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Ministry Spotlight: Compassion International

Aid organization has reclassified itself as a church, no longer releases 990s

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This week, Compassion International saw a drop in both its MinistryWatch transparency grade and its Donor Confidence Score.

Its Donor Confidence Score fell from a 97 to a 72 because the organization has not released a public Form 990 since 2019. Not providing a Form 990 means donors are unable to see important financial information not available in audited financial statements, such as the salaries of its board members and executives.

According to Guidestar, Compassion International has re-classified itself as an “association of churches” and, under that status, is not required by the IRS to provide a Form 990.

In 2020 Compassion began publishing a yearly Accountability Report instead.

“This report describes the work of Compassion in a way that provides greater transparency to the way we operate and deliver impact as a ministry,” the website states. “We believe this is a more complete response to our stakeholder needs, along with the continued publication of our audited financial statements.”

However, many transparency experts disagree. The Trinity Foundation, a ministry watchdog, called the failure to release a Form 990 a “warning sign” for donors. Compassion is part of what it calls a “troubling trend” among larger Christian ministries electing to re-classify themselves as a church in order to avoid releasing its Form 990. MinistryWatch has reported on this trend here.

Its most recent audited financial statements show a revenue of $1.19 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.

Compassion is an international relief organization that works in various countries around the world. It offers disaster relief and child sponsorship programs that provide educational, medical, and nutritional assistance.

MinistryWatch Donor Confidence Score: 72 (out of a possible 100) “Give with Confidence”

MinistryWatch Financial Efficiency Rating:  3 Stars (out of a possible 5 Stars)

MinistryWatch Transparency Grade:  C

ECFA Member? Yes

Revenue in Most Recent Year Available (2019 Form 990): $953,223,395

Five-Year Revenue Trend: Increasing (by about 24%)

Percent of Revenue Compassion Spends on Fundraising: 10%

Percent Peer Group Spends on Fundraising: 6%

CEO/President: Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado

President’s Salary and Other Compensation: $476,818 (in 2019)

A complete MinistryWatch profile for Compassion International can be found here.

Find recent MinistryWatch articles mentioning Compassion International here.

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Brittany Smith

Brittany Smith is a freelance writer living in Colorado Springs. She is the co-author of Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice.