We've had a few friends and family members ask about becoming correspondents recently, and I know so many more people who would be great at it! If you've ever wondered about correspondence sponsorship with Compassion, here's a FAQ post to help you out.
What is a correspondent sponsor?
A correspondence sponsor is a person who partners with Compassion International to write letters to a child who does not receive letters from his or her financial sponsor- the person who pays the monthly sponsorship fee to Compassion.
Does it cost any money?
The short, simple answer is "no." It does not cost any money to be a correspondent. However, if you want to send paper letters and gifts, of course, you still have to pay for postage to get there.
How do I become a correspondent?
To become a correspondent, you must first have a Compassion account. If you already sponsor a child through Compassion or have given to them financially before, you should have a "sponsor number." If not, you just need to contact Compassion to get set up. You can either call their main phone number (800-336-7676) or email them with your name, phone number, address and email. After that, it's just a matter of getting in touch with them and asking to become a correspondent- through email, on the phone, or even clicking the "contact us button on their website and filling out the form.
Can I choose a child, like sponsors can?
While you can't browse Compassion's website viewing photos and reading biographies to choose a child, you can make some special requests when becoming a correspondent. You can ask for a specific age or age group, gender, country, or region, and I even have some friends who have specifically requested children with special needs. However, keep in mind that if you place limitations on your request, it is probably going to take longer to receive your child. For example, several weeks ago I requested children from a couple of specific countries. Some showed up in a day or two, but I am still waiting for a child from Sri Lanka. I personally think this is probably related to the fact that Compassion's program in Sri Lanka is really new (they've only been working there for a few years) and therefore there aren't as many kids registered in the program.
How does a child come to need a correspondent?
That answer can vary greatly. Sometimes, children are sponsored by groups or organizations A company may get in touch with Compassion and offer to sponsor 100 children. Obviously, it would be hard for a corporation to write to one child, let alone 100! So the person in charge of getting this recurring donation set up may go ahead and tell Compassion to find correspondents for the kids. In other cases, correspondents simply start writing. Sponsors may decide to partner with Compassion after an emotional presentation (such as a concert) and be really moved for a little bit.....and then that passion may drop off. Sometimes sponsors realize that they are not doing the best they could when it comes to letter-writing, and tell Compassion to find a correspondent for their child. Other times, Compassion sees that no letters have been sent, and gets in touch with the sponsor and asks if they'd like to pass on letter-writing responsibilities to someone else. I can't tell you how long a child goes without letters before they do that- some of my newer kids haven't received any letters in a few years, though. One has been in Compassion's program for seven years and only received two or three letters- the last of which was five years ago.
How many correspondents can I have?
Currently there is no limit on how many correspondents a sponsor can have. However, I would recommend taking things pretty slow until you know how well you can handle writing to several kids. If you get six correspondents and realize that you are so intimidated by writing six letters, or can't think of something to say, or feel you can't connect with that many kids, and then don't write as often because of that, you have too many kids! Try one or two, wait a little bit, find your footing, and take it from there.
How often do I have to write?
Honestly, Compassion just requires that you commit to write at least two or three letters a year. But please, if that's all you're going to do, let someone else write. : ) You don't have to write every day, or even every week, but if someone told you that they loved you, and you were important to them, and then you only heard from them twice a year, you might have a hard time believing them.
How many letters will I receive?
You should get, at a bare minimum, at least two letters a year. You probably won't receive more than 10 or 12. Generally speaking, you will get more letters if you are sending a decent number of letters, because the kids will have something to reply to. Keep in mind that the kids generally aren't at the Compassion centers every day (in Tanzania, for example, they only meet on Saturdays.) And then they're not writing letters every day they're there. They may just have a letter writing day every month. The kids are required to write thank-you letters if they receive a financial gift (and I have received extra letters when I have been able to send packages to them) and then they're required to write at least two reply letters a year. Most of the time, if you are writing, they will write back to you.
How long does it take to receive my first letter?
It can arrive as early as one month after finding out about your new correspondent. In these cases, the letters may have been written shortly before you received the child as a sponsor. For example, if the child was waiting for a sponsor and had just recently been sponsored, they may have recently written a first letter to send in the hopes that they would be sponsored soon. Other times, they may have written the letter to their financial sponsor (one of those two required letters, as mentioned above) and then that letter would be sent to you. Because Compassion's computers aren't registering your child as being newly sponsored (remember, they already had a sponsor!) the center doesn't get quite the same kind of prompt, telling them to send a "getting to know you" letter, so it could take up to six months to receive your first letter. I've only had that happen a few times, though. After that, if you are writing regularly, you may receive a letter every one to two months!
