didn’t communicate with him anymore.

    But in some way having letters feels very authentic to me, especially in connecting me with somebody in another country. There is a certain novelty about it that I greatly appreciate. And as somebody who uses the internet every day all day more or less, it’s such a welcome and refreshing change in mode of communication that the typical.

    So to me, the letter writing aspect heightens the meaning and the authenticity of the sponsorship experience. Obviously not everybody will share my sentiments on the matter.

    1. Joel Glovier June 29, 2010

      Also, to add to that a little – there is something really precious about seeing our sponsored child’s own handwriting that we cherish, that def doesn’t come across in electronic communication.

      1. Michelle July 1, 2010

        Exactly!!!! I just received the second letter that I’ve gotten from Ludis where she actually wrote the words…. Prior to that, she had help. She actually apologized in the last letter for her penmanship….. but I was SO very proud of her that she could actually read and write now! Seeing that firsthand is PRICELESS. 🙂

  54. karen Cook June 29, 2010

    In our church I am on the board and we have a saying, It’s not “either”/or” it’s both. Maybe you can work to make both methods of communication available to sponsors. I would make it a matter of prayer and see what God does!

  55. Michelle June 29, 2010

    Becky said: “I suppose my main concern is that right now kids are left out on mail day at the center when their sponsor doesn’t write letters, and I can only see that left out feeling getting worse when you use different aspects of social media.”

    This worries me too….. I can envision already sad children on snail mail day being faced with their contemporaries busily tapping away on keyboards and answering email and snail mail. I can’t even fathom the pain those children who do not get mail feel….. The rejection….

    Lisa had a wish: ” Make sure ALL sponsored kids are getting mail. Every last one. (I’d rather see funds being put here than in technology.)” No clue how you’d implement this… but that is my deepest wish as well…… Something to pray about. 🙂

  56. Michelle June 29, 2010

    I currently cherish the letters, drawings, photos, and updated info on my child and would/will continue to sponsor Ludis as long as she stays in the program….. even if nothing changes in the way Compassion operates! Compassion is already awesome!!!

    Chris asked: “Is there anything else, not just from a technology perspective, that we can deliver to make the sponsorship experience even more rewarding for you and other sponsors?”

    Although I am happy, three things would make my experience more rewarding, ……

    1. Implement a quicker response to all new sponsors when they first sign up. Get that first letter to them asap! 🙂

    2. Put all countries on the reciprocal letter system. I’m not keen on the email, Facebook, Skype, etc. I DO think that less time between letters is crucial in developing a relationship between sponsor and sponsee.

    3. Like many have suggested: I would LOVE a web page/blog/whatever where sponsors with a child in a certain center could log on with their sponsor id number and view photos and information about what is going on at the center and with pictures and info about their community. I’d love to hear more about the special activities Ludis mentions in passing…. or to hear which child aced the spelling bee or whatever! (and think about how PROUD that child would be to be featured, and how hard the other kids would work to have that honor!) The ability to right click on a photo to save and print out would be phenomenal as well. (LOVE LOVE LOVE photos!!!!) 🙂

  57. Melissa Benson June 29, 2010

    Has anyone asked the children what they want???Im pretty sure they dont want to trade their prized possessions for technology.

  58. Terese June 29, 2010

    Realizing that a “Skype visit” with our child might not be cost-effective for the projects, what about this idea: make a “Skype visit – possibly including a home visit or visit including family members – available to the sponsor for a fee. It would be the next-best-thing for the sponsor who cannot go on sponsor trips. More importantly, it would also be the next-best-thing for the child. It would be fine with me to charge a considerable fee – possibly allowing the project to come out ahead financially on each “Skype visit.”

  59. jeff June 29, 2010

    I would challenge the idea that the “business model” is out of date. What is it that we are trying to do? Isn’t the idea to help spread the Gospel, introduce others to Christ, and to connect in a relevant way into another’s life? Is that what is out of date? Or is it just a tech thing? What do the children and their families say?

    From my standpoint as a sponsor of two, it would be nice to know something more about where they live, what their villages/cities look like, what their church is like, etc. Yes, pictures would help. So would a letter from the local pastor ( I assume the pastor could write one letter, and it could be sent to all the sponsors of all the children in the church or district)

    I am leery of throwing out the “old” just for the sake of throwing out the old. What do we need to accomplish that is different than what we are doing now, and that is for the children to answer.

    I’m just thrilled to pray for my two children, and to know that they pray for me. The fact that one seems to really love my questions and telling her about my life is just extra special

  60. Michelle June 29, 2010

    This topic means an awful lot to me, and I just spent a couple hours reading every word on here and contemplating what everyone said.

    First off, the ONE thing I would like to request (from the bottom of my heart) is that EVERY new sponsor be contacted by their new child within a month or so of the sponsor signing up. I think that the centers should make that a priority.

    The reason I am so adamant about this, is that I convinced a couple of people who had not sponsored before, to become Compassion sponsors. Both had to wait a very long time to get their first letter, but my sister waited over SIX months to get her first contact. Granted, once she did she got a couple letters right away and she was thrilled. But during that waiting time she contacted Compassion, wrote to her little guy, sent a substantial family gift, and as time went by she started to consider stopping her sponsorship because her experience was so drastically different from what I had experienced. (and my little girl only writes the three letters a year) She felt alienated and definitely did not feel connected to her child.

    So that made me wonder how many other brand new sponsors are out there experiencing the same thing: the initial excitement that palls over time due to lack of communication……

    And I know that sponsorship is child development and that it isn’t supposed to be about “what we get” from the relationship. But I know that I sponsored through Compassion precisely because of the ability to form a bond with my child through letter writing…. I wanted to be a part of my child’s life. Not just the pocketbook across the world. That is why I think this topic is so important.

    So, to start with: REALLY FAST communication with new sponsors when they agree to sponsor a child. Make it a center/translation priority.

  61. Vicki Small June 29, 2010

    Jane, in the old days (say, 7 years ago), a letter sent by e-mail through Compassion’s website saved the time it would take snail mail to make the trip from sender to the GMC. At the GMC, it was printed and put in the stack of other mail to go to the same country.

    In the last few years (according to my more recent information), e-mail sent through Compassion’s website is forwarded on to the country office, where it is translated, printed, and held until the next time someone travels between your child’s project and the country office. That might be a month, possibly more, but it’s still quite a savings in time.

    Also, e-mailing through the website eliminates some of the problems that show up at the GMC: A sponsor leaves off the child’s name/number, and/or his or her own full name and sponsor number, so someone has to research it. Or the scanning process kicks a letter out because it picked up one or more of the kinds of things it looks for. Or something. Apparently, we sponsors can cause delays for any number of errors, omissions, or inappropriate inclusions.

    When we e-mail through the website, our name and number, and the child’s name and number are already there. That solves that problem! How, or at which point, scanning takes place, I don’t know.

  62. Rita June 29, 2010

    I agree with Jess W. who says that the unique communication process of letter-writing is what drew me & keeps me with CI. I love getting letters in the mail (in general), so I’m sure that same thrill is there for the children as well. It’s just not the same as an electronic message. On the other hand, maybe part of the processing time can be decreased if we could mail our letters directly to the projects (adding our own extra postage), instead of having them pass through CO Springs first. That would speed up the translation aspect, but then I guess would endanger some job security in CO too. 😉 Anyway, those are my thoughts. Keep up the great work!

  63. Chris Gurley June 29, 2010

    More than enough great ideas for portals, project sites/pages, etc have been outlined by the preceding contributors, so I’ll forgo that.

    I just want to say that if Compassion needs IT/tech or financial assistance to see this through, I’d love to know how I can help. I believe in it and would love to see it gain greater efficiency and effectiveness for the Kingdom.

    For the glory of God,

  64. Jane Beal June 29, 2010

    I agree whole-heartedly with David and Jon. The letter-writing model approach is time consuming, and more direct digital contact will be of benefit to the sponsored children (not just the sponsors!). While it is possible to write an email on the Compassion site, and I have done this, I have no idea how long it takes for the message to get to my sponsored child nor has she ever written back to me that way. Maybe write a blog post about that option, how its currently working, how it can be changed to make communication quicker and more meaningful … ?

    Jane Beal, PhD

  65. Spence Smith June 29, 2010

    This is a great post. As i travel with compassion to visit these children, i’m seeing more and more the access to the internet become more real for these kids. i was with one group of highschool students who were excited to learn how to use the internet so they could learn more and excel in their studies… however, none of them knew what email was or even what the internet really had to offer on a social level. one student did say he went to the internet cafe to do home work. so… it’s here for them on some level…

    i really wish i had some good answers… but i know this. finding a happy medium that protects these kids and the sponsors is going to be a challenge but we need to look forward to the great possibilities of connection.

    now… this is all in reference to those kids who are sponsor kids not yet graduated from the program.

    the other side of this coin is many of our leadership development students are online and are participating in social networks like facebook and twitter. it’s amazing and i’m so happy for them. i think these kids are responsible and their sponsors, if they find them on facebook, are getting an even greater experience…

    so… the facts… if kids or ldp students can access the internet… facebook or whatever… they are going to do it. if we can provide them are great place to all connect like a network that can do everything we need it to do, then i think we are headed in the right direction.

    the cool thing… letters still rock and these kiddos keep them safe and protected… no matter how long it takes… 3 months to deliver a letter or the punch of a button for an email… communication between sponsor and sponsor child is always an amazing transaction.

  66. Jess W June 29, 2010

    I’m really big on social media & technology. Like… really big. But honestly, writing letters to my child was the thing that pulled me to Compassion over WV. In an age where everything is super quick, it’s nice to actually sit down and think about the child, pray about them, while writing the letter.

    More than that, I find it a bit odd that there might be tons of money invested in something as un-necessary as the means to connect us to children via social media, when those dollars could be feeding & educating more children.

    But your advertising could probably go towards a more social-media friendly scope, or like Sarah T said – the opportunity to send pictures shouldn’t be that much more complicated, yet would add a lot of joy to both the sponsor & the child’s lives. I also agree with what Cathy said about projects having their own website.

  67. Jennifer June 29, 2010

    My thought is to do something similar to what Jeremy Camp (jeremycampcamp.com) and other Christian artists have done and create your own social networking site for sponsors and the kids we sponsor. It can then be monitored by Compassion and filtered as necessary. It is something that is an option since some of the older sponsors will still prefer to write and some of us younger sponsor will still encourage our kids to write to the kids we sponsor to help develop good written language skills.

  68. Anna June 29, 2010

    I don’t think the present way of communication between a sponsor and a child is outdated at all. It is simply reality where these children live. I’d much rather see Compassion use the money for real necessities like water, books, and health care than computers for the centers. I LOVE writing real letters to my sponsor children and sending them little paper gifts – please don’t trade this for Skype or other technologically advanced methods. A paper letter keeps – an email is easily destroyed.

    The only suggestion I have is to increase the amount of information we get. I’d like to get a newsletter from my children’s centers (maybe every two/three/four months?) with news from the center and even some pictures. I’d also like to get photos of my children more often. Now I can go a year without getting a fresh photo. I do understand that this is not that easy to implement in some countries, though. It’s just that I’m so hungry for information – any information- about the life and surroundings of my children! 🙂

    Thanks for the wonderful work you do!

  69. Keith June 29, 2010

    How about a page of available sponsors where the children can browse and pick a sponsor?

  70. Chris Pedersen June 29, 2010

    YES, please bring in 21st century communication technologies to write and hear from our sponsored children. We already use your on-line writing and only use the snail mail mode when we want to send pictures. It would be great if we could upload pictures to those emails.

    Not only is it discouraging to have the 3 month turn around, but it adds to the sometimes repetitive questions and information. Speeding up the turn around via technology is important.

    There are ways to do email wherein the actual email identity is “scrubbed” so the receiver does not see the email of sender and vise-versa. The same can be done for voice mail.

    We welcome your addition of upgrading the communication.

  71. Keith June 29, 2010

    How about this:

    An age / location appropriate “Communication Cheat Sheet” for new sponsors and children. When I, a 50 YO man living in the USA, first wrote to a 15 YO girl living in Indonesia, I had no idea where to start. A “Cheat Sheet” could allow a sponsor to have a first contact that requires no translation.

    So when a child first learned they had a sponsor, he/she would also know that the sponsor is a married couple with 3 children from a rural area of the U.S.A.

    The idea is to keep this very general. i.e. There are 3 children but there ages are not given leaving an open question to ask in a letter.

    Well I’m sure you get the idea. It would be something like this:

    1. Sponsor is __married __single
    2. Country ______________ < drop down list… no translation
    3. Neighborhood __Rural __Urban __Suburban
    4. Number of children ______
    5. Has a dog __Yes __ No
    6. Has a cat __ Yes __No
    7. Has other livestock __Yes __No
    8. Attends church __Yes __Yes
    9. Attends bible study __Yes __Yes
    10. Has 2 left feet __Yes __No

    Please don’t pick on my examples!!! I know that asking if a person is married or has 2 left feet might not be appropriate.

  72. Emily June 29, 2010

    I agree with some comments on here that suggest to make Our Compassion (I have never heard of it…. maybe I will have to check it out) a site that connects a project- not an individual child- to the sponsors who have children at that project. Maybe a project leader or tutor could write a blog post and take photos when they have events- I always hear about the VBS program and Christmas party in letters, yet have never seen photos of them- so that sponsors would feel more connected. Having a project-to-sponsor site or blog minimizes alot of the security concerns and having the login info just default be the sponsor’s id, and the child’s id, would make it easy to remember. Also getting an email about when the blog was updated with a link to it, would be really nice, because, honestly, I think ppl would even forget to log on to see what the project was doing.

    As for skype and video calls, that would actually be impractical in a number of countries, yet very easy to do in others. I was in East Africa 2 years ago, and we actually did not get enough bandwidth there to even just voice talk on skype- chat worked, but not voice. However, other countries, especially in Latin America, get good enough bandwidth to videoconference. Maybe make it an option that would be available at certain projects, test it, test the idea of having a twice-a-year video chat with the child, and also have a parent of the child or caregiver, and a compassion staff member present to monitor the conversation.

    Alot of the kids most likely live in areas where older kids go to internet cafes to play games and chat with friends, even if they don’t have a computer at home. The kids would most likely be excited to use technology to connect with sponsors as well. As someone who sponsors a girl who is now 14, I am wondering what she must be thinking of us, who only send snail-mail letters in a country where the mail system is very poor, at best, and where I am sure her neighborhood (I visited her and her and her project 2 1/2 years ago) has internet and since she is a young teenager, she probably goes online and does email/facebook/orkut etc.

  73. Kimberly Marciniak June 29, 2010

    I met my sponsored child Maria when I was visiting Peru- it was one of the most powerful and meaningful experiences of my life thus far. I love recieving photos of her and seeing the ways in which she is developing- I would appreciate more photos(maybe a photo update every year). I’d also love to do a Skype chat- maybe arrange one as an option for a sponsor every 2 years(requiring a fee for a translator of course) Skyping would give sponsors the oppertunity to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ their children- which was one of the things I enjoyed most about meeting Maria- she no longer became a photograph I found on a website but a real person I was helping(I think this would strengthen relationships and allow for sponsors who don’t have the blessing of ‘meeting’ their child face to face the oppertunity to do so in a way).

  74. Sarah K June 29, 2010

    I LOVE letter writing. Yes, it may take a while for my letters to reach my kids, or for their letters to reach me, but they are worth the wait!!! I love getting my hand-written letters. I keep them in a special box.

    In our world of instant gratification, I know that it is tempting to move to something more “tech-savvy”, but I prefer the more personal letter-writing. I think it teaches the kids (and the sponsors) important lessons about patience and also gives them something tangible to hold onto for years to come, something they know their sponsor hand-wrote specifically for them.

    It may sound crazy, but I fear that instant-communication could cause my relationship with my kids to become shallow and ordinary. I want that relationship to be special. I want them to have joy once a month when they get a letter in the mail, and maybe a suprise of a picture or stickers too!

    I could keep giving reasons. Please keep doing things the way you are. Coming from a very tech-savvy person, the letter-writing is refreshing, special, and treasured. I would hate to lose it.

  75. Sheryl June 29, 2010

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to connect with my child on Facebook. I don’t think children really understand what can happen there and how people can see their comments. (I know this from experience.) I wouldn’t mind emails rather than paper letters, but it’s not as easy to send pictures, stickers, etc. You’ve also said numerous times how the kids like to take the letters home and reread them, etc. If you’re connecting with a child on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc., they can’t take the letters home. I also think that the logistics of trying to coordinate a time for people to connect on Skype could be problematic. Some people are also technologically challenged. Don’t lose them as sponsors just because some consultants say your model is out of date. They don’t know everything.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 29, 2010

      “Some people are also technologically challenged. Don’t lose them as sponsors just because some consultants say your model is out of date. They don’t know everything.”

      You are absolutely correct. Consultants don’t know everything. Consultants once told us to take Jesus’ out of our message.

  76. Marnell Robertson June 29, 2010

    I think if the organization continues to consider what is best for the child and what best serves the child and how technology is best for the child…then the goal we should all have as sponsors is well served. I’m not concerned with the use or lack of use of existing technology as I am with doing what is best for the child. The reasons you don’t have direct contact today makes great sense and serves the child and the sponsor. If sponsors are less likely to be involved because the technology you use that best serves the child is not “up to date” then the sponsors are more concerned about self-gratification then they are with the child. Please take note that whatever you do is more about the children than it is about being up to date in the business model. I agree wtih th eone that wrote that the technology can be a poor Master and we should not be worrying about how we serve it.

  77. Derek Dover June 29, 2010

    Like others here, I would love instantaneous communications with my LDP child on facebook. But, the sad truth is, she gets about an hour of computer time a semester – so that’s just not likely in her current environment. I realize every case is unique – and some kids do have the technology and ability to communicate quicker/directly with sponsors if allowed. However, just because an MBA from the Barna Group suggests you need to change – the thousands of sponsors you currently have and your growth over the past ten years would suggest otherwise. It’s a common saying at my employer – be leary of change for change’s sake.

    I’m betting that the Compassion social networking site is being primed/piloted to connect kids with their sponsors – and if so, great. Let’s see how it works. But please don’t dump 40 years of communication know-how in your letter writing process just to appease us tech-savvy sponsors.

    Stay faithful, my friends

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 29, 2010

      “However, just because an MBA from the Barna Group suggests you need to change – the thousands of sponsors you currently have and your growth over the past ten years would suggest otherwise. It’s a common saying at my employer – be leary of change for change’s sake.”

      Exactly. I know that our leadership won’t have us change just for the sake of change.

  78. Sarah T June 29, 2010

    I sponsor in the UK. I would like the opportunity to send photos online as well as letters. I would also LOVE to receive photos of my children’s families.

    If http://www.OurCompassion.org had a private messaging facility, couldn’t the Compassion team set it up so that we could private-message our sponsored children, and they could look at them while at the project and supervised?

    I would also like to be allowed to send more than paper items to my children. One of mine specifically asked to hear a CD. Compassion said no because of getting it through customs, but when I’ve posted CDs to different countries before, I’ve just filled in the customs-declaration and there hasn’t been a problem; I don’t see why there should be for Compassion. I just think when a child has specifically asked for something, it’s a shame to let them down.

    If you’ve got this one-to-one relationship with your child and they tell you something, and because of that you want to do something about it and Compassion won’t let you, it’s frustrating. My Jennylyn’s mum told me her grandmother paid for their electricity and water, so I got in-touch with Compassion. I asked if I could send a family gift to get them a fresh-water source nearby so they wouldn’t have to go on being dependent on the grandmother. Compassion said that sponsors couldn’t decide how their family gift was used. They gave the example that someone might want their child to have a cow, when actually they live in the middle of a city. The example made sense, but I do think sponsors should be allowed to decide where their money goes. If it turns out the money can’t be spent in that way for any reason, Compassion could get in-touch with them and explain. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, since we’ve committed to give £21 per month per child.

    I hope these comments are helpful. Thanks for wanting our feedback.

  79. Paul Clutterbuck June 29, 2010

    I think OC should be made a secure site, and only open to staff and sponsors. There would be strict terms of use to ensure that misuse is minimized. Within that context, a sponsor could click on a child’s name or photo and get full access to information, as well as opportunities to email their child, or arrange a time with their project for a videoconference.

    Children should be able to write to their sponsors via OC, including regular prayer requests, which would generally be translated using automated software tools, unless these are not available in the children’s language. Translation of sponsors’ letters back to the children might still need to be translated by a real person though, to allow vetting of content. As for videoconferencing, it might be acceptable to ask sponsors to pay for the cost of the required bandwidth, on a pay-per-view basis, although this may put the use of the technology out of reach for some sponsors. Use of videoconferencing would of course be covered by the Terms of Use for the site, with appropriate discipline or suspension of privileges administered in the case of misuse.

