NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- For years, anyone who has wanted could "sponsor" underprivileged children. Charities have set up extensive programs that make this possible.
How it works is you donate to the charity and the charity filters your donation either directly to the children or to the community where they live. The money goes towards improvements in nutrition, education and medical care, among other essentials. Programs toot the personalized nature of the donation.
After not too long, you'll begin receiving correspondence from your sponsored child.
Once you have decided that sponsoring is for you, you'll want to find the right organization. There are many charities to choose from, so the decision can be daunting. Here are some suggestions to help you pick the right one:
You'll want to make sure the organization you donate to is fiscally responsible. Denise Kuendig, associate vice president at Save the Children, says that choosing an organization that is accountable and has a good track record is among the top concerns for sponsors when selecting a program. A hallmark of any charitable organization is financial efficiency. One way to gauge this is by ensuring that the majority of the charity's revenue goes towards its charitable programs and doesn't all get sunk into fundraising and administrative costs. Refer to Charitynavigator.com, a ratings Web site for charities, for help evaluating the financial efficiency of sponsorship programs.
Sponsorship programs target countries all over the world. By far the most popular countries are undeveloped nations in Africa and Asia, though several charities participate in programs in the U.S. Other organizations specialize in one country, such as Asha for Education, a charity that works exclusively in India. If you have a preference for which region you want to donate to, read up on the program to make sure it operates in the country you prefer.
Of the 10 highest ranked and most popular child sponsorship charities on Charitynavigator.org, eight are church based. If you are looking for a secular charity, these exist, as well. Two secular charities that make Charitynavigator's top list are Save the Children and Asha for Education.
Individual or community-based intervention.
Within child sponsoring, two schools have emerged. Some programs send your donations directly to the children, while others use the funds to improve the communities where they live. In both cases, the sponsors receive updates from the sponsored children on how the donations are improving their lives. If you have a preference, this is a point you'll want to check into before you make your donation.
The cost of sponsorship.
One last item you'll want to consider is the cost of sponsorship. Most organizations call for a flat monthly rate of between $10 and $40. Others offer a tiered giving scale where higher donations support more people. World Vision has an option where $40 per month will support an entire family.
For more information on sponsoring a child, refer to each organization's Web site. Here is a partial list of top child sponsorship programs from Charitynavigator.org: Asha for Education (ashanet.org), Christian Children's Fund (christianchildrensfund.org), Compassion International (), Save the Children (savethechildren.org), and World Vision (worldvision.org).
By Marshall Loeb