Below you will find answers to questions that are often asked about Christian Aid. If you find that your question is not answered please contact us.
1. What makes you different?
We fight poverty. We fight the causes of poverty. And we do both these things through the involvement of people worldwide – overseas, through local organisations, our partners; and in the UK and Ireland, through hundreds of thousands of people who support our stand against injustice.
We don’t parachute aid into the nearly 50 countries in which we work. We rely on the judgement, courage and hard work of people right at the frontline. Our partner organisations know how to make change happen.
Backing them up in this fight for freedom are hundreds of thousands of people, mainly in British and Irish churches, who campaign, speak out, shake collection tins and buttonhole their politicians. We think there are few other instances of such a loud, clear voice for justice.
2. Do you only work with Christians?
No. We help people according to need. Their faith, or lack of it, is of no interest to us. Some of our partners are Christian, some are Muslim or Jewish or Hindu – some are of no religious persuasion at all. As long as they are good at what they do, we don’t discriminate.
The organisation and its work are inspired by Christian values of faith, charity, hope and truth, but we are not missionaries. In fact, to insist on Christianity as a condition of aid would contradict our principles. Put simply, ‘aid’ is what we do, ‘Christian’ is why we do it.
3. Is Christian Aid political?
Poverty is political – there’s no way round that. When people go hungry yet there is food enough to feed them, then something is wrong. When people are poor at a time when there has never been more wealth, we have to ask why and who is responsible, and campaign for leaders to change their policies.
But we are never party political. We are interested only in pressing for policies that can best help the poor – not who makes them. All we care about is eradicating poverty and injustice and their causes. We will talk to, and challenge, whoever we need to make this happen.
Why we campaign
4. Where does your funding come from?
Most of our funding – three quarters – comes from people like you. That’s why we answer to you: it’s your money that’s helping us fight poverty. People who put money into the little red Christian Aid Week envelopes and collecting tins, who respond to appeals when an emergency hits, who sign up for direct debits.
The balance comes from governments, international institutions, trusts and foundations, plus some income from our investments and trading activities. This year, 22% came from governments and institutions. Our board has set a ceiling on how much money we can take from governments of 30 per cent to underscore our independence.
A more detailed breakdown of where we get our money
5. How much do you spend on administration and fundraising?
Eighty-four per cent of our income goes towards our direct charitable activities – in other words, towards ending poverty. Just over half our expenditure, 56 per cent, is grants to partners, money that goes directly to fighting poverty in the developing world. A further 28 per cent goes on what we call ‘programme support’ – that is selecting, monitoring and evaluating the programmes we are helping to fund. If we didn’t do this, we would rightly be accused of negligence. It would be irresponsible simply to dole out cash to projects with no idea whether the money was being well spent.
0.5 per cent goes on what is known as ‘governance’ of the charity. This means things like audits – to make sure the organisation is run properly and in accordance with UK and Irish law – administration and fundraising. Fundraising takes up 15.5 per cent – we need to raise money to do our work – but the money invested in generating funds is returned several times over each year.
6. What difference does my donation make?
In 2006/07, in large part thanks to your donations, Christian Aid spent £63.9 million responding to emergencies and supporting development programmes in nearly 50 of the world’s poorest countries.
In India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, your money enabled our partners to help half a million people begin to return to some sort of normal life after the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Your contributions made it possible for us to respond quickly and effectively to a drought in Afghanistan so harsh that the fields were bare and food was running out.
You helped us launch our campaign on climate change and call for a climate change agenda that included the needs of poor people.
You helped us get people out on the streets for Make Poverty History and enabled us to support human rights workers in the danger zones of Colombia and the West Bank.
7. What difference does campaigning make?
All the difference in the world. If we don’t tackle the causes of poverty and injustice, we will forever be dealing with its symptoms – hunger, disease, unemployment, inequality, environmental destruction, and lack of education, rights and opportunity.
Armed with the facts and given the tools to campaign with fellow supporters, voters can lobby their MPs to support our campaigns – and if the MPs don’t, our campaigners can vote for those who will.
Why we campaign
8. How do you make sure your money isn’t wasted by corruption?
Our money goes directly to our local partners – the people working on the ground – and not to governments. That way, corrupt governments can’t misuse our funds.
To ensure our partners aren’t corrupt and that our money is spent effectively, we have a detailed process for evaluating partners and projects which is as robust as any system implemented by financial institutions around the world.
Whenever we are alerted to a misuse of funds – which is extremely rare – we investigate immediately. If the root causes of the partner’s corruption are not addressed, we stop funding it. If the root causes are resolved, funding may continue subject to satisfactory future assessments.
Our partners deal with the consequences of corruption every day. It’s the poor who are hit hardest: the people who have to pay the bribe to get their child into school, or have to use the underfunded hospital while money is sent overseas. They know it has to be tackled.
Corruption in Peru
9. There are so many aid agencies – why don’t you work together more?
We do work in cooperation with other international agencies when we think this will make us more effective, especially during emergencies and disasters, such as the Asian tsunami.
When we plan any new project, our staff and partners check whether there are any other agencies working in the same area, and whether what we are planning to support will complement or duplicate the work they are doing.
Christian Aid campaigns on climate change as part of iCount, because combining our voice with others means we have a bigger, louder voice more easily heard by those in positions of power.
We are also part of alliances including the global ecumenical network Action by Churches Together. We are members of the Disasters Emergency Committee, the British Overseas Aid Group and the Irish NGO network Dochas.
But there is value in having a distinct, individual identity. The public often wishes to give to particular causes or to agencies that work in a particular way – for example, some may want to give money to an organisation that is politically outspoken about the Middle East, others may prefer to sponsor a child or focus on funding healthcare. So having a variety of agencies helps the public better direct their money to the specific causes that most interest them.
10. How do you decide which emergencies to respond to?
Our 716 partners in nearly 50 countries give us a remarkably flexible, quick way of responding to sudden need. In an emergency, instead of jetting in food aid, we’re already there – on the ground.
In the hours after the tsunami, our partners were setting up kitchens and providing emergency shelter. They were helping in communities where they’d been working for years. Our office in Delhi was sending financial support.
So we respond where there’s need and where we can react quickly and efficiently. And if we can’t respond through our partners, we can respond through our sister agencies in Action by Churches Together, the international ecumenical emergency network of which we are a leading member.
11. Can I really buy the gift I choose from your Present Aid catalogue?
No. You can’t guarantee that if you opt to buy a goat or a stethoscope that your cash will definitely pay for a goat or, indeed, a stethoscope. And there’s a very good reason for this.
Each donation is placed into a fund that relates to the sorts of projects your ‘gift’ represents. So when you choose a goat, your cash goes into livestock or agricultural projects.
This flexibility ensures we can give the right money to the right project, instead of having to cope with a glut of goats or stethoscopes, for example, and then foisting them on communities that don’t need them but which are short of other essential items.
Your money and Present Aid
12. How green is Christian Aid?
Christian Aid is probably now best described as ‘light green’. But it is getting greener by the day. We have committed to a five per cent year-on-year reduction in our CO2 emissions until 2020.
Our carbon footprint from our global operations in 2006/07 was 4,010 metric tonnes of CO2.
In 2006 we reduced our annual carbon footprint by eight per cent by switching to green energy supplier Ecotricity. We have installed motion-sensitive lighting to save power when rooms are not in use. We recycle our paper, cans, plastic bottles, mobile phones and computers. And when we must print documents, we print on both sides of paper.
Our cleaners use eco-friendly products, our staff make their tea from water boiled in power-saving kettles, a bike-purchasing scheme has been introduced so staff can cycle to work, we have no air conditioning in our offices and the heating is switched off at 11am every day.
These are just a few of the measures we have taken so far. We are auditing our paper usage so we can find ways of reducing it. And we are tallying our air miles – a big issue at Christian Aid because international travel is, of course, essential for some of our staff. And we’re planning other ways of cutting our carbon.
13. How do you choose which organisations to support?
Christian Aid has clear goals which guide us and our work to eliminate poverty and injustice. New partners are selected to help Christian Aid meet these objectives. We formally assess each prospective partner to check they share our goals and have the kind of robust financial and organisational structures, skills and capacity to help deliver them.
To learn more about our goals, see Turning Hope into Action
14. How can I get involved? What can I do?
Lots of things! For all the ways in which you can join our movement for change and how to sign up visit Get Involved.
15. Why don’t you do child sponsorship?
Christian Aid believes that it is better to help whole communities through our partner organisations than to sponsor individuals. A village well, a community school, a trained primary health worker – these can all help to improve life for everyone, rather than just an individual child.
Some sponsorship schemes do support projects that benefit the community, but even then, the mechanics of sponsoring – recording the progress of each child, translating letters, taking photos – costs money. This is money which is being spent on the needs of the donor, not of the child.
16. Can I volunteer overseas?
The projects that we support are managed by organisations and groups local to the area in need. For this reason, we don’t place volunteers overseas. Occasionally specific paid posts are recruited; these are advertised on our website.
We also run ‘challenge events’ to raise money, some of which include a visit to Christian Aid partner organisations.
Email email@example.com to find out more.
17. If I give you my details/sign up for emails, how do I know you won’t bombard me with emails/junk mail?
The vast majority of the people to whom we write already support Christian Aid in one way or another and have not said that they do not wish to hear from us. Occasionally, we buy ‘list’ names – individuals who have indicated that they want to receive information about the kind of development work we do. We do this after making sure the list names do not already appear in our records.
Under the Data Protection Act, anyone we contact must have given their permission to be contacted about services that may be relevant to them. These services include charitable causes. But if you don’t wish to be contacted by us, just let us know.
Terms and conditions
18. How is Christian Aid governed?
As a charitable company limited by guarantee, we are registered with UK Companies House and the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Christian Aid now operates in Ireland through two new companies limited by guarantee, one in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland, each registered as Christian Aid Ireland.
Our board of trustees sets our strategic direction. It ensures that we keep proper records, and that our accounts are subject to external scrutiny, as required by legislation. It is the trustees’ responsibility to approve formally our annual reports and accounts.
The board is made up of unpaid volunteers who provide us with a breadth of experience and expertise. It meets six times a year and consists of a chair, nominees of the national committees of Christian Aid for Ireland, Wales and Scotland, a nominee of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and up to 15 other trustees.
All trustees are appointed for a four-year period and are eligible for reappointment for another four years.