    What hasn’t been covered here, either in the original post or by commenters, is the question of what information would be helpful to sponsors in assisting with child development. Photos and videos of the centers is great, but wouldn’t it also be important to have their school records, Sunday school records, yearly goals (for older children), their project attendance record, and possibly some medical records available to sponsors? That way, we could not only monitor how the children are doing, but encourage them and pray for them in a relevant way. Attendance records are important, because non-attendance throws up a red flag that a child may be sick, or may be dropping out of their project. In terms of health data, I don’t need to know everything; however, Children International provides vital statistics for children I sponsor there, so I’m sure Compassion could do the same, as well as alerting us to any health issues as they arise.

  80. Cathy June 29, 2010

    A lot of good ideas have been mentioned. I don’t usually post but since it was requested I thought I would share my thoughts…

    -I think that it would be wonderful if each project had it’s own website or blog where monthly updates could be posted. It does not have to be updates about an individual child but about the project as a whole. It would be nice to see what kind of activities that the kids are doing. That would make it possible to post photos of the facilities, groups of kids doing activities, or maybe even a video once in a while. It would help sponsors feel more connected to their children without being TOO connected.

    -I really like the idea of handwritten letters from my sponsor child. I have used email to send letters once in a while but I also send handwritten snail mail to my child with photos and stickers. Although I do appreciate the speed of email, to me something that is handwritten is so much more personal and meaningful. I believe there is room for both methods of communication, but it would also be excellent if there was a way to facilitate faster snail mail communication, perhaps a 4 week turn around as apposed to 8-12 weeks.

    – I also agree it would be nice if letter writing was more reciprocal in nature instead of just quarterly. I think it is much more encouraging for sponsors to hear from their children more often and will help to retain sponsors in the system.

  81. Shawn Landis June 29, 2010

    Here are the patterns I’m seeing in the comments:
    (technology, cost & manpower permitting)

    – keep Compassion’s ground floor principles in check
    – don’t stop snail mail letters they’re the best
    – don’t reduce funds meant for children on technology
    – like: quicker turn around on letters/updates would be nice
    – like: more photos/news about centers/children
    – like: a webpage/blog/info-hub about centers

    – OurCompassion isn’t being used to it’s potential (people don’t visit very often). What if it became a place that people wanted to visit daily or weekly

    We all know Compassion does an amazing job at what they do. They will do the same with the highest ethics and values even with some possible technological advancements sprinkled in.

    1. Debbie T. June 29, 2010

      Shawn, I totally agree with your list, except the part of OurCompassion. There is SOOO much there. I have made so many friends there that share my love for Compassion and I have learned so much. Anyone who doesn’t think it’s worthwhile isn’t spending any time on there. I would never have the amount of kids I have through Compassion if it wasn’t for OurCompassion.

  82. Tim Tinkel June 28, 2010

    I have glanced through most of the comments, but have not read every word. Therefore, please forgive me if I get something a little wrong or if someone has already mentioned these suggestions.

    I really like the ideas that have been presented so far. I don’t think I ever want to go completely away from letter writing. I have heard stories of how children save every one of their letters and sometimes reread them often. Without the hard copies of our letters. What would they have as a remembrance. I also keep each of the letters that they have written to me. I want them to remember my compassion kids by as well.

    Having said that, however, I do like the idea of some quicker methods of communication. At least at times. As I have read through the comments, there are two things that seem to be the main concern – the cost and the safety to our children.

    Let me briefly address each one –

    Having said that I hope that the personal letter never goes by the wayside, I also need to say that I have heard that the volume of letters that go through the National headquarters is tremendous. All of the letters come to the home offices and then are sent out to either the kids or the sponsors. That takes a lot of postage. If there was an easier means that sponsors can communicate to their kids sometimes (not always – remember personal letters are still treasures) then perhaps the money saved in postage will help defray the cost of the new technology. It may not happen over night, but it may be paid off with savings over several years.

    Let’s address the safety aspect. I don’t ever want there to be a time when the kids aren’t safe. I feel that each time a sponsor is in contact with a child there needs to be someone else present. I love the idea of Skype, but obviously with most if not all, there needs to be a translator there. If no translator is needed then there should be someone else there. I know many folks would think about how much it would cost for a translator to be there. Remember, the translators are volunteers, and if not quite as many letters are going through the countries, then perhaps some translators could be used for the Skype conversations. What a blessed time I could foresee if I had a once or twice a year scheduled (not willy nilly any time I want) time to Skype and talk with my compassion kids! I also love the idea’s already mentioned about having a secure website set up for each of the projects that only the sponsors of kids in that project could get on. If the sponsors want to make any comments then all comments would have to be approved before showing up on the site. I don’t think any safety would be compromised in either one of the above scenarios. I think that are both workable and affordable when you consider that some of the costs of mailings etc. could be transferred to the new technology. Someone mentioned the pastor letters. They could be put on the website for that project. If a sponsor wanted to print them out, then great. That would save a tremendous amount of money right there.

    I love the fact that you all are beginning to think outside the box. I am looking forward to continuing to communicate with my kids via letter and with some of the new technology in the near future.

  83. Lisa June 28, 2010

    I also wanted to encourage Compassion to take small steps in the right direction, rather than a big huge overhaul of changes that may or may not work and will be difficult to undo. I think gradual, positive changes are easier on the sponsors, those who work in the field, and the kids.

  84. Anna June 28, 2010

    It might be nice to get our letters faster but I don’t think it would be a good idea if it meant that the letters wouldn’t be as personal. You guys at Compassion are great I’m sure anything you do will be both helpful for us and the kids. Thanks so much!

  85. Linda T. June 28, 2010

    I really don’t know how using modern technology would work…. we would still need translations. Keep in mind that I am over 50 🙂 but I really hate the fact that nobody writes letters anymore. The letters I get from my sponsored children are the only “real” mail I get these days. I have never emailed my children. I handwrite the letters and always send something along with them, stickers, bookmarks, scrapbooked pages, whatever. These children are worth my personal time and attention to show them how much I love them. Sure, I would love more details and faster communication. But not at the sacrifice of the personal touch.

  86. Bob June 28, 2010

    Right on Bro! Let’s put laptops into the hands of every sponsored child and bring broadband coverage to the shanty towns of the world so we can communicate instantly in glib, shallow-minded 140-character bits.

    Let’s infuse our sponsored children with our social norms and cultural expectations. Let’s show them how to be kewl and konnected and thrive in a Facebook world. Let’s update that “out of date” tagline… releasing children from poverty… becoming all they can be—masters of their souls… Good luck with that.

    I’m curious. Does David Kinnaman sponsor a Compassion child? Is it he who needs instant access? Does he understand that Compassion is greater than a “pen-pal ministry” (I recall the word “holistic” somewhere).

    What qualifies David to make say the model is “out of date”? Did he interview sponsors and project directors. Did he talk with the parents and guardians iof the children. If our communication flows more quickly, will the quality of the sponsor-child relationship grow beyond present levels? Will it whither? How will this impact the stigma of children who sponsors don’t write… will we have a new calss of sponsors who don’t tweet, who don’t Facebook? Will that prove constructive?

    Is sponsor/child comunication is a significant problem? Are sponsors dissatisfied with the present system? Is there somthing fundamentally broken with Compassion’s child development model that can be solved by “friending” a sponsored child?

    If there’s a real problem with the letter cycle, what can be done to reduce letter transit time to one month?

    Nice can o’ worms you’ve got there, Chris!

  87. Denise Bailey June 28, 2010

    I’m with Karen McCullough. If a center needs a good water source that is way more important than Skype. The letters from the pastors have been a blessing to me. I would personally love more info on our centers and specifics on what they need.

  88. Karen McCullough June 28, 2010

    “However, I do say that how we do it – how we deliver value to sponsors – is out of date.”

    I take issue with the idea of delivering “value to sponsors.” Our sponsored children are not a commodity. They are people made in the image of God. I think most sponsors have chosen to sponsor because of their obedience to God’s call to share with the poor and to share the Gospel. Does that make us “consumers”? It’s rather a sickening thought.

    Any technological “improvements” should not be made at a cost to the children’s basic physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. I would rather see the money going to provide clean drinking water wells than making sure each center has a Skype connection.

    1. Tim Tinkel June 28, 2010


      Although I see your point in the wording and I hear what you are saying, I have a different take on it.

      I constantly read and hear comments from kids (no longer kids but adults) who have graduated from the Compassion program. Although it is obvious that food, clothing, shelter and education allowed them the opportunity to live to be able to make comments, never do I hear them say “The thing that got me through my tough times was the clean drinking water.” or “The food is what gave me the hope to get through each day.” The comments that I hear and read are “I thank God for my sponsor who said that they loved me – that’s the first time I ever heard those words said to me.” or “When my sponsor encouraged me in the Lord, that gave me the hope to make it through each day.”

      What sets Compassion apart from other programs is that it just doesn’t feed the kids, pat them on the head, and send them on their way, it is the project training and, yes, the deep bond that some kids make with their sponsors and the encouragement that their sponsors give. Those things are what really sets Compassion apart. While I don’t want money to be taken away from providing our kids with physical and educational needs, if a few more kids can be helped emotionally because a sponsor uses Skype or some other advanced technology then it is worth it. If a child is saved because a sponsor was able to talk with a child and encourage hm in the Lord then it is worth it. So many kids don’t get any letters or encouragement from their sponsors at all and, although the sponsors should be heavily scolded for that, if advanced technology is what pushes the sponsor to safely make that contact, then I am for it.

  89. Linda June 28, 2010

    Although I share the frustration of other sponsors concerning the length of time required for correspondence, I would not want to exchange email for actual letters which are far more personal. What I hear from the other comments is the desire to know more about our children, especially if the letters we receive are formula, or lacking in detail, or regulated to set times in the year. Is there any way of making project workers, especially in countries where letter writing is not a common experience, aware of the interest sponsors have in the details of the children’s lives?There is also the desire to know more about the projects, hence the requests for video or websites. The recent spate of pastor’s letters were very welcome because of the insight into conditions in their areas. I am not convinced that technology is the answer but greater awareness of sponsor’s expectations may be.

  90. Benjamin Buck June 28, 2010

    I’m reading “Too Small to Ignore” and think that what Dr. Stafford says in there about time applies to technology too — great tool, terrible master. Part of the issue is what makes life easier for you — if technology makes it easier for you to better connect sponsors to children and help us become better at nurturing our sponsored children, great, use it! If it’s just making more work for you and not doing things that are beneficial, please don’t. I e-mail my sponsored child and sometimes wonder if I should send more snail mail simply because of the ability to send drawings, stickers, cut-outs, and pictures. Would it be nice to have a digital camera at every center and even the chance to have the kids play with it (maybe nurture up some budding photographers?) and have things like “your center” webpages and/or updates? Yes. But is it worth the effort if it doesn’t help us connect with our children? Probably not. One thing I wonder about would be a teleconference — it wouldn’t be as neat as a sponsor visit (I did one this year and highly recommend it for everyone) but it might be a supplement for letter writing that could be handled somewhat like a sponsor visit.

