Q&A: Good stewardship

In today's interview, World Vision's chief financial officer, Larry Probus, describes how good stewardship of the resources entrusted to the organization is foundational to the way we do our work.

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1. This week on the blog, we’ve seen an infographic and a video that both show how for every dollar donated to World Vision, $1.30 worth of support goes into the field. And that’s great -- but how do you ensure that the full value of that money is being used effectively?

World Vision is committed to measuring the effectiveness of its ministry and to tracking the well-being of sponsored children over time, as well as tracking the achievement of specific project goals. Much of this data is available to view on our website.

Because World Vision has over 40,000 employees on the ground around the world -- many of them living with the people we serve for 15-20 years -- our work is distinguished by the relationships we develop. This "software" is the critical difference that distinguishes World Vision's work and helps ensure that it is relevant, effective, and sustainable.

2. Despite a full $1.30 going into the field for every dollar donated, World Vision is still spending 16 cents of every dollar on overhead, while other organizations have lower overhead costs. Is this overhead number a good indicator of stewardship?

We believe that the investments World Vision makes to raise funds and administer its ministry are well spent and appropriate to sustain the work we do. Donors should know the overhead level of any charity they support and avoid those with rates that indicate inefficiency. (Generally, rates over 30 percent are a red flag and, though they're sometimes justifiable, donors should understand why.)

This recent report from Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and GuideStar provides thoughtful guidance on how donors should assess overhead rates.

3. Child sponsorship was World Vision founder Bob Pierce’s original fundraising model more than 60 years ago. Why does World Vision still use that model? Is it really the best way to help children?

We believe that sponsorship is a very effective model because it connects a donor with a specific child until adulthood. The relationship that is formed, including prayers and financial support, help that child and his or her community over a long period of time. Addressing the root causes of poverty takes years, and to do it effectively requires relationships. Child sponsorship provides both.

4. What other fundraising models does World Vision use to further support child sponsorship?

World Vision raises funds for specific projects that benefit the communities of our sponsored children, such as drilling water wells or building health centers. We distribute pharmaceuticals, clothing, food, bed nets, and school supplies provided by corporations or the U.S. government. We also lend over $400 million in microloans, providing sustainable livelihoods to community recipients.

All of these activities supplement our child sponsorship funds and accelerate the process of "bringing life in all its fullness."

5. Like Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision U.S., you came to World Vision from the corporate world. What was the greatest difference for you in making that transition?

In addition to the blessing of working with colleagues who share a common calling to serve, I believe the biggest difference in my role as CFO is the concept of materiality. In the corporate world, I routinely set aside financial issues that were below $100,000 with the justification that they were too small to influence earnings per share.

At World Vision, every dollar entrusted to us comes from a donor who expects that dollar to be used wisely -- and who often gives sacrificially. So as CFO at World Vision, I need to be concerned with every decision to spend resources, not just the largest ones.

6. In the Gospels, Jesus talks about money more than almost any other topic. Why is good stewardship important for Christians, and how does that affect our work at World Vision?

The Lord expects each of us to use the resources he has provided in ways consistent with his teachings. We understand that resources entrusted to us are a sacred trust from God, through donors, on behalf of the poor. The scripture that leads our stewardship philosophy is 2 Corinthians 8:21: "For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."

Learn more about us by visiting worldvision.org -- and consider investing in a child's future by sponsoring a child today!

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