ChildFund’s commercials can almost be recited by rote: Alan Sader (or, conversely, Sally Struthers) toots around a third world hamlet, kneeling next to anemic skeleton-children, begging you to donate a few cents a day to sponsor these kids and save their lives. Melancholy piano music tinkles in the background while middle-class guilt is triggered nationwide.
These commercials are probably ChildFund at their most consistent, as otherwise ChildFund’s goals are murky and ill-defined. Beneath the surface, the charity is in a constant state of identity crisis, which has manifested itself in several ways.
ChildFund was known as Christian Children’s Fund from 1951 to 2009 (before that, it was China’s Children Fund). The name change, in this case, is seemingly due to the organization’s inconsistent attitude toward Christianity. ChildFund is baffling in this regard—many devout Christian donors dislike the organization’s secular leanings, while others are uncomfortable with ChildFund’s occasional religious gestures.
For instance, ChildFund has never done any proselytizing and Gospel-spreading when providing assistance to impoverished areas. The nonprofit has claimed that they’re more interested in the Christian virtue of caring for the less fortunate than they are with religious conversions. Conservative Christians have felt a little misled that ChildFund was not ministering to its sponsored children, while most found ChildFund’s position agreeable.
However, if they’re not concerned with issues of religious dogma, then why have they refused donations on religious grounds? Back in 2008, Gen Con, a convention for pen-and-paper and tabletop RPG games, offered the then-Christian Children’s Fund a donation of $17,398. Gen Con planned to donate this money with the best of intentions; they were honoring their recently-deceased founder, who had often given money to Christian Children’s Fund while he was alive.
Most nonprofits who claim not to be interested in spreading “religious messages” would have gladly taken this money. However, ChildFund did not. According to Gen Con officials, the charity didn’t feel comfortable with the donation because of Gen Con’s relationship with the popular pen-and-paper game, Dungeons & Dragons. Dungeons & Dragons is a popular target of fundamentalist Christians because of all the Satanic elements the game endorses… such as pretending to be a dwarf, rolling dice, and listening to a lot of bad progressive rock.