    1. Anna June 29, 2010

      These are some great ideas! I absolutely love the teleconference idea, it’s a very very good idea.

  91. Lindsay @ Not2Us June 28, 2010

    I realize that I may be in the minority, but I wanted to go ahead and chime in. I’m going to try to bullet-point the list to keep myself brief. 🙂

    1. Our family sponsors three children, and we hope to add more on a consistent basis. We fully understand that this venture is about showing the love of Jesus Christ to these children. We do not expect *anything* in return from Compassion. The letters and photos that we receive, the tax deduction, and the ability to partner with such an amazing organization is *more* than enough value for us.

    2. Realizing that we may be in the minority and realizing that some updates could help attract new sponsors, here are some of the things that we love the most, any increase in these areas would be welcome:

    a. Communication! Hand-written letters or e-mails would be equally welcome. However, we would hate to see hand-written letters disappear all together. In fact, I would take two hand-written letters per year over monthly e-mails any day! I love seeing our children’s handwriting or drawings.

    The very first letter that Pracidia sent us was transcribed for her by her older brother. He died this past February, and having a note in his handwriting is a priceless treasure. I hope that, when Pracidia is old enough, I will be able to send the letter back to her so that she will have that piece of her brother’s memory.

    So much for bullet points, huh? 😉 My point – It would be nice if there was a way to increase the communication coming back to us. It would help us pray more specifically for our children and relate to them more personally.

    b. Photos! Seeing the changes in our sponsored children is *so* wonderful. Getting an updated bio annually, instead of every two years, would be awesome! Then we could change our Compassion kids’ pictures as often as we change our own children’s pictures!

    c. Compassion Bloggers – Getting this up close and personal view of Compassion’s program is *so* wonderful.

    Honestly? I believe you guys are doing an AMAZING job. Absolutely amazing. If you don’t change a single thing for the rest of time, we will continue to partner with you and sponsor children. Thank you SO much for what you do.

    Please, please…whatever you do…don’t take any more money away from the children. And, PLEASE, don’t increase my monthly contribution, just so that I can receive more letters or more photos. I’m happy to contribute more money if the children’s needs increase. I just don’t want to pay more money so that I get more “value.” I’m perfectly and abundantly pleased with the program just as it is. I want as much money, time, and resources as possible going to our children. Period.

  92. Jane Gillis June 28, 2010

    Another thought would be to use a faster means of translation. Especially with e-mail letters. Using a web translation would speed up letters to children.

  93. Jane Gillis June 28, 2010

    The one thing that I would like to see is a way to incorporate photos into the letters I write my children via e-mail.

  94. JulieThompson June 28, 2010

    I would love the opportunity to connect with my sponsored children in a more efficient manner. It is hard at times to develop a relationship when letters cross one another and you can’t tell what holiday or gift they are referring to. I would absolutely love to be able to send photos electronically through email to them. Thank You!

  95. amy June 28, 2010

    Here are some thoughts I’ve had on this topic-
    1. Who might we potentially isolate with an increased emphasis on technology- our older sponsors?, people who don’t have access to this technology? people who don’t want to use it or don’t know how to use it?, sponsor kids whose sponsors don’t use it?; and how can this be avioded.
    2. What message would we be communicating to our sponsor children and church partners?- ie if we were in their situation would we perhaps find it a bit odd/ priorities a bit strange- ‘here we are really struggling with not a massive amount to eat, and all this effort/expense at speeding up communication!!’
    -Let’s be really careful to not spend too much money on communication please- most of our kids are still struggling just to survive.
    3. We need to be really careful not to inadvertantly introduce our sponsor kids to new forms of sin, that new technologies offer plenty of opportunity for.
    4. I have found Compassion’s present form of communication invaluable for learning patience. I think patience is a really good thing for us as Christians to learn, and I don’t think there’s that many long-term opportunities left in our instant-societies to learn it!
    5. I think the way ahead is to make every country reciprocal, and to educate sponsors to write more frequently. We have 8 kids- 5 are on the reciprocal system and we get letters from them at least once a month, sometimes weekly! We have amazing relationships with these kids who are only 6 yrs old! after only 6 months of sponsorship. (they’re from Ghana, Tanzania, and Togo). Our kids in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic we’ve only heard from once or twice- and it does feel a lot different. I’d also encourage sponsors to improve the way they do their written correspondance- eg record details of exactly what and when they send stuff, and make a photocopy of it, because I can see our Qs do get answered eventually, and our gifts do get acknowledged. And if sponsors want more photos I’d encourage them to send an extra financial gift – we seem to get photos for gifts of $80 or more from Tanzania, Ghana and Togo. Also try google earth for pictures of the kids communities.
    6. I don’t think just because something exists- ie modern communications technology, we need to feel compelled to use it or keep up with it- that’s how the world operates, and it seems perhaps like a subtle form of pride. I think we should be content to be a bit ‘old fashioned’ technologically, if there’s better uses for our money, (and time even). We want to be known first of all for being strong on Jesus, and love, and generosity, and service etc.
    -In reality I think for a lot of us, we already give communication technology quite enough of our money and time. Compassion could potentially get a lot more kids sponsored through encouraging people to down-grade on their technological spending. We would need to lead by example on this. I fear a situation where Compassion’s culture encourages people to spend more on technology. A lot of people look up to Compassion as an organisation and trust it- we need to be aware of the power of influence.
    7. I really really like getting handwritten letters and photos in the mail. Please do not lose this or change what we’re allowed to send. I think if we lost snail mail the joy and warmth of sponsoring through Compassion would be gone for me. And I’m actually not sure that I’d want to take on more kids in the future. It would be worth asking the question- which supporters would you lose from communications technology, (not just who would you gain?)
    thanks very much for reading.

  96. Glenn Wassmer June 28, 2010

    I think you truly have the opportunity to accomplish something unique for the kingdom of God in this consideration. As sponsors we all love that fact that Compassion and her programs are Church Based. But that brings to mind a sometimes uncomfortable question that Advocates and Sponsors need ask ourselves: “Am I really serving others in my own church and cultivating my God-given spiritual gifts my own church, like God commands? Not just being in attendance on Sunday and tithing, but truly making my focus like Jesus’, and serving others week-in and week-out in MY church?” The individual project web-site idea is wonderful and loaded with so much potential. The projects could break the kids into groups and video them serving in their church & community; be it helping a CSP Mother and child with chores. Cleaning up pockets of trash in their community, looking out for widows by running to get their water or errands for them, starting and maintaining gardens that to help sustain people outside of the Compassion projects. The project kids could then ask the same of their sponsors, “How do YOU serve in YOUR church? Please send pictures!” Sponsors could then reply in like fashion all while strengthening the local Church on both sides of the relationship. Iron sharpens iron, and all the glory is given to God through his bride, the local church(s).

  97. Heather June 28, 2010

    I love the idea of having more information about the project my child lives in, with pictures and videos of the daily life of my child in the project as well as parties and such. It would be great also if the letters are child is sending us is scanned into our profile (for viewing earlier) as well as it being sent via snail mail.

  98. Shawn Landis June 28, 2010

    I love getting handwritten letters from our girl in India and writing them to her. I also completely understand that Compassion needs to operate under security and safety and have boundaries in the ways it facilitates communication between sponsor and child.

    I don’t think any of what’s talked about here should replace written communications, and obviously sending gifts can’t happen through the internet.

    I believe you are correct, it’s just a matter of time before something in your current communications system breaks. Sooner rather than later, the immediacy of the online/social media “issue” is going to get so large that you can no longer throw enough staff people at it to keep control of it.

    Here are some ideas based on the blog post above:

    – I don’t think that immediate/instant communication should be the target, maybe just “quicker” (weeks instead of months?)

    – Some form of email would be a huge starting point

    – Do some tech/media related trials in some of the more adept centers

    – Use OurCompassion.org in a much larger scale way. Rather than just existing as a cool tool for a few sponsors to chat. Make it a big piece of a new model.

    – Could centers/sponsored children communicate through OC (managed by Compassion) instead of something like Facebook

    – Possibly use Facebook Connect API to interface with OurCompassion somehow

    – Translation: there has to be a computer based translation system that would at least alleviate a portion of the human letter translation that takes place. Maybe there’s a way to use something like google translate API or lifechurch.tv’s Babel with Me (http://www.babelwith.me/) to instantly translate anything written through the online website child writing form. Maybe there’s a set of text filters for each country to red flag letters with things that could be offensive in that culture. Obviously it would be costly to get internet access to centers,but maybe they could be receiving letters already translated (saves them time & man hours) by computers from the CO Springs office. You’d of course still need human translators for snail mail letters at the centers.

    – Regarding submitting letters through the website: it seems a single computer could translate hundreds of letters an hour, but a person can’t. I know there are hundreds of different dialects even within one language, but I’m sure there are ways to train a computer in these things.

    – Since we are talking about developing countries, maybe just being able to get dial-up access to a country office so they could download some emails and upload some photos would be a starting point

  99. Rebecca June 28, 2010

    This may have already been suggested (I read the first few comments), but what about possibly giving each center a blog, that they could update something like once a month (not so much that they don’t have time for what their actual purpose is). Then us sponsors could see photos of events and things that are happening there. This could be something password protected or sign into compassion like, and might help us feel more in the loop with our children who are unable to write as often as we/they’d like.

    I do have to echo what I heard, you guys are doing a great job. Keep it up!

  100. Gin June 28, 2010

    I also love the handwritten/actual letter and would hate to see that go away. Old fashioned, perhaps, but it still carries a lot of care, love, and compassion to exchange something so tangible. I love knowing that my children had that same piece of paper in their little hands and I love seeing their writing on it… I would naturally welcome any additional contact, but keep the letters! I posted on Fb more about pictures, etc… can’t wait to learn more about how Compassion plans to address the update. Thanks for giving donors the opportunity to provide input – it’s just part of why Compassion ROCKS! 🙂

  101. Caitlin June 28, 2010

    I love the “old fashioned” snail mail letters! I would be sad to see them dwindle with any betterment of technology. With that said, I should to you all, I am in my twenties, this is not just an older individual who can’t handle the technology speaking. However, I understand that there are many people uncomfortable with technology who are sponsors, and I would hate to risk alienating them with predominate technology.
    I’m sure when this discussion was brought up, however it was not meant to be a snail mail vs email conversation.

