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Tim Costello: It’s time to bust some obvious myths

World Vision
10 January 2014 by Tim Costello
Tim Costello: It’s time to bust some obvious myths

Child sponsorship is based on a community development model, whereby whole communities benefit from your generous support.

Child Sponsorship is a house-hold term in Australia and for many people World Vision Australia is what jumps to mind when they hear it. Recently there has been some discussion about World Vision and child sponsorship – how does it work? Does the money get to the child? How much do I earn as CEO? Transparency is at the heart of what we do and with this in mind I would like to bust some myths and let you know what the future of child sponsorship looks like.

Let’s start with the one I get asked about frequently – my salary. I earn $255,805 and drive a Volkswagen Golf. In line with other charity CEOs I do earn a salary that reflects my responsibilities but I don’t have a private jet or a gold-plated toilet seat.  All information about what I earn is published and available from our Annual Report.

So how does child sponsorship work? There was a time many, many years ago when World Vision’s sponsorship program was based on direct benefit. The child you sponsored would directly receive your monthly donation. While this model was effective for the individual child, it didn’t change the poverty and situation surrounding them.

Therefore, we moved to what’s called a ‘community development model’ whereby your child, their family and their community benefit from your sponsorship. Working with community members and leaders, World Vision tailors programs to address varying causes of poverty and build capacity. For some communities this can be lack of access to education, immunisation, or agricultural training. For others it could be HIV/AIDS awareness, domestic violence and early child marriage. We need to address the root causes of poverty to create lasting and sustainable change.

Child sponsorship lifts entire communities out of poverty, but you as a sponsor maintain a one-on-one relationship with your sponsor child. One of the benefits of this is getting to write to your child, and, of course, receive letters in return. While this may sound as straight forward as Australia Post’s “next-day delivery”, it is a complicated process with many steps.

The pen-pal relationship between sponsor and child has been part of World Vision’s DNA for more than 40 years, but we have listened to our supporters and recognised that the digital age requires more from us as an organisation. Sponsors have told us they want more connection and information about their sponsored child and the community they live in; they want to know they’re making a difference.

In the last two years we have been working on a new initiative called Child Sponsorship 2.0 that will see the connection between sponsor and child completely transformed. Through the online child sponsorship portal, supporters will have access to video greetings, stories, progress updates, and photos of their child/children and their community.

Approximately 60% of World Vision supporters currently have Child Sponsorship 2.0 content – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. By the end of July, 2014 we anticipate 90% of sponsors will have received at least one Child Sponsorship 2.0 update (except from those Area Development Projects that are close to completion). Here’s an example of what our supporters will find on their portal:

Portal Screen

I have seen child sponsorship change the lives and futures of countless children and their communities. One of my most recent experiences was travelling to Mongolia with World Vision Ambassador Mel Doyle who was visiting her sponsor child Kulan. When told about the 3000 children in Kulan’s area who weren’t sponsored Mel asked me to describe the impact this has on the community. My answer was that when World Vision sets out working with a community, we aim to leave the area after 15 years. In that time we need to have improved healthcare, schooling, and job prospects among many other things. Unless we’re achieving this – as much as we’ve helped Kulan – we’re not giving these communities the tools to support themselves for the long term, and the best possible chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.

Tim Costello Tim Costello

Tim Costello is the CEO of World Vision Australia, husband to Merridie, proud father of 3, and a long-time social justice campaigner.


13 Responses

  • earthvillager says:

    Exactly how much does go to the chid and how much to community projects in rough percent…seeing how it says “find a child to sponsor” NOT sponsor a community????

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi @earthvillager:disqus, thanks for your comment and suggestion. Experience has taught us that the best way to change a child’s life is to change the community in which they live. The wellbeing of a child is dependent on their families and community and in order to thrive, children need to grow up in an environment that provides the essentials for today together with hope and opportunity for the future. As Tim Costello says in the blog, ‘There was a time many, many years ago when World Vision’s sponsorship program was based on direct benefit. The child you sponsored would directly receive your monthly donation. While this model was effective for the individual child, it didn’t change the poverty and situation surrounding them’. This led us to our current ‘community development model’ approach Tim Costello talks about. By helping to meet basic needs for things like clean water, healthcare, education, improved farming and income opportunities, sponsors help to break the poverty cycle while giving the sponsor child and other children in the area the chance to reach their full potential. We also know that our supporters and their families love the connection that they have with their sponsor child and is often the catalyst for their own children’s awareness of the issues of poverty. For the sponsor children themselves, the knowledge that there is someone in Australia who cares about them and is contributing financialy to thier wellbeing and future empowers and motivates.

      • earthvillager says:

        yes yes, im fine about that BUT you didn’t address my concerns at all in your post….did you even read my post? because you didn’t answer my very direct questions

  • Imajen Best says:

    I would also like too know what’s the actual percentage that goes towards all vision Australia’s funds as I’ve just sponsored a child in Zambia and want too know my hard earned cash is going in the best hands possible and actually making a difference in her community and for herself!

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi Imajen, thanks for your support of Nora and her community. From each donation we use 79.5% on our Field programs and advocacy work,13.4% is used for fundraising and 7.1% is used on administration. Both internal and external audits are completed to make sure every single dollar that we receive is accounted for. You may like to know that in 2009 and 2013 we won the PricewaterhouseCoopers Transparency Award for quality and
      transparency in reporting for the not-for-profit sector. All the best and thanks once again for sponsoring a child with us.

  • Brad says:

    To Tim Costello.. You earn 255K a year.. That obviously is not an extravagant wage for a CEO position, however, you represent a charity organization. Surely, there are other qualified individuals such as the CEO of the Salvation Army (Todd Bassett) that I understand is on approximately 100K all up per year.. I am sure you are a well established individual who does not need to be earning 255K per year. When you stood there smiling in your blue shirt surrounded by all those children (Photo above), did you stop to think that perhaps you could help more lives by simply taking a pay cut? Or is say 100 to 150K too little for your extravagant lifestyle?.. Your excuse is that it justifies the responsibilities you have… But as stated already, I am sure other capable individuals would do your job for ALOT less. Furthermore, because you work for a charity organization, I bet you are paying Ridiculously less income tax on that 255K a year you earn..

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi Brad, In 2013, the Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, received a salary of $277,000 (excluding superannuation). His total remuneration from World Vision Australia was $316,000. As CEO of World Vision Australia, Tim leads Australia’s largest overseas aid and humanitarian organisation; an organisation that employs around 600 staff and turns over close to $370 million per year. Since joining World Vision in February 2004, Tim has made an extraordinary contribution to international aid and development. His exceptional public profile has brought unprecedented attention to, and support for, not only World Vision’s development work but to the profile of international aid and development in general.
      Tim works an extraordinary number of hours to achieve these outcomes. His work demands extended hours, weekends and travel abroad, often to some of the most difficult parts of the world.
      In addition, Tim is in high demand to appear at public speaking engagements. The revenue gathered from these engagements, along with book royalties and other CEO income, is directed back to World Vision Australia. In 2013, around $150,000 was returned to the organisation.
      Like all not-for-profit organisations, World Vision Australia is constantly balancing its need to attract and retain the best talent to ensure the effectiveness of our programs, and ultimately the impact on our mission to ensure millions of children throughout the world are given an opportunity for a fuller life.
      World Vision’s remuneration policy is approved by the Board of Directors and is based on job gradings provided by independent consultants Hay Group. Using job gradings we compare ourselves to organisations of a similar size, scope and complexity.
      In general, World Vision Australia staff receive payments in the bottom quartile of salaries for the general industrial market. For executives, remuneration is generally in the 10th percentile of the general industrial market. Certain positions may, however, be paid slightly more depending on market conditions.
      In 2013, all executives received base pay and benefits only and no incentive payments were made for exceeding KPI targets.

  • Carolyn says:

    We have been child sponsors with World Vision for over 30 years and have had a number of girls we have sponsored in this time. Why do World Vision cut their sponsorship when they reach the average age of 14 or there abouts, claiming that they no longer need our sponsorship and have completed their education? These children have clearly stated that they would like to continue with their education and wish to further their studies to become teachers etc so they can give back to their communities, but are denied this opportunity. We would be more than happy to continue sponsoring them until their education was complete as we see this as a way out of poverty for them, their family and ultimately their community, rather than them staying in the home and adding to poverty and continuing the established cycle within the community. After reading the generous salary of your CEO, we think we will be looking for a more worthy organisation to sponsor. You say your CEO works long hours and does many extra tasks, so do everyday Australians who earn a quarter of his salary and are happily sponsoring your children.

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi Carolyn, thanks for your support over so many years. The only time when children of 14 years of age are no longer available for sponsorship is when the supporter has to cancel their support or if our community goals are achieved in the community they are living in. In the first instance the children that have not been sponsored in the community have a turn. All the children in the community are able to continue their studies regardless of whether they are sponsored or not (this may also depend on their parents attitude to education). Tim Costello does work long hours just like many other Australians do on a quarter of his salary, however, they are not asked to represent an organisation like ours in many dangerous and difficult places of the world, often in the direst of circumstances. -TimJ, World Vision Team.

  • Sue says:

    Does anyone really believe they get the money. How much does Tim waste a year of trips for he and his friends and expenses.

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi Sue, sorry you feel like that. When Tim Costello or any of our executives or employees travel, they travel economy, they do not stay in 5 star hotels. Regular and transparent reporting on our activities, operations and performance, both in Australia and overseas, is an important way we demonstrate our accountability to others. Our financial statements are externally audited (in the same way and to the same standards that apply to Australian companies). Our annual reports are prepared to internationally acknowledged standards of transparency for not-for-profit organisations and in 2009 and 2013 we won the PricewaterhouseCoopers Transparency Award for quality and transparency in reporting for the not-for-profit sector. Please follow the link: for more information on where the funds go and to view our Annual Reports go to:

  • ChrisW says:


    I have no issue with Tim’s pay packet but why was he so quick to have a go at Paris Hilton when she was in Melbourne doing what Paris Hilton does and spending 5000 on clothes. He said she could and should have saved African lives with the money. That’s a high horse for a guy who went to Carey and has a massive salary. That’s a lot of Africans on his conscience.

    I will continue to support our world vision kids… But maybe he can get out of the pulpit when he is in front of a microphone

  • Sue says:

    Probably a fake photo from this jet setter.

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