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New standards set on Child Sponsorship

Sponsored children give a thumbs up
Sponsored children give a thumbs up

SOS Children is one of five top child-focused charities who have committed to the new Child Sponsorship Charter, which specifies what ‘child sponsorship’ means and how it should be portrayed and marketed to the public.

The Charter introduces a new set of standards that are up to date and relevant to today’s market place by specifically focusing on the questions ‘what does child sponsorship mean?’ and ‘how should it be marketed?’ so as to ensure public confidence in making donations. The new standards very much focus on defining sponsorship clearly.

Andrew Cates, CEO of SOS Children said "Given the considerable differences between charities both in terms of different child sponsorship approaches and in terms of differing views on the acceptability of practices like junk mail and emotive advertising (both of which SOS Children avoids) we are delighted that enough commonality has been found to issue a charter. In these days of digital cameras and internet fundraising child sponsorship offers a really cost effective way to support children in the developing world whilst seeing a little of their lives"

You can read the below press release which explains how the new Charter has been contributed to, and endorsed by, sector bodies that are responsible for self regulation in both charity fundraising and advertising:



FRSB facilitates greater commitment to clarity & transparency

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) announces new collaborative standards that aim to bring greater clarity and transparency to child sponsorship fundraising in the UK.  Five top child-focused charities have committed to the new Child Sponsorship Charter, which specifies what ‘child sponsorship’ means and how it should be portrayed and marketed to the public.

The FRSB facilitated and chaired a consultative forum of five leading charities that all run successful long-term child sponsorship programmes – Plan UK, World Vision, ActionAid, EveryChild, SOS Children’s Villages – plus key umbrella bodies that fed into the process – the FRSB, Institute of Fundraising, Charity Commission, and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets the codes of practice enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  Over the last ten months the forum reviewed out-of-date guidelines from 2001, outlined the needs of today’s market and agreed a consistent set of guiding principles for best practice relevant to all charities implementing this type of fundraising programme.

Samantha Wilson, Head of Communications at the FRSB says, “We are extremely pleased to have worked with this group of charities to create the new Child Sponsorship Charter.  It is current in its straight forward language and definitions, and it offers clear, robust guidance for best practice in marketing and fundraising communications. The aim is to help improve child sponsorship fundraising with greater transparency and, above all clarity, so the public can be confident in their giving choices. We would encourage all charities that work in this area to commit to and adopt the Charter into their practices.”

The collaboration was initiated when Plan approached the FRSB in April 2010 after a public complaint about a Plan DRTV ad, the first in its 74-year history, was investigated and dismissed by the ASA.  Plan, a pioneer in this field, and the FRSB felt there was a sector level need to review standards with specific focus on marketing and public messaging.  Specific focus was needed around the meaning of ‘sponsorship’, pertaining to one-to-one relationships with an individual child, and transparency in communicating how donations, usually unrestricted income, are used within the said child’s community or country. 

Louise Richards, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, comments, "Donors enjoy the opportunity to build a relationship with a cause, making connections and influencing change through sponsorship schemes of all kinds, including of children.  It is great to see further safeguarding of this valued fundraising technique through the new Child Sponsorship Charter.

"In setting out best practice standards affecting such schemes, this Charter offers helpful guidance, supporting the Institute's Codes of Fundraising Practice in areas such as accountability and transparency and direct marketing.  We encourage all of our members who use such schemes to implement the new Charter."


Daniel Child, CAP Copy Advice Executive, who works specifically with nonprofits,, says, “The CAP Code requires that all ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful. The Child Sponsorship Charter reflects these key principles and provides further guidance for charities to help get their marketing right which, ultimately, is in their best interest – marketing communications that are trusted are more likely to work and deliver value.”

The Child Sponsorship Charter will be promoted to relevant FRSB member charities to encourage adoption and will be freely available on the FRSB website.  The FRSB aims to maintain the Charter and schedule future reviews with the Institute of Fundraising to ensure its efficacy.