INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: MEMBER VIEWPOINT - Participation is key to making a success of child sponsorship

Jeremy Cooper, marketing manager of Plan UK

Jack Nicholson's latest film About Schmidt is closer to the truth than Stephen Elsden suggested in Member Viewpoint (Third Sector, 26 February).

Childreach, not a fictitious charity but the US branch of Plan, agreed to work with the film's producers in a move to bring more attention to child sponsorship. It was a tough decision, knowing that the film was unlikely to dispel many of the myths connected with sponsorship - that it breeds dependency and singles out one child. The film's portrayal of child sponsorship is also very much a Hollywood version.

Yet, the fact that the film used a real sponsored child, Ndugu or Abdala as he is known in his rural community in Tanzania, the location of which is not disclosed, represents the key to child sponsorship's success - participation. Abdala, his family and his community were consulted and were keen to take part. There was great excitement for a drawing competition among the children in the community, which produced the picture that was used in the film.

Sponsorship is an excellent way of involving supporters, and the regularity of donations enable the agency to plan effectively for projects, to be accountable and transparent.

At Plan we make the sponsor aware that their money is not going to the child, or even the family, but it is pooled to fund our work with children throughout the developing world. Donors see tangible results through the eyes of one community represented by the sponsored child.

Dialogue between donor and those we support does more than provide powerful fundraising programmes. It enables people to take part in change, and to tell their own stories and their own successes - far more powerful than any Hollywood blockbuster.

- The Institute welcomes Viewpoint articles from its members. Please email the membership manager (Membership@institute-of-fundraising.org.uk).

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