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In the spring of 1998, nonprofit agencies known as child-sponsorship organizations found themselves on the defensive. The agencies dedicated to raising charitable funds in the United States to support children and their communities in poor, developing countries had been the subject of a scathing critique, a two-part series in the Chicago Tribune accusing them, in effect, of misleading donors. The series asserted that the organizations had not lived up to the promise implicit in fundraising advertisements: that specific children would benefit directly from the contributions of individual sponsors. The agencies mounted a spirited and largely successful public defense of their approach--one in which aid was targeted not only at individual children but at the communities in which they lived. At the same time, however, they sought new ways to reassure the public about their effectiveness. This case details the ensuing effort by a group of six child sponsorship agencies to agree on industry standards that would make their goals and methods clear.

Learning Objective:
The case describes the differing situations of the various organizations so as to lay the groundwork for discussion about likely difficulties in reaching agreement on standards, as well as extrapolation as to what sort of standards could both command consensus among the agencies and satisfy public demands for transparency. The case serves the broader purpose of framing the issues and dynamics of industry self-regulation more generally, particularly in a nonprofit context.

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
David Brown
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States