Financial FAQs

A. Our Promise To You

1. How is your spending effective?

We will honour your generous contribution by ensuring it is spent effectively to create meaningful change. Free The Children works both at home and abroad to empower and help change the lives of young people.

For international projects, the solutions highlighted in our materials and the suggested donation amounts are based on the average costs in the countries in which we operate and within the variety of needs within Free The Children’s program areas (EducationClean Water and Sanitation, HealthAlternative Income and Livelihood and Agriculture and Food Security) and your gift supports the overall mission of the organization in these five program areas.

In cases where donations exceed what is needed or local conditions prevent program implementation, Free The Children will redirect funds to similar activities to help people in need. If additional funding is required because of specific project requirements or challenging local conditions, Free The Children may provide additional funding to complete the project to meet our commitment to our beneficiaries. In all cases, we commit that your donation will be used to achieve the highest impact possible.

Free The Children has a unique development model called “Adopt a Village”. Through the Adopt a Village development program, there are five pillars of development (i) Education; (ii) Clean Water and Sanitation; (iii) Health; (iv) Alternative Income and Livelihood and; (v) Agriculture and Food Security projects to help ensure financial sustainability.

Putting the five pillars together creates a holistic development model that helps to ensure children and community members are able to break the cycle of poverty. When a donation is made to build a school, depending on the needs on the ground, it is used to help build a school, support education projects and/or towards the overall development and long term sustainability of the community. As a valued donor to the work of Free The Children, you will be assigned to a community which you have helped to support and be provided with updates from the field.

Moreover, because of the mission of Free The Children as an organization of children helping children through education, the holistic approach of the Adopt a Village Model also enables the education of children in North American about these important global development issues. This important aspect of Free The Children programming ensures long term systemic change.

2. How are Free The Children’s funds allocated?

Free The Children has two aspects to its mission: Our work starts at home with domestic programs empowering children and young people to become positive agents of change. Last year we spent 46.9% of our budget on our domestic programming, which includes, among other initiatives, implementing programs with Aboriginal and at-risk youth. These initiatives include curriculum resources on active local and global citizenship; school-based speaking tours and leadership training workshops for students; mentorship by youth programming coordinators; and We Day educational celebrations. Through these various efforts, Free The Children is proud to contribute over one million hours of volunteer service every year and to mobilize youth to fundraise for more than 500 worthy causes.

Free The Children spend 43.5% of last year’s funds on international development programs. The organization has been widely recognized for its sustainable, scalable development model called Adopt a Village. The five pillars are education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood and agriculture and food security. International project expenses include direct cash and in-kind contributions. Direct funding is often spent on the building of schools, the provision of water programs or, perhaps simply paying for a community garden to ensure children have healthy food to eat at lunch. Free The Children’s international work would not be possible without critical in-kind contributions, the majority being medical and school supplies collected, distributed and administered to allow for our development model to be achieved.

The balance of the funds, 9.6% this past fiscal year (ending March 31st for Free The Children Canada), is spent on non-project-related costs associated with the management of the organization, including human resources functions, accounting and office supplies.

Free The Children is audited annually and an all-volunteer, experienced Board of Directors oversees the work of Free The Children, which includes setting policies and procedures, as well as monitoring our budget and expenses to ensure funds are spent wisely.

Foundations, corporations and adults often choose support to Free The Children’s work at home, to empower youth to change the world. Young people generally support Free The Children’s work abroad through their direct fundraising and in-kind contributions.

3. How are you able to keep your administration costs low?

Free The Children works diligently to ensure that donations are used effectively and efficiently. We want as much of our funding as possible to support programs that (i) engage children in the developed world to become global citizens, and (ii) support children in the developing world to receive an education and break the cycle of poverty.
There are a number of ways we are able to keep our administrative rate as low as possible. Some helpful information is below.

What we don’t do:

  • We don’t employ third-party fundraising organizations to solicit money on our behalf.
  • We don’t do direct mail campaigns to solicit new donors.
  • We don’t hire people to stand on street corners asking money from people passing by.
  • We don’t use telemarketers.
  • We don’t hire high priced fundraising consultants.
  • We don’t produce or pay for television commercials or pay TV networks to air our programming to solicit donations.

What we do:

  • We treat our donors as important stakeholders and keep them informed about the impact they are making.
  • We rely on volunteers and co-op students to help offset as many administrative support functions as possible.
  • The majority of our team members are young world changers. We seek to provide incredible work experience in the non-profit sector to many recent university and college graduates. Our team comes to work with us not for a pay cheque, but for the dividend they receive in creating a better world.
  • Our career track staff, many of whom have been with the organization for 5-7 years or more, are here because they are committed to the mission of what we do and how we do it, not because of how much we pay. They come to us from roles previously held in government, the charitable sector and industry. Many have MA, MBAs or legal experience. They are all passionate world changers and part of the Free The Children family.
  • We work with local experts on the ground to help our programs be as successful as possible. This also helps build local capacity.
  • Our partner organization is Me to We. Me to We is an innovative social enterprise that provides people with daily choices that can truly change the world. Through socially conscious and environmentally friendly clothes, books and accessories – as well as life-changing leadership training, inspiring speakers and transformative travel experiences – Me to We measures the bottom line, not by dollars earned, but by the number of lives we change and the positive social and environmental impact we make. In addition, half of Me to We’s net profit is donated to Free The Children. The other half is reinvested to grow the enterprise and ensure its sustainability in giving you better choices for a better world. The support of Me to We allows Free The Children to scale its operational capacity while still keeping a reasonable rate of administration.
  • Me to We specifically supports the administration costs of the charity through both volunteer support (thousands of volunteers hours each year done by Me to We staff) and financial contributions. This helps to ensure more donor dollars go to Free The Children projects.
  • The vast majority of our corporate, foundation and adult fundraising is done by our board of directors in addition to our founders of the organization, Craig & Marc Kielburger. All are volunteers for the charity. (Craig & Marc’s day jobs are as directors of Me to We, but donate dozens and dozens of hours each week to Free The Children activities).
  • We rely on incredible partners who provide pro-bono services. This would include pro-bono legal services from Torys LLP, free creative and media services from UM, donated public service announcements from CTV, free logistical support and storage facilities from Pareto, pro bono financial advisory support from KPMG and shipping from DHL.We are grateful to all of our generous partners.

 4. Free The Children has a long history of “unqualified” audit reports. What does this mean and why is it important?

We are audited every year in Canada and the United States by an independent third party auditing company accounting firm comprised of financial experts. Every year, Free The Children has received an unqualified audit rating, which is the highest possible rating for such a report*. It is a “clean opinion”. This means that our auditors have found no questions or concerns of any kind in our processes of financial accountability and transparency and have fully vetted our donor information. We are very proud of this. It is akin to Free The Children receiving an annual report card which shows A+ grades in every subject, over the last 10 years.

*Our auditors choose not to evaluate the “completeness of revenue”, as this is not expected and it is often very difficult to ascertain for certain organizations in the charitable sector. Notwithstanding this technical issue, Free The Children has always received “unqualified” audit ratings for each of its audits.

B. About Us

5. What is Free The Children?

Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner that believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. The organization was founded in 1995 by international child rights activist Craig Kielburger.

“Free The Children’s primary goals are to free children from poverty and exploitation, and free young people from the idea that they are powerless to bring about positive social change.”

We believe that youth leadership is the key to achieving a generation of committed and socially active young people. In North America, Free The Children motivates and educates thousands of young people each year through its youth leadership and global education programs.

Internationally, Free The Children has:

  • Built more than 650 schools and school rooms in Asia, Africa and Latin America, providing education to more than 55,000 children every day.
  • Shipped more than $16 million worth of medical supplies around the world.
  • Provided access to health care, clean water and sanitation facilities to one million people.
  • Enabled 30,000 women to gain economic self-sufficiency.
  • Worked in more than 45 countries, building schools in 16

6. How is Free The Children different from other charities?

Our world is complex, and truly effective solutions to the world’s most pressing problems require a holistic approach. We believe in charity that makes a high impact and is accountable, cost-effective and innovative.

Free The Children’s programs solve a social problem and have massive reach, impacting hundreds of thousands of young people each year. Participation in our domestic programming fundamentally alters youth’s value systems, producing transformative change in their lives. Most charities focus on children and young people as the recipients of aid, or as problems to be solved. At Free The Children, we proudly believe that youth can be the greatest problem-solvers. We offer unparalleled depth of programming that touches every aspect of a young person’s life from youth coordinator support to in-class curricular resources to one of the world’s largest social media followings.

Adopt a Village, our overseas development model provides a cutting edge approach to international development that creates substantial, sustainable change overseas through the empowerment of whole communities. Working in partnership with rural communities we focus on providing a holistic solution to ending poverty—a multifaceted approach characterized by five core pillars: Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Health, Alternative Income and Livelihood and Agriculture and Food Security. Each pillar enhances the others, and our outcomes are highly aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, which represent the full spectrum of barriers to poverty reduction.

Lastly, Free The Children does not give hand-outs. We do not merely give a home or a pair of shoes or other personal items. Instead, we seek the greatest benefit through investing in the community infrastructure, so that the community becomes self-sufficient and continues to look after its development even after we leave.

7. Is Free The Children a registered charity?

Yes. Free The Children is a registered charity in Canada and the United States. In Canada the legal name is Kids Can Free The Children.

Kids Can Free The Children Canada Tax ID: 88657 8095 RR0001

Free The Children United States Tax ID: 501 (c)(3)-16-1533544

8. Who supports Free The Children?

On average, half of Free The Children’s funding comes from direct contributions and in-kind support generated by young people. From bake sales, to walk-a-thons, garage sales and coin drives, it is the innovative and passionate fundraising of young people that has always been the fuel for our organization. Whether it be donating funds to support education projects or securing in-kind support of medical supplies to be shipped to communities in need, young people make up the foundation of Free The Children support. Meanwhile, about half of our funding comes from generous adult donors (individuals, foundations, corporations and government) who are often working hard to match the donations of their young counterparts.

C. About Our Work

9. How does Adopt a Village work?

Free The Children implements the Adopt a Village program in eight rural and marginalized areas in the following countries: KenyaRural China, IndiaSierra LeoneEcuadorHaiti, Nicaragua and Ghana. Adopt a Village is a unique, holistic and sustainable approach to community development that is both assets- and rights-based. The program is designed to meet the basic needs of developing communities and eliminate the obstacles preventing children from accessing education.

Adopt a Village is made up of five components crucial to lifting communities from poverty: education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood and agriculture and food security.

a) Education: We believe that education provides the highest return of any social investment in the developing world. Our education programs build schools, libraries and teacher accommodations; support teacher training; and provide school furniture, uniforms and basic school supplies.

b) Clean Water and Sanitation: Many diseases common to developing countries are transmitted through contaminated water and inadequate sanitation systems. In response, Free The Children is providing communities with clean water sources, building latrines in schools and improving practices around basic sanitation.

c) Health: We recognize the link between providing basic health care and building strong communities. Our health care projects include basic medical supplies for health clinics, health care and awareness workshops and sports equipment to promote physical fitness.

d) Alternative Income and Livelihood: Our alternative income programs target marginalized women, providing them with productive resources such as milking/breeding animals, vocational training, micro-credit programs, honey production, beading or business and financial literacy workshops.

e) Agriculture and Food Security: With the support of PotashCorp, Free The Children’s agriculture and food security programs will focus on increasing water access, improving seed quality for farmers, improving soil fertility, improving farmers’ tool kit and capacity building for farmers to ensure long-term sustainability.

For more information on Adopt a Village, please see the FAQ

10. Where has Free The Children built schools in the past?

In addition to our eight Adopt a Village countries Free The Children has also built schools in the past in the following countries:

  • The Gambia
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Peru
  • Guatemala
  • Dominican Republic
  • Sri Lanka
  • Mexico

11. How do you choose where to work?

We work in rural marginalized communities with high incidences of poverty and child labour. At Free The Children, we believe that creating lasting change is not a one-person job; entire communities need to come together as one to make a difference. As a result, we’re currently focusing our Adopt a Village programming in countries where we’ve developed long-standing partnerships with communities, local leaders and governments. These countries include Kenya, Ecuador, Nicaragua, India, Sierra Leone, Haiti and rural China.

12. How long do you stay in a community?

Because we work hand-in-hand with communities to implement our projects, the commitment of all community members is essential to making Adopt a Village work. Our goal is not only to ensure the sustainability of our programs, but to empower communities with the skills and resources needed to change their lives.

Our commitment to each region is only met when community members have acquired these skills and are capable of sustaining change by themselves. As each community is unique and faces its own set of challenges, the length of this process can vary.

3. Who implements Free The Children’s projects?

In every program country, Free The Children has a team of seasoned, mostly local professionals and knowledgeable partners that implement our programs. Regular monitoring and evaluations of the programs are completed by our senior staff and international office. We are committed to hiring locally to ensure the effectiveness of our programs and to build capacity within the regions where we work. The size of the Free The Children country teams varies to reflect the specific needs of each region.

14. How do gifts of farm animals work?

When you donate to the alternative income and livelihood component of our Adopt a Village model, your gift is targeted to our alternative income programs in a specific community, helping community members to gain financial stability.

Our alternative income programs go beyond the provision of animals, and include financial literacy and business skills training for women and their families, ensuring long-term solutions to economic challenges. Goats, pigs, bees and other productive resources can be provided through micro-loan/grants programs or through women’s group activities, depending on the country. This is all part of ensuring our programs are uniquely designed to have the greatest impact for each community we work with.

15. How else can I support the Adopt a Village model in my school?

There are many ways in which you can support the Adopt a Village model in your school. Free The Children has many awareness raising programs, curricula, video resources and a multitude of free educational resources to help bring Adopt a Village alive and become part of the fabric of schools in North America. Please contact us and we will be pleased to send you additional information.

We also ask schools to consider participating in raising funds or materials as part of in-kind contributions. Young people every year raise funds towards the purchase, distribution, shipment and facilitation of our medical supply program. As a result, every year we are able to send millions of dollars of medical supplies to our projects and health facilities, to keep children healthy so they can attend school. Also, students can collect school and health supplies which we are able to ship overseas to the children who attend our schools. If you would like more information on these programs, please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

16. Are the costs featured on this website the exact costs for all projects?

All the prices provided in this website represent average costs in all the countries where Free The Children works. These prices are meant to be used as a general guide for our donors who may choose to contribute to one or more components of the Adopt a Village model. In order to maintain our very low administrative rate we do not provide country specific cost breakdowns.

Some of the average costs for our projects are:

Average Price *   Project
$25 Can buy a school kit for a child or plant ten trees in a school
$50 Can provide a health kit for two children or buy a goat for a family
$100 Can grant a loan for a woman to start a small business or provide clean water for a family
$500 Can provide a six month lunch program for a school or provide furniture and textbooks for a school
$1000 Can provide teacher training programs in communities
$5000 Can build a community well
$10000 Can build a school or a school room **

* The monetary amounts shown represent the average costs of Free The Children projects in the communities in which we work. In cases where donations exceed what is needed or local conditions prevent program implementation, Free The Children will redirect funds to similar activities to help people in need. If additional funding is required because of specific project requirements or challenging local conditions, Free The Children may provide additional funding to complete the project to meet our commitment to our beneficiaries.

** Provides for one classroom at a school – construction design varies depending on country – may consist of one-room schoolhouses, school-room or multi-classroom blocks.

17. Am I eligible for a tax receipt?

As Free The Children is a registered charitable organization in 7 countries, including Canada and the United States, any donation of $10 or greater is tax deductible. In Canada the legal name is Kids Can Free The Children.

Kids Can Free The Children Canada Tax ID: 88657 8095 RR0001

Free The Children United States Tax ID: 501 (c)(3)-16-1533544

For more information contact:

Victor Li
Chief Financial Director
Phone: 1.416.925.5894 ext. 102

18. How do in-kind donations work?

There are two types of in-kind donations which help Free The Children projects overseas, namely (i) the donation of school and health kits and (ii) the donation of medical supplies.

Free The Children collects donated school and health kits from schools in North America which can be readily brought over to the countries in which the organization’s Adopt a Village model is active. Free The Children has thus far collected, sent and distributed over $16 million in medical supplies. School and health kits provide, for example, pencils, pens, notebooks, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap to allow children to both attend school and be healthy at home. These kits go a long way to help children receive an education. If you would like more information on this campaign and how you can participate, please click here or contact us.

Free The Children’s work would not be possible without being able to keep children healthy so they can go to and remain in school. As a result, the collection and distribution of much needed medical supplies are an important part of our development model. Schools in North America can choose to fundraise so we can purchase, ship and distribute select medical supplies which are then used in our medical programs around the world. We are able to receive these supplies at reduced costs from charities which specialize in this field. The in-kind medical supplies are especially important for our medical center in Kenya which serves over 40,000 people. Our work in Haiti speaks to the impact of this program better than any other. Free The Children’s medical supplies and programs literally saved hundreds and hundreds of lives after the outbreak of cholera. We are grateful to the schools and students in North America who help support these efforts on an annual basis. If you would like more information on this campaign and how your school can participate, please click here or contact us.

19. How can I see the results of my contributions?

One of our core values at Free The Children is “honouring every stakeholder” and, among other ways, we adhere to that value by being fully transparent in all our operations. If you choose to donate to our international projects, you will receive periodic updates on the impact of your support.

20. Can I visit the country or community I am sponsoring?

Meeting the community and volunteering to help make the project a reality is an extremely rewarding experience both for the donor and community, and we welcome you to visit communities in many of the countries where we work.

To facilitate your visit, Free The Children works in coordination with our partner organization, Me to We, which plans all trips to our development sites. During the visit, you’ll have a chance to connect with the community you’ve donated to and where circumstances allow even volunteer to implement the projects you’re helping to fund.

We strongly encourage you to visit our projects and experience for yourself to witness the impact that your donation has on the lives of children and families in need. However, due to the remote locations we work in, not all program countries can be visited at the moment. Find out more about Me to We Trips.

21. How long am I committed for?

One time donations: By engaging a community of donors to support a community overseas, we ensure all aspects of the Adopt a Village program are implemented until the projects become self-sustaining. There is no obligation on your part to continue supporting a project.

Ongoing donations: Supporting a community on an ongoing basis by becoming a monthly/annual donor or taking on a fundraising campaign makes an incredible difference in many lives. We’re able to match you with a community you can support over the long-term, receive updates about twice a year and maybe even visit yourself. We encourage you to call or e-mail us to find out more about all the support, resources and benefits we offer to ongoing donors.

If you are an adult donor, please contact:

Free The Children
(416) 925-5894

If you are a youth donor or are otherwise involved in youth support, please contact us at:

Free The Children
(416) 925-5894

22. Will my name be sold to other solicitors?

At Free The Children, we value your support and respect your privacyWe do not sell, rent, or trade the names, postal addresses or e-mail addresses of our donors.