United Way, Salvation Army, Red Cross, YMCA. These billion-dollar charities have strong name recognition, long track records and big impacts.

Now, Colorado Springs-based Compassion International has joined the billion-dollar charity club. Its income for the 2020 fiscal year, which ended June 30, was $1,001,200,000.

The ministry grew 4% from 2019, even though many of its major spring fundraising initiative — including Compassion Sunday in churches, and concerts and festivals featuring Christian musical artists who promote the ministry — were canceled this year due to COVID-19.

Amanda Whitmire, Compassion’s controller and vice president of finance, attributes the ministry’s 21 consecutive years of continued growth to the faithfulness of its donors and its commitment to excellence.

“Our sustained growth is a testament to our faithful supporters who are committed to the work we are called to do in releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name, and our ability to continue that work with increasing effectiveness and efficiency through our workforce and dedicated church partners,” Whitmire said.

Whitmire said Compassion “adapted and shifted marketing and fundraising models” to “focus on online sponsorships and fundraising. Our existing supporters continue to give generously. In addition, new donors are responding as well, understanding that those in poverty have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.”

Ministry spokesman Tim Glenn cited Compassion’s donors’ high levels of trust in its work.

“Compassion has an incredibly strong relationship with our supporters,” Glenn said. “Our annual satisfaction survey shows that our supporters have tremendous trust in our ministry. And we see that in the way they have stayed with us through difficult times: through recessions, crises and even this pandemic.”

That trust is strengthened by the ministry’s commitment to financial transparency. It makes its audited financial statements and IRS 990 reports readily available on its website. (At the “About Us” drop-down menu, click on “Financial Integrity.”)

Compassion also emphasizes relationships. Sponsors can correspond with, and even visit, the children they sponsor. And in 2020, Compassion translated and sent 4.9 million letters from sponsored children to U.S. sponsors.

Glenn said Compassion’s growth is “a testimony of the power of relationship. The relationship between sponsor and child, the relationship between our ministry and our church partners, and of course, the relationship between God and his people.”

While some international charities exploit “poverty porn,” including images of starving children with flies in their eyes, Compassion’s marketing is positive and dignified, featuring smiling children and program alumni who are now making the world a better place.

Compassion was founded in Chicago in 1952 by evangelist Everett Swanson, who traveled to Korea to minister to American troops but became troubled as he saw that many abandoned war orphans were living and dying on the streets.

When the ministry moved to the Springs in 1980, its income was just under $12 million. The ministry appreciates the donors who have fueled its growth.

“We are incredibly thankful for those who continue to give faithfully,” said Glenn, “and we pray that God will continue to bless this ministry so we may reach even more children, releasing them from poverty in Jesus’ name.”

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