Will my correspondent know that I am different than his financial sponsor?
The answer to this question varies from country to country, center to center, and it could even be different depending on how old the child is. Obviously, they know someone new has come into their lives, because they start writing letters to a different person. The older kids may have a better understanding of what is going on, but as far as everyone is concerned, the kid really does have a new sponsor! Your child isn't going to say "My dear correspondence sponsor" in her letters. To them, you're their sponsor because you're the one talking to them, praying for them, and connecting with them.
How is correspondence sponsorship different than "real" sponsorship?
Personally, I don't feel like there's much of a difference, other than how we are in Compassion's computer system. While the kids are grateful for the financial donations that make it possible for them to participate in Compassion's program (which benefits their whole family) the most important part to them is the relationship. When I talk about my kids, I call them my sponsor kids- I only have to clarify "most of them are correspondents" when people wonder how on earth I can afford that many sponsorships. :)
Can I send gifts to my correspondent?
Yes! Definitely! Anything that you could or would send to a traditionally sponsored child, you can send to your correspondent child. Stickers, post cards, coloring pages, all that stuff. You can also send financial gifts to your child (for birthdays, Christmas, family gifts, etc) but you can't do that directly from the website. Because the financial aspects of your child's account are linked to their financial sponsor, in order to do a financial gift, you need to either call or email Compassion (and you can only do it by email if you already have a credit card on file with them.) Compassion places limitations on how many gifts you can send per year, and what amounts, but you can learn more about that on their website! Of course, financial gifts are not required- and you can always call and ask if the financial sponsor has done a gift for an event. I usually call and ask if my kids have received birthday gifts, and if they haven't, I'll do a small gift for them. If they already received one, I just send my usual paper gifts through the mail.
What happens if my correspondent child's financial sponsor decides to stop sponsoring?
This is something that every correspondent dreads. It's so sad. If your correspondence child's financial sponsor decides to stop sponsoring, you can pick up the sponsorship if you are financially able. Compassion will notify you about the end of the sponsorship (or, if you're like me, you may notice they're missing on your account before they get the chance to let you know.) They hold the child's account for 6-8 weeks so you can pray about it, check your finances, whatever you need to do. If you are able to pick up the sponsorship, great! Then things keep going pretty much as they usually do (though Compassion's computers will probably prompt them to send you another information packet about the child.) This time period also gives you the opportunity to try to find another sponsor for the child. When Carlos' sponsor dropped him, I found another advocate to pick up his sponsorship. My mom's boy Hassan was recently dropped, but my aunt picked up his sponsorship, and my mom gets to keep writing. Other friends have also been able to find sponsors for their kids, which gives them some peace- they know for sure that the child they've come to love isn't going to sit waiting for a sponsor again.
Sometimes, though, we can't find sponsors for the kids, and unfortunately, that means that they have to go back on the "waiting" list. It's sad and it hurts. But you can send a final letter to your child, telling them you love them and you'll always be praying for them.
Why should I become a correspondent? Does it really make a difference?
To answer the second question first: YES. It TOTALLY makes a difference. Big time. Sponsor kids who receive letters from their sponsors, and have a relationship with them, are more likely to finish the program to the end. And they're receiving the maximum benefits from the program. If they're receiving the maximum benefits of the program, it makes sense to think that they program is going to have a bigger and better impact on their lives, even long after they graduate. Remember that this program isn't just about physical health, which is the first thing that comes to our minds- it's about spiritual health, as well. Your child may live in an area (or even a household) where Jesus isn't well-known. You can be their encourager and prayer partner, and even their long-distance mentor.
If you have a gift for encouraging others, you'd be an excellent sponsor. If you can send an email once every two weeks or so, sponsorship may be great for you. If you love what Compassion is doing and want to be a part of it, but don't feel that you can make the financial commitment at this time, correspondence sponsorship is great! I have so many friends I think would make great correspondents- folks who ask about my kids, read their letters, enjoy their updates....so many of you would be spectacular correspondents. You're already great at encouraging me, so why not extend that to encouraging a child in another country?
If you are interested in becoming a Compassion correspondent, or have more questions about the program, please feel free to get in touch with me! I'd love to get you the hook-up!