    I am more interested in getting all of the projects up to speed with letter writing! If they were all somewhat reciprocal, and sent photographs of gifts(and any other occasion they might want to send one), that would be astoundingly wonderful! I say somewhat reciprocal, simply because, I know sometimes I write more than once a month, but I don’t expect the kids to write more than once a month, because that might be a burden. While I would love “once a month” letters from all of my kids(which I think might be one of the better ways to develop a relationship, because we could actually be a part of life), even just 6 times a year would be an improvement on many project communications!

    I like the idea of picutre pages for projects. That would be great! And I also like the occasional Pastor letters we get. I think it would be great to have Pastor blogs on these pages. Not daily, or even weekly. But monthly would be really cool. They could be at the beginning of the month and let us know things that are pertinent, like
    “This month is one of our hardest/most bountiful months. It generally rains 7 inches a day in January. We are very excited because we are celebrating this festival this month, and all the children are making paper chains to decorate the church. We played a soccer match against a nearby team, and our team lost this time 2-0, but we have high hopes that when we play them next month we will do better. The boys are really working hard.” That would be, generally, considered a very short blog, but to us sponsors it would make us crave the first of the month! It would give us so much more involvement in our kids lives, just to know these little things, updated monthly, that it wouldn’t matter how short it was.

    On another note, I would be so happy if we were given more information of events in our kids lives. Letters are good, but finding out 3 months later that Sonia’s father died, or Rebecca was awarded a ribbon for “Top 10 grades of the class, 2010” and other situations like this could be better served with a simple e-mail from the office. The kids would also be able to tell us these things in their letter, but 3 months later, instead of us just barely finding out, the kids could be receiving condolences/congratulations from us already. (in my case, I often find my kids are too modest to brag about awards, and a few are too “quiet” to really share anything eventful)

    Also, put me down for the yearly picture updates on kids too!

  102. Mandy June 28, 2010

    I wouldn’t normally offer up opinions like this because it is such an involved topic, but since you asked:
    >My #1 on the list of importance is the well-being of the sponsored child. That was why I decided to sponsor. That is what matters.
    >Faster communication would be great, but it cannot and should not replace physical mail. It is much more meaningful, and I usually send handmade gifts to my sponsored kids. Can’t do that via email!
    >There is *so much* social media out there right now that it’s overwhelming. I love what OurCompassion offers, but it’s not likely to be something I use every day. Right now I am doing good to keep up with facebook, email and a few blogs. At some point, you have to turn the computer off, ya know?
    >Like so many others, I like the idea of learning more about my sponsored child’s community and project. I like the idea of more pictures, more often. Video would be neat, but I could take or leave that.

    I wish I was creative enough to come up with something. To me, though, the child’s well-being and security is totally more important than faster communication.

    1. Lisa June 28, 2010

      This!! I agree with all four of Mandy’s points. Very well-written.

    2. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      Thanks for taking the time to give us your opinions. I can relate to shying away from comments on involved topics. I feel that way too.

      I don’t think Compassion would ever abandon physical mail. I see it always being an option, just augmented with other communication possibilities.

  103. Stacey June 28, 2010

    I love all these ideas, and I can’t wait to see what you end up with! I love receiving handwritten letters. And I agree with those who ask to be updated more frequently about their children and their needs. Some of the letters I have received have broken my heart. Simply because I received their letter six months after the event/problem took place. I also like the idea of project websites/blogs. More pictures would be nice, taken throughout the year. But I understand money goes into taking these pictures and developing them. With the two year update, specific prayer requests from the child would be ideal. I have gotten several updates with the request that each of them will come to know and serve the Lord. A lot of the children are already Christians. Perhaps, if a family member falls ill, or the child enjoyed the birthday party, or something that is important to the child, then someone from the project emails the sponsor, if only to say the child’s uncle is in the hospital. Please pray. Or the child celebrated his birthday by breaking the pinata at the project. More information about their culture would be most beneficial to me. How do they celebrate birthdays? How do they live day by day? Out of all the sponsorship programs, I believe Compassion is the best. You guys are doing a terrific job for the children as well as the sponsors. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve Compassion on behalf of the children.

  104. Sherry W. June 28, 2010

    I think you’ve raised a really important issue here. There’s a balance to be maintained among the needs of sponsored child, needs of sponsors, and financial stewardship. The technology options of this decade alone, even in the past couple of years, have caused that balance to shift. I need to think about this a lot harder, but some thoughts:

    * Sponsored kids treasure their paper letters. (We see this again & again in the blogger trips.) Kids read them often, which they could not do with email or digital media. So, how to balance the efficiency of electronic communication with the tangibility of paper letters?

    *Sponsors are hungry for more info about their kids, and sometimes frustrated that inexpensive technologist like Skype exist, but are not appropriate. We all agree that everything (print, digital, etc.) must be reviewed at Compassion BEFORE reaching a child. Without incurring significant additional cost, can digital innovation be explored and evaluated? What if something digital could happen once a year, like a recorded greeting from a sponsor?

    * I suspect that capabilities in field offices and projects differ widely around the world. Emailed letters (AND attachments! 😉 that are printed in country offices would save hugely on overseas shipping costs. But how to support local offices with the increased printing load? And are all those print cartridges more expensive overseas? Sounds like this innovation may need to work backward from what the field & project can support.

    *Love the idea of project pages on a website. (Secured with password and accessible only with sponsor ID.) That would help me SO much as a sponsor.

    *Deeply concerned with internet security & privacy for kids and sponsors. This must be a driver in the process, not a later consideration.

    Super topic, thanks for opening this up for discussion and prayer. I am convinced there are some nifty, cost-effective solutions out there waiting to be considered. Because our biggest goal is to get every dollar possible into the hands of the projects and kids who need food, water, healthcare.

  105. Kimberly June 28, 2010

    In this digital age, I love getting e-mails from my family, but getting a letter in the mail means a lot more. It took them more time to sit down and think about it, and seeing their handwriting, knowing it is from them and no one else makes me feel special inside. Enabling e-mail communication is nice when I want to send a quick note to my child, but I feel like my letters are more meaningful and thoughtful. On the other hand, would giving children more access to technology be beneficial for them in a changing world? Maybe so.

  106. barb June 28, 2010

    I would love for the individual projects to have a website where you could check in on what’s going on there — it would give sponsors a chance to see/know more about their child’s life.

    I realize it takes a long time for letters, but handwritten letters are special both for me and for the children — their drawings are gifts to me and I try to send pictures and stickers for them too. I think we need to be careful to not get sucked into what the world thinks we need and remember that this still is about the children, however needed we are as sponsors….

  107. Katherine June 28, 2010

    I also LOVE the idea of having each project getting their own website. It could even be password-protected in such a way that only sponsors of a child in that project could access it. It has taken over 6 years for me to build a relationship with my little girl in Rwanda, partly due to the lack of information I have about her daily life, her project, etc. Not to say that relationships don’t take time, but they are limited when letters come sparsely. It would be a huge blessing to be able to talk to her about what is going on in her project, and be able to pray for specific needs of that project and region.

  108. Rachel Rushing June 28, 2010

    I think 2 things remain primary to keep in mind: 1. security & safety of each child, and 2. the value of handwritten/drawn communication.

    In my humble opinion, you could view the ‘outdated’ business model as a means for maintaining authentic connections with time visibly invested in what each child and sponsor share with each other.

    However, updating certain communication practices could be a great opportunity for everyone involved. I mean, you could even use a template system like WordPress and each child could make their own secure, password-protected webpage viewable to Compassion, the child, and the sponsor. If they had their own page they might could have drawings scanned in there, pictures uploaded, or video. This would probably all have to be moderated by Compassion, but I think it could be a great opportunity for each child to have a sense of empowerment and ownership to have their own page they could invest in and style however they choose.

    just another suggestion of many. 🙂

  109. Mike Stephens June 28, 2010

    well this what came to my mind, just like training for the mile or swimming etc. some things don’t change putting in hours/laps etc. I often think the old school way is how the best athletes are created b/c there isn’t an easy way to be the fastest if someone else is training and has all the digital advantages of whatever like digital swim stroke analysis and efficiency that will help a lot but if you don’t put in the time and effort it doesn’t help. I like the letters b/c it is harder to waste time talking about worthless things like how I wish I would have chosen pepper jack cheese instead of provolone at Subway during my lunch break 😉 I like how it is now b/c if you want to talk with your child you have to go visit and that is the best way I think b/c although a digital picture on skype or yahoo may seem more real than a letter nothing quite compares to the reality of meeting the kids you sponsor in the flesh and blood 😉 My advice for the leadership team would be to not change anything and encourage sponsors to focus on the letter writing and visiting, but that is ME 😉

  110. Grace Miller June 28, 2010

    Working for a nonprofit organization, I’m very aware of the challenges between the personal touch and technology. I agree with previous comments that many, if not most, of our children are in areas without hi-tech capabilities. I knew coming in that it could take weeks or months for correspondence to be finalized and I’m fine with that. I would recommend reviewing the financial benefits carefully. What would the cost of technology be vs. the staff currently translating and actually working on the ground with our children? If technology would save money just “behind the scenes” that would be fine, but be very careful not to lose touch with the people who make this such a wonderful organization.

  111. Garry June 28, 2010

    I like the idea of a web page for each project that is updated often. While it would be faster, I am not yet on the bandwagon when it comes to going completely digital. Pictures, for one, could only be viewed by the kids. Printing every picture sent digitally would be cost prohibitive and I think the kids would want something they could hold in their hand. I seldom send email letters to my kids. It, to me is too impersonal, and it takes just as long for email to get there and still has to be translated. Not to mention, pictures, coloring pages, etc, cannot be sent using this means. I also like that original art my kids send. Something is lost in scanning it and getting a copy. I understand what Barna is saying, and these people are correct that in a “normal” business, the Compassion business model is out of date. However, Compassion is not a “normal” organization in my mind. While I, like everybody else, would like to hear from my kids more often, there are some things about what we have that I don’t really want to give up. Someone mentioned online translation of emails. Online translation tools for some languages are almost useless. Chris, this may not be the place to ask this, but why are some countries reciprocal and others not? I don’t have any kids in reciprocal countries, but it seems that would be one way of at least “seeming” to speed things up. Instead of being told about the Christmas festivities in June, perhaps it would be closer to the beginning of the year.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “why are some countries reciprocal and others not?”

      I’m going to direct you to this post, The Lowdown on Reciprocal Letter Writing, for the explanation about what’s going on with that process.

      The comments from Becky provide updates on the status of what she originally wrote in the post.

  112. Stephanie T. Green June 28, 2010

    As an Advocate, I appreciate this topic because most everyone I speak with cannot even fathom the concept of waiting 2-4 months for a response to their letter in this day and age. I completely understand the warm fuzzies we get from written letters but I believe we are losing potentially new sponsors because of the current communication system. I LOVE the idea of each project having their own webpage with monthly pictures and updates. That’s not too tough to support logistically. The projects could do that themselves. Or for the most rural projects, they could take photos of events and write up a quick update physically and give it to the country office and then the country office can enter the info into a template and upload it. All letters and drawings could be scanned into PDF and those documents could be forwarded electronically so the sponsor can actually see the handwriting and the pictures and can then print it out if they’d like. On OurCompassion, someone recently shared how they recorded a short video of themselves talking to their child and put it on a DVD to send with another sponsor on a country tour. The letter she received from that child was amazing. He had shown to DVD it to everyone, including his family and they were all ecstatic! Imagine how much close that sponsor and child feel now. Not everyone can go on a sponsor tour and video is the next best thing. We all have the capability of recording little videos like that. If we could just upload it as an attachment when we send our letters via the email option on the Compassion website, then it could be forwarded at very little cost. I’m really excited about whatever changes will be made because I have so much trust in Compassions committment to integrity so I know whatever they do, will be safe and responsible. Thanks Chris for opening this up for discussion!

  113. Deirdre June 28, 2010

    I see real value in the handwritten letters. it gives me goosebumps when I get a hand written letter from my sponsored child. I don’t think I would feel it was as important if it was just an email.

    that said, a website with more updates in general about each project would be great. And use the sponsor numbers as log-ins.

  114. Nick Horton June 28, 2010

    My wife and I would like to hear from our kids more than a few times a year, definitely. But we have to balance that desire against the added cost to Compassion to facilitate such communication.

    As has been mentioned technology is not cheap nor nearly as accessible in the developing world. WiFi hotspots and blanket cellular coverage are not a given.

    How you deliver more frequent communication is up to you. I hesitate to demand immediate communication. While I am all too happy to assist in the children’s development, I do not claim any sense of entitlement in communication or being a part of their life. Would I love to talk to them instantly some times? Yes most definitely! What is the best answer in doing this without being a burden on either compassion, or the life of the child and their family? I don’t know.

    What I do know is I am thankful to God for giving my wife and I the means to extend God’s kingdom.

  115. Mary-Catherine June 28, 2010

    I love getting the handwritten letter from my kids! I think making all countries reciprocal would be the most benefical. I love getting a letter every month from Ghana and think it has really made our relationship stronger than if I only heard from her 3 times a year.
    Also, Along the lines of the project website idea already stated:
    Like a child sponsorship packet, I would love to get a project/community packet telling us more about their specific project and community. Maybe even include pictures. I have tried researching on the internet where my kids live but can’t find their specific community. This would give us great insight into the lives of our kids!

    1. Bethany June 28, 2010

      I think this is a FANTASTIC idea! I’d love to know more about the areas in which my kids live, and I think a little info packet, updated annually or bi-annually like the kids’ info, would be infinitely more practical and a much better use of resources than giving each project its own website.

      I echo the feelings of those who would rather see money spent on the kids and their communities rather than see it used to give me more “insta-gratification.” I didn’t sign on to be a sponsor so I could have a feel-good experience. I signed on so a child could grow up healthier, happier, and with better opportunities than she otherwise might; so she could finish school and not have to drop out to help her family.

      Sponsorship is not about me. It’s about those kids who live without electricity, clean drinking water, and a daily meal. If you can use technology to better educate sponsors on issues that affect kids and their projects, great! But for us as sponsors to expect that since we, as Americans living in a nation with an excellent communications and transportation infrastructure, are able to communicate instantly, then so should our kids or their projects? Well, frankly, I think that’s a bit selfish.

  116. Kevin June 28, 2010

    I can certainly understand and agree with establishing boundaries on the communication, but I fully support Compassion updating its business model to take advantage of the technology.

    I’ll speak openly – I’m honestly not all that great at remembering to pray for our sponsored child. It’s not that I don’t care, but the amount of time between communications and their brevity rarely leave me with the kind of specifics I’d like to take to the Lord on her behalf.

    And I know that God is intimately more familiar with all of the details of her life, but I can’t help but feel that the fervency of my prayers are in no small way impacted by how I can relate to those I’m praying for.

    I still really appreciate the hand-written letters we receive from our child, and don’t believe those should ever go away, but I would readily welcome more frequent and consistent communication.

    Perhaps just a monthly paragraph or two via e-mail or posted on our section of the Compassion website about how she is doing. I think this would be beneficial both for us as sponsors, but also for the child, as it would enable them to share aspects of their lives that could carry over across multiple communications.

    As it stands now, it feels like we just sort of learn the same thing about our child over and over (partly because of her age and the understandable challenge with her grasping that a family in a completely different part of the world whom she has never met wants to hear about what she’s learning in school and from the Bible.) because it’s been so long since she’s last communicated that she doesn’t really remember what she said.

    I’ll do my best to remember to pray for wisdom for you all in considering your options and for any changes that you might implement.

  117. Shea June 28, 2010

    I love the ideas given so far! Especially having websites for each project/country! I also like the idea of having some email communication. I still want the letters, but some faster communication would be great!

    For the cost side of things, could we have a special fundraiser to boost whatever “new” things that are decided on? That way everything else can still go to the kids.

    Besides technology, I’d love to see more about the growth of my sponsored girl. She is 7 now, and I would love to see how she grows over the years, spiritually, mentally and physically. Could we have more updates specifically about our children?

  118. megan June 28, 2010

    More pictures of the kids and projects would be great… to see how they are growing and developing

  119. Debbie T. June 28, 2010

    The one thing I would like is more pictures, or like already mentioned, a video. I have a video of a nearby project to one of my kids, and some pictures of that project, (not hers), but it meant so much to be able to see the type of city she lives in, and the people. I don’t really care about communicating via the web, but just improving things that already exist. Some projects, we get letters all the time, pictures, pastor letters, etc., while others are still on the 3 per year, and only pictures received are the 2 year formal pictures. My other BIG worry as mentioned above is the price. Compassion is already the most expensive (and I know that has been discussed in other posts), but I don’t want all the web stuff, etc., if the price is going to go up, or the administrative costs would increase while the money going to the projects would go down.
    I also agree, most sponsors probably don’t care about social media. There are probably 100 regulars on http://www.ourcompassion.org out of all the thousands of sponsors, so it’s obvious people aren’t taking advantage of the things that are already there.

  120. Sandy June 28, 2010

    I would like to be able to know more about the child I sponsor and know sooner. Is there a way that emails could be sent directly to the child and someone there translate? I found out that the only time emailing saves is mailing time to Colorado. I do agree that it is probably not a good idea to have these children part of the social networks. However I would love to know more about the child I sponsor and hear from them more often.

  121. Becky June 28, 2010

    Well, I am not into social media other than OC as I am super concerned about privacy, especially considering recent scholarly articles in which people’s ‘generic’ information on facebook permitted SSNs to be identified with amazing accuracy (including the 4 digit random part). I do use the internet for practically everything, but not facebook.

    I suppose my main concern is that right now kids are left out on mail day at the center when their sponsor doesn’t write letters, and I can only see that left out feeling getting worse when you use different aspects of social media. I personally love getting letters from my child and am glad they are handwritten and not typed. I try to do the same for my child. Prayer requests from the center or pictures or videos (perhaps biannually and eventually moving towards annually and then twice a year over 4-5 years) would be nice both to comment more quickly back to my child and to see the center, which I can see would benefit the child. While chats with staff or children from a center would be great, there are many challenges (not the least of which being timezones and translation). I understand that adding more pictures and videos from the center would require additional equipment, which certainly would need to be strongly beneficial to the children to remove that money from other activities.

    I am unsure how much more left out kids would feel with sponsors who choose to not communicate with them using any newer technologies. Perhaps you would be targeting some of your audience that doesn’t write as much but is involved in social media, which would benefit the children overall. I genuinely don’t know what the ‘infrequent writers’ sponsor demographic who choose to not have correspondence sponsors for their kids looks like. However, I am certain any newer technology would not be implemented before long thoughtful and prayerful discussions both in the US and other sponsor countries but more importantly with workers in the counties with Compassion assisted churches. I’ll be praying for you guys 🙂

  122. Alison June 28, 2010

    I’m a new sponsor – but wanted to toss out my thoughts as well.

    I understand the interest in ramping up the technology to better match with what’s available in today’s enviornment, but is that scaleable in the countries where Compassion works? Is there a staff of people and the infrastructure to support running local websites? What safegaurds would be in place to protect Compassion, its workers, the sponsors and most importantly the kids?

    I think for me – I am much more intentional about writing to Nana and making sure I share meaningful things and ask questions, and send tokens… I don’t know how being able to have a faster communication system would affect my approach. I think with email – it’s such an easy thing to “fire off” an email, that I wonder if some of the meaningfull ness would wear off.

    Finally – on the topic of technology. I wonder how having a more speedy email based system would affect (pos/neg) the kids and the family? I wouldnt want to turn off a parent/gaurdian because theres too much communication, potentially interfering with the existing family dynamics…

    That said – I would love to have a way to see pictures, and see more about Nana and what he’s up to, but I’m very happy with the exisiting approach.

    Were there other specific areas that were called out in the “business plan is outdated” conversation that you can share? It’d be interesting to broaden the conversation to those other areas as well…

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “I understand the interest in ramping up the technology to better match with what’s available in today’s enviornment, but is that scaleable in the countries where Compassion works? Is there a staff of people and the infrastructure to support running local websites? What safegaurds would be in place to protect Compassion, its workers, the sponsors and most importantly the kids?”

      You’re thinking like we are and are asking the same questions.That’s good. These are the important questions we need to answer before we move forward with any solution.

      “Were there other specific areas that were called out in the “business plan is outdated” conversation that you can share?”

      No areas were called out specifically.

      David had just finished talking about trends we should be paying attention to, because of their potential to change how business is done. It was in this light, in response to a question someone asked, that he made the comment. It wasn’t meant to be the main thrust of what he was talking about. It just caught my attention.

      Jon made his comment as we talked about ways to show / convince different areas within Compassion about how important social media is in helping us achieve our mission.

      My question is, “What is it that Compassion actually delivers to sponsors?”

      When I think about it, I come up with: three letters a year, an updated child biography and photo every two years, a tax deduction and an opportunity to meet your child (e.g., a sponsor tour).

      Those are the tangible items we deliver.

      The intangible items which I value more and which satisfy and fulfill many, if not most, of our sponsors, are: the knowledge that we are serving others, facilitating the sharing of the Gospel, obeying God, changing lives, providing opportunities to succeed, etc.

      Is there anything else, not just from a technology perspective, that we can deliver to make the sponsorship experience even more rewarding for you and other sponsors?

      1. Vicki Small June 28, 2010

        A. From some of my children, I receive more than three letters a year. Some of the countries are on a response-letter basis, meaning the child is to respond to each letter from the sponsor within a reasonable period of time (a week or two, I think). Pity that sponsors are not on the same basis, considering that some never write! But I digress.

        I recently received a letter from a project director telling me that — would not be attending for a period of 45-60 days. The director was not entirely clear, but obviously, my heart’s daughter was badly hurt by someone who should be taking care of her and protecting her.

        I was grateful to receive that letter, tho’ I abhor the need for it. I promptly called Compassion and discovered this was the first they knew about it. I’m now waiting for an update and, I hope, for clarification. Yes, you bet I’m wishing the communication could be expedited; the letter I got last week was written in April; I have no idea where my girl is, now, or how she is.

        But I know Compassion is as concerned as I am, and I am about 6 seconds from tears, whenever I think about this. Yes, I wish I could have e-mailed the project director–or at the very least–the country office to inquire and to express my very real concerns for my child’s safety and welfare. Yes, I wish I could hop a plane and go to her country, find out what’s going on and bring her here…and I know all the reasons why that would not be a good thing, even if it were possible.

        So…out of all that, I am getting more than a few letters a year and a photo update every two. Compassion staff everywhere know that sponsors (most of us, I trust!) really want to know our kids are okay, and will let us know when something comes up. But–again–I do wish communications could be greatly expedited, in such a situation.

        1. Michelle June 29, 2010

          Oh Vicki…. I’ll add your little girl to my prayer list. Hope you get more details soon! (((HUGS)))

      2. Lisa June 28, 2010

        Overall, I’m VERY happy with the way things are done. My wish list of things I’d like to tweak:

        1) Make sure ALL sponsored kids are getting mail. Every last one. (I’d rather see funds being put here than in technology.)
        2) I have to admit I’d like to see photos of the child center my child attends. Just a pic of the facilities, the room where they meet, etc., so I can get a better of idea of what his environment is like. Whether that be via website or whatever, it would be nice.

        I don’t want to make communication TOO fast because child predators are sneaky and I don’t want someone with nefarious intentions to be able to slip inappropriate communication through to a child. Adults need to be monitoring this communication and if that slows things down, so be it.

  123. David Toom June 28, 2010

    I agree with David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. The turn around of information is painfully slow. I used the online tools to give a birthday gift to my boy and a gift to the family. That was in early April. Now, it is nearly July and I have not yet heard whether any of it was received. I have just been a sponsor since the beginning of the year and maybe my expectations are too high. But I am used to instant communications via email and computer videoconferencing.

    1. Prairie Rose June 28, 2010

      David, when I give a gift to my kids, it can often be four to six months before I hear from them with a thank you and telling me what they got. I don’t think it takes them that long to actually receive the gift, I think it’s more of, they write three times a year at that center as instructed, and it isn’t time for the child to write yet. Be patient, you’ll hear from them eventually, but it does take a long time.

  124. Amy June 28, 2010

    Chalk me up as one who really enjoys hand writing letters and receiving hand written letters from my kiddos. There’s just something special about that (maybe because it’s getting to be more and more unusual these days), and I would hate to see it go away completely.

  125. Dana Williams June 28, 2010

    I think that Prairie Rose had an excellent idea when she suggested that each Compassion project have its own webpage so that we might be able to receive current information about our precious sponsored children and their school activities. I do hope, though, that we will always be able to write to our children with pen and paper because this method of communication seems much more personal than e-mail. As I write letters to our sponsored children, I always pray for the child that I am writing to, and my children and I love to include items such as photographs, sticker books, paper dolls, coloring pages, and paper airplanes with our letters. I also enjoy receiving personal letters from our sponsored children because each child’s personality is displayed in their handwriting and in the pictures they draw for us. It is so meaningful to see the children grow through their letters. I remember being thrilled to watch as our beloved girl from India slowly transitioned from including several English words in each of her letters to being able to write all of her many, long letters completely in English. We were so proud of her!
    We will pray for the Lord’s wisdom for the Compassion staff as you proceed with updating Compassion’s communication methods.

  126. annabelle June 28, 2010

    this raises another question in my mind–who are sponsors? i love numbers and the demographics would be an interesting thing to see.

    it is hard to give suggestions when i cannot actually see a problem, but then again, other than compassion employees, i know only 2 other sponsors, so i have no idea what the variety of persons sponsoring is, and what their needs are. i will, however, be asking those 2 sponsors since i have this feeling neither reads the blog.

  127. Crystal Wade June 28, 2010


    Yes, the system does need to be updated.

    That Compassion would hear this and be reflective of how to keep time-honored values of dignity for the child and privacy for the sponsors–while updating systems to our rapidly changing world is SUPER and shows the freshness of Compassion. Yes, technology is changing so fast, and there should be a better way to correspond with our sponsored children.

    But, Compassion must stay true to its values.

    There is a way to do this in a digital world.

    And I pray God gives you wisdom from above to do so.

    WHEN YOU DO, YOU WILL SET THE MODEL, and it will be clear, and it will be a PROTOTYPE FOR OTHER MINISTIRES.

  128. annabelle June 28, 2010

    y’know, as someone who participates in all of the most popular forms of social media, i like the presence Compassion has. Because of your utilisation of many avenues of social media, I visit Compassion pages of some sort almost daily. that part is great.

    How can we use the tools of technology to make your participation in the development of these children more than just financial support and writing letters?

    One thing that would be cool is if in the countries where internet is not too hard to access, more frequent prayer requests from the kids. Monthly maybe? If the centres could send out a list so we know more of what is going on in the kids’ lives, that would be pretty cool

  129. Lauren June 28, 2010

    I use technology for all kinds of things in my life, bill paying, banking, staying connected with a couple of friends, reading news, etc. so I would not say I am anti-technology. On the other hand I don’t own a cell phone, don’t do Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other social networking sites. That said . . .

    I think letters, real hand-written words on pieces of real paper, are treasures in this world. My kids are the only ones I actually get real letters from, so even though it’s not about me, it’s about them, I find this a great reward in sponsorship. Of course you could print out an e-mail and have that on a real piece of paper but it just isn’t the same as something that a person has held in their hand and written and/or drawn on.

    And I do think it would be helpful to get an e-mail from Compassion alerting me to something about my child or their country.

    I think for a sponsor to have a Skype video communication with their child could have a reward, but it could also have a negative side. Given that Compassion exercises GREAT (Praise God for this) care in checking letters sent by sponsors to make sure that they are without offenses or anything else that would be harmful to the child, how is this controlled with live video? With cultural differences, something that seems like a lovely question or comment, may be an affront to a child in another country. I don’t like the idea of communicating via Facebook either. Some of the information I’ve seen on perfectly nice people’s pages would not be something that would be appropriate for a child to read about. A child doesn’t need to know how many times you eat out at a restaurant, what great car you just bought, how much new furniture you just bought, that you just got a raise on your job, or that you’re so bored with your current house and must get something bigger and better, etc.

    In closing, I’m not sure about all of this talk that Compassion’s business model is out of date. Compassion is in a unique business that may not fit all of the latest and greatest trends in technology. That said, kind of makes me wonder if some of these same people would say that God’s ways are outdated. Getting down on our knees and talking to our Father, gee, that can be time consuming and really inconvenient, couldn’t we just “friend” God or copy our Twitter Tweets to Him and be done? Lifting our hand in praise or spending some quiet time with God, that can be so dull, why not shoot off an E-Card now and then and say Hey, Thinking of You.

    May God’s hand of mercy and compassion fall on each of us and guide Compassion in all that they do, Lauren

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “I’m not sure about all of this talk that Compassion’s business model is out of date. Compassion is in a unique business that may not fit all of the latest and greatest trends in technology.”

      I would say that the need for what we do is definitely not out of date. However, I do say that how we do it – how we deliver value to sponsors – is out of date. We can do more. We should do more.

  130. Keith Baumgaertel June 28, 2010

    God’s Business Model Is NOT Out of Date!

    OK, I understand what is being talked about. There are new ways to communicate. Among them are faster ways to send a letter and new technologies to transmit them along with images and video. I’m not at all anti technology. It was after all through a Google search that I found Compassion International. And a bit more searching that allowed me to feel secure that my donations were not sponsoring a private mansion in Miami.

    But then we come to the issue of why we give in the first place.

    For some answers I go to the Lord’s Business Model:

    2 Corinthians 9 NIV

    6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
    7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
    8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
    9 As it is written:
    “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
    10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
    11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
    12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
    13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
    14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
    15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

    And that is reason enough. All of this concern about letters and photos doesn’t really seem very important. There is important work to be done. People need food, shelter, clothing and education.

    Now; do I go to the mailbox everyday hoping to find the first letter from my sponsor child (Who by the way is just about the cutest thing you have ever seen)? Of course I do.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “God’s Business Model Is NOT Out of Date!”

      True. And the Church is God’s strategy.

      Compassion’s commitment to the church is this:

      “The Church is the great hope for the world and is God’s instrument to advance the Kingdom of God. We mobilize and connect the global Body of Christ to fulfill her mandate for holistic discipleship of poverty.”

  131. Brett June 28, 2010

    What if we tied a video chat into the building tour? The tours are on set days and times. Could we coordinate a schedule for a project to be ‘online’ at a given time each day? The sponsors/tour members may not get to skype with their child, but they will see some kids and a project.

  132. Stephanie’s Mommy Brain June 28, 2010

    Let me begin by saying I think Compassion already does a GREAT job of using social media to communicate with sponsors. This blog, the website, OurCompassion, Facebook, all provide excellent information and help me better understand how the organization works.

    I think what you are talking about is how to use social media to connect sponsors and children directly. That’s a difficult question. As much as I would love to have direct and quicker contact with our 3 Compassion kids, I completely understand and respect the safeguards that are in place. Above all else we want our children to be protected!

    I have been able to connect with another sponsor through OurCompassion who has a child in the same center. She visited the center about 2 years ago and shared her pictures with me. Seeing her pictures and hearing her stories helped make the conditions my child lives with more real. It also helped me understand her letters better. I would love to see this done on a larger scale.

    I realize a blog/website for every project would be expensive and difficult to do with internet service not available in all areas but perhaps a blog/website could be created for each country office. Then each country could share regular posts about the activities at individual projects along with videos and pictures. Maybe sponsors who had recently visited the country could also share their pictures/videos and stories.

    I appreciate Compassion’s willingness to change with the technology and asking for our opinions and input.

  133. Stacy June 28, 2010

    I think having website pages for each project is a great idea, too. If they were pages on Compassion’s website, we could use our Compassion login id/password to gain access.

    1. Judith Tremblay June 28, 2010

      I like that idea, too…but wow! That would be a lot of pages to manage! And server space to store all the data…

    2. Vicki Small June 28, 2010

      I like this idea! I suspect having project websites independently of Compassion’s website would pose tremendous security risks that none of us wants to subject the projects and our kids to.

      I understand that sending photos by e-mail requires a photo printer in every country office, at least, if not every project office. Then there are the costs of photo paper, toner/ink (including color), etc., which would add further burdens to the costs of running the projects. I believe that is a goal of Compassion, but much remains to be worked out.

  134. Amanda Knutson June 28, 2010

    someone on OurCompassion.org mentioned that they have a slide show of pictures under the project heading with pictures of their child’s project and activities and such going on there. I love the idea of the projects doing that, updating their information regularly, for the sponsors of children in that project. And maybe have those pictures/videos right-clickable, so if the sponsor sees their child in one of the pics, they could save it to their photo file of that child.

    Someone had mentioned scanning in the child’s letter and emailing it to the sponsor. I like that idea, but would then add that you would mail the hard copy to us like usual. The benefit to this would be that we could see our letter sooner, and then we could still hold the physical letter in our hands in a few weeks. Or even if there was a way to go to our profile and see if we have a letter or two on the way, like a little box on the information page. And not have to call/email/chat to find out.

    I, too, would love to be able to submit pictures with my email letters. And videos of the children, as mentioned above, really appeals to me.

  135. Amy June 28, 2010

    Why doesn’t each project have it’s own Facebook page, or website, that could be secure and monitored by a staff member?

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      This post, Why Can’t I Communicate With My Child Via Facbook?, talks about that some.

  136. Josh Wilson June 28, 2010

    OK. I normally don’t comment on posts but this one for some reason has me wanting to. The business model is not 100% about technology. Your post is talking entirely about our communications process. We need to be careful not to get them confused. We all know child development and therefore the safety of both child and sponsor are number one priority. That being said, there are translation tools that integrate with email and web applications that could be used to speed the translation process. Also, the idea about project sites. The technology for this is already out there with custom Content Management Systems targeted toward specific organizations. So it could be said that Compassion’s communication mediums and speed could be updated, giving both children and sponsors a smaller gap between each other. This has nothing to do with the business model of Compassion.

    I am not one to just bring good ideas but I also want to bring some answers. I suggest hosting a technology summit that focuses on improving this process. Invite your advocates who have a background in web application development and these types of technology, like myself. Assign a project manager and assemble a team of them to help manage the project and develop the prototype – pro-bono. You could even hold this summit on-line via web-cast. Just be sure everyone is on the same page and focused on improving the communications process and nothing else. As far as project communications, the country office could have the connected computer and then as project officers visit they could simply upload the content from there. There are so many solutions to this and I for one would be more than willing to help and I am sure other advocates out there and sponsors have some technology background as well and would be willing to pitch in. Perhaps the resources for the “Our Compassion” site could be re-focused and re-allocated for this goal as well since they are already using some built in translation tool and the need for that site isn’t as great for the moment.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “The business model is not 100% about technology. Your post is talking entirely about our communications process.”

      You’re right. Compassion’s business model isn’t about technology. It’s about creating and delivering value to our sponsors and children.

      The post uses the communication process as a discussion point highlighting one tangible way, and some people would say the only way, that we deliver value to sponsors.

      I probably could have written the post differently / better / more clearly, in order to ask the questions: How do you as a sponsor get value from the sponsorship? How can we deliver more value to you?

  137. Emily June 28, 2010

    I LOVE the idea posted about each project having their own website. It would obviously have to be secure, with only Compassion staff/approved people and sponsors of those children having access to it, but it seems like such a REAL way to stay involved in the children’s lives. It could be something high tech and fancy, or something as simple as a blog like this one.

  138. Win June 28, 2010

    I have taken advantage of the web form to email my letters to my kids, but I used to send photos and there is no way to do that with the on-line form. I would like to be able to upload a couple of digital photos to include with my letters.

    I also like the idea of a project-based web site where staff members could update us on their activities and environment. Even though taking that all the way to the child letter is a huge step, bringing digital-based communication tools to the project as a whole would be very informative in understanding how Compassion works for my kids.

  139. Prairie Rose June 28, 2010

    I understand the reasons for not being able to contact our children directly, but needing to go through Compassion, but that could be done via email as well as through regular mail. It may be very beneficial to the kids to actually learn to communicate this way since it’s obviously here to stay and they’re going to need to know how to use technology to move up in the world.

    Suggestions would be:
    1) Have a webpage for each Compassion project, that project staff updates regularly. Pictures of the facilities our children are using, pictures of the neighborhoods our children live in. Some information about what Compassion looks like in that individual project, since they’re all so different — what exactly they provide to the kids, what kinds of events they hold. My kids sometimes write about special events at the project, such as a Christmas party or a national holiday celebration, or a field trip. If the project staff posted updates on these sorts of special occasions with pictures of the event, that would be a big boost I think, in developing a relationship with that child. So often, I feel in the dark about what’s going on and if the child says to me, in a letter I receive in March, that “We had a Christmas party at the project” I know that writing back, “Oh, what did you do at the party?” is completely irrelevant to the child who’s going to get my question in June… If, however, I saw information about the party and pictures on my child’s project’s website within a few days after the party, and if I then emailed my child about that immediately, knowledgeably knowing what to ask, i.e., “Did you have fun breaking the pinata?” or “That looked like a great game of soccer — whose team won?” and the child received the email within a few days, it’s still relevant. We’re now just a week or two out from the event instead of six months, AND we’re armed with knowledge to ask more specific questions of the kids, which kids NEED to be able to answer more completely and feel more connected with you, like you actually are part of their world now.

    How long does it currently take in most countries to email your child? The biggest problem is likely getting internet connectivity in some of the remote projects, and of course, changing over to a more technology-based communication system is going to be a huge production no matter how it’s done, and will take a long time to complete, but perhaps steps could be made initially toward speeding up this process in the projects that do already have computer and internet access. If a project staff member sits at the computer with the child and lets the child type (or assists them with typing) their email, and the email goes to their country’s main office for translation, and then the country’s office forwards the translated email via email directly to the sponsor, that would eliminate a great deal of time in transit while still maintaining Compassion’s privacy for both sponsor and child, and for projects that already have computers/internet, would not incur any or much additional expense. Photo attachments could easily be sent this way, as well.

    I still want to see my child’s drawings, and their handwriting. But I would gladly trade SOME of my child’s drawings/handwriting for more immediate and more frequent emails. Perhaps the savings in postage by reducing the number of snail mail letters the kids and sponsors send would be enough to eventually cover getting computers in all areas where internet access is available.

    1. Stephanie June 28, 2010

      I agree! The website and email ideas are wonderful. I would love to have more photos and be able to communicate about relevant items instead of trying to write about something multiple months before/after it’s happened.

      It would also be nice to have a video of the project, our child, etc. especially for those of us who probably won’t have a chance to actually go there in person.

      And lastly, hearing from the pastor of the local church is such a blessing. We received one letter from him after the earthquake in Haiti affected the center that our child is at and it was very enlightening since it provided a lot more info about the community than the normal letters we receive. It would be really nice to receive more of these updates and to be able to occasionally write back to share encouragement.

  140. Teresa June 28, 2010

    I keep thinking of “far out there” ideas, but every time, I come back to “how much would THAT cost?” One of the things I value about Compassion, and that you wrote about recently, is how much $$ is spent on my child, not administrative things. To do more things with technology, it would take some of those $$ and really require an investment by Compassion. I don’t know that I am willing to sacrifice how much is going to the kids just so that I can “feel” better about connecting with my child.

    I have another question. Is it the sponsors that are requesting more technology, or the children? Are the kids asking for more contact from their sponsors? Do you think more contact via technological means will make a stronger impact on them? I guess that was more than one question! 🙂

    Here are a couple of my “far out there” ideas:

    I would love a video of my child! I don’t expect one of her alone, as I realize that would be overwhelming for Compassion to film every child. But how about a video of the Compassion center having a party, or singing songs? Make sure each child has a close up at some point during the song / party. Something so that I could see her having fun and smiling! The pictures we get are always with a serious face, and I would love to see a smile and hear her voice laughing or singing!

    Along those same lines, since you mentioned skype (and to be honest, I’m not sure how that works exactly!) how about a video again of a party or singing time, something where the kids are having fun, that could be kind of a video conference where we could watch. Compassion would provide a link (is there a way to do that securely? I realize we don’t want just “anyone” watching our kids!) and we could see them having fun!

    Would scanning & emailing the letters between sponsors/children speed up the process at all? I admit, I don’t really like this idea. I want to see the actual paper she wrote and the picture she drew, not essentially a photocopy of it. What causes the biggest delay in moving the letters between kids/sponsors? The time it takes to translate? Waiting on the mail?

    Those are a few things that came to mind right away.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni June 28, 2010

      “Is it the sponsors that are requesting more technology, or the children? Are the kids asking for more contact from their sponsors? Do you think more contact via technological means will make a stronger impact on them?”

      It’s sponsors asking for more immediate communication. With how today’s technology so easily connects us, many people feel the solution is as easy as using Facebook, but there’s a lot to consider to make that happen.

      That’s not to say that children don’t want more immediate communication. I suspect most people would appreciate that, but life moves at a different pace in the developing world. The need for life to occur immediately isn’t as prevalent (yet) in the developing world as it is in the U.S. and other Western countries.

      The children tend to want more frequent communication from their sponsors. The difference between the two requests is just a matter of perspective, time and opportunity.

      Most children in the developing world don’t have access to this new technology. Some may not even know about it. Some children do, and they, and their extended families, are already using it to initiate contact with their sponsors.

      What’s interesting is that our research tells us that at this time we still have more sponsors not using social media than we have sponsors using it. This seems strange to some people, the ones for who the technology is already part of their daily lives; however, we do believe that it’s just a matter of time before social media connectivity, interaction and communication becomes as ubiquitous as e-mail.

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