• Report: #280159

Complaint Review: Plan USA And Plan International

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  • Submitted: Sun, October 21, 2007
  • Updated: Sun, April 06, 2014

  • Reported By:Brooklyn New York
Plan USA And Plan International
155 Plan Way Warwick, Rhode Island U.S.A.

Plan USA And Plan International: Worthy Charitable Organizations - Or Total Scams? Child sponsorship, children, Third World Countries, charity Warwick Rhode Island

*Consumer Comment: Template

*General Comment: Happy with Plan USA

*Consumer Comment: Completely Satisfied

*Consumer Comment: Plan is Legitimate - I went to meet the children....

*General Comment: Child Sponsorship is not easy!

*General Comment: Child Sponsorship is not easy!

*Consumer Comment: Response to Comment #9 and #10 regarding "fake reviews"

*Consumer Comment: I love Plan USA

*General Comment: Agree with comment #9 Plan USA: Suspicious scam, likely fake positive reviews

*Consumer Comment: Plan USA: Suspicious scam, likely fake positive reviews

*Consumer Comment: AFFORD ALL LITERATURE/FOLDERS/ADS?

*Consumer Comment: Please give from a good place with no expectations

*REBUTTAL Individual responds: I am considering withdrawing my sponsorship too

*General Comment: this is a good charity

*Consumer Comment: According to the BBB, Plan USA is legitimate

*Consumer Suggestion: Resources for sponsors of Plan USA

*Consumer Comment: plan usa

*Consumer Comment: Plan USA is a legitimate organization

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A few years ago I sponsored three children from three different countries through Plan International, which is also called Plan USA, a charitable organization dedicated to helping children in Third World countries. Plan International, for a monthly donation, is supposedly involved in improving the lives of the children by offering services to the child and the child's community. Donations are used to help the child pay for school fees, creating better living conditions in their towns, like creating a well with potable water for the children and their families to utilize, etc. The sponsors can write to the children, send them gifts, and receive yearly reports on their progress. It all sounds very good, and since I had the money to spare, I sponsored one child in Southeast Asia, one in South Asia, and one in South America.

With the first child I sponsored, I also bought some clothes for her and her sisters and sent them to her through Plan International. Strangely, many months later, I had heard nothing back from Plan, or from the child, about receiving the clothes, so I called to find out what had happened.

It turned out that, although Plan had recorded in their files that they had received "a gift" from me to the child, no further information was available about the gift beyond that. Plan did not know whether or not the child had received the gifts; Plan had not recorded what the gifts were; and Plan had no idea whether the child had actually received the presents!

In fact, according to the woman I spoke with, Plan International did not even have paperwork regarding whether the gift ever left the Plan International headquarters in Rhode Island! And if the clothes had reached their destination in Asia, well, the country where the child lived was rife with corruption, or so the worker told me, and the presents could have been stolen there.

It sounded to me like Plan International ran on simply hideous business practices, since they did not bother to keep track of the gifts that the donors sent to their sponsored children after they arrived at the Plan office, but I let it go. I reasoned that the presents really could have been stolen once they reached the child's country.

A friend told me that her minister had once sponsored a girl for about ten years, though I don't know whether it was through Plan International or another charitable organization, and made a habit of sending the girl gifts. He later met her on a visit to her country, and found out that she had never, ever received any of them.

I also was sponsoring the other two children and after awhile was receiving yearly reports, and yearly photographs, of all three children.

One of the yearly update photos of another child, not the one I'd sent the gifts to, was very disturbing. The child had been dressed up and was wearing makeup. She was six years old, in makeup. She was also glaring at the camera with a look of pure hatred. I had to wonder just who exactly was acting as the Plan International photographer, or who was standing near the photographer as the picture was taken, and who the little girl was glaring at - and why. What would cause such hatred on a little six-year-old's face? I had to wonder what was going on. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that one certainly begged for an explanation.

The yearly reports on the children would not all arrive on a certain date; they came when they came. I received a report on one child that contained details about her - how she was doing in school, her favorite subject, what she did in her spare time, what the health status of her extended family was.

A few months later, an update came in the mail on another of the children I was sponsoring, and it sure looked familiar. I realized that it was, word-for-word, category by category, the same, exact, IDENTICAL report that I had already received on the first child!
To make matters even more interesting, the two children did not live in the same countries. Plan International representatives were supposed to be on-site in the various countries, writing the reports on the kids, but what I was receiving in the mail were two identical reports from two different Plan reps in two different countries. It seemed logical to conclude that the "reports" from the "Plan representatives" had been faked.

When I complained to Donor Relations over at Plan International, they began emailing me and asked if they could call me. I said no, don't call me, since I was at work, just email me. A few minutes after asking that they do not call me at work, the woman I had been corresponding with over email called me at work anyway, saying she knew I'd said don't call but she wanted to call me just the same. I thought that was probably as unprofessional as it could get, but it got worse.

That phone call with the Donor Relations woman was the most incredibly flat-out bizarre conversation I have ever had in my whole life, anywhere, with anybody. I reiterated to Ms. Donor Relations what I had already written via email: that I had received two identical "on-site reports" on two sponsored children living in two different countries and said that something really seemed to be wrong with this whole picture. The Donor Relations woman said, "Oh, that's the format. The format's a template. The reps work from a template of what to update about the children, and then they fill in the answers." I said then how come the answers are completely, word-for-word, identical on the two reports of the two kids in the two different countries? I asked, does the template provide the answers on the children's progress, too? The woman evaded my direct question with, "That's a template. The format is similar on both reports since our reps work from a template."

This went on seven or eight times. Why, I asked, also seven or eight times, are the answers about the two children in two different countries the same on both reports? Her reply? "The format is a template, see, let me explain to you what a template is. You don't seem to understand what a template is."

I said I work with forms all day long, and in my job I created templates, and the definition of a template is not what is in question here. The fact that the written reports on the two children were the exact same is what I am questioning.

Finally Ms. Donor Relations realized that I was not going to be put off by her misdirection about the template and finally she said the Plan International reps use the template forms and write the answers in, concerning each individual child. I said, for perhