‘Too Big to Fund?’

By: Claire Rogers   |   CEO, World Vision   |   https://www.worldvision.com.au/about-us/our-leadership-team

When I took up the role of CEO of World Vision, I visited Myanmar to see our development work for myself – and what I saw blew me away!

We go to the most vulnerable communities in the world – including remote communities here in Australia – and listen to them identify the root causes of their poverty, work with them to find long term solutions, and leave them self-sustaining.

When I saw how effective it was, my head was spinning with possibilities of who we could partner with to further this incredible work.

Since then, I’ve encountered a surprising objection: World Vision is “too big to fund” and doesn’t need support from the philanthropic community.

In the two years I’ve reflected on this objection, I come up against a basic fact.

There’s no denying we’re a big organisation. But when you look at the scale of what we are tackling – global poverty – we’re a drop in the bucket.

If anything, if our work is to extend its compelling effectiveness, we must grow.

Right now, World Vision’s programmes span nearly 100 countries and we have almost 40,000 staff committed to working with the world’s most vulnerable people, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or gender.

As the largest non-government partner of the UN’s World Food Programme, we distribute more emergency supplies than any other non-government organisation (NGO). We’re also the leading non-government provider of clean water in the developing world, and a proven leader in solving the global water crisis.

Here are a few examples what we’ve achieved with our supporters:

  • World Vision reaches one new person with clean water every 10 seconds
  • We reach three more schools every day with clean water.
  • Over the last five years, 89% of the severely malnourished children we treated made a full recovery.
  • Together we’ve improved the lives of over 200 million vulnerable children by tackling the root causes of poverty.

Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is lower than it’s ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time, as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has pointed out.

However, there is still much to be done if we want to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, as Yong Kim has also said:

“But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor. For their sake, we cannot fail.”

Currently we face an estimated $2.5 trillion annual shortfall between available resources and what’s needed to achieve the SDGs, according to a recent paper released by the Australian International Development Network.

To meet this shortfall, it’s widely understood that a combination of massive scale philanthropy, private investment opportunities and capital, and Government commitments are needed to achieve these 17 global goals.

When faced with the enormity of the SDGs and the 736 million people still living in extreme poverty I make no apology for World Vision’s size.

Or perhaps I do. Perhaps the apology is that World Vision is not yet big enough! My challenge to those who consider us ‘too big to fund’ is to change the parameters of your comparison.

When assessed through the lens of the global problem we’re seeking to address, World Vision urgently needs to expand its impact footprint. With your help, we can.

In short, global poverty is too big not to fund, and with World Vision, you can achieve powerful impact.

Late last year I had the pleasure of meeting with Sarah Davies at Philanthropy Australia’s HQ in Melbourne to discuss philanthropy. Sarah made a great point highlighting what philanthropists want. Sarah said, "like your math teacher in school, major donors don't just want solutions - they want to see your working out."

We strive to show our ‘working out’ using digital technology – such as videos, Facebook live, twitter clips, Instagram images, installations in public spaces, and chatbots – to create a ‘window’ onto our work, so that our supporters get an immediate sense of what we are doing in the field.

We also encourage donors to visit our work and hear from our local staff directly on our impact from giving people the tools to get out of poverty and beyond.

I’ve just been in Cambodia where in a community of 3000 we have transformed outcomes on all the major indicators of poverty – with just nine staff. Such profound shifts with such a small team are only possible because we mobilise and support local community leaders to drive the change. That’s awesome ‘working out’ in the World Vision maths book in my view!

I invite you, the Australian philanthropic community, to re-assess the ‘too big to fund’ assumption and walk alongside World Vision – we’d love to transparently discuss and share our ‘working out’ so that you can see just how much you can achieve by partnering with us.


Claire Rogers
CEO, World Vision Australia


What do you think about the issue framed in this blog? Share your thoughts with our new Storyteller, Nick Richardson, here.

May. 14, 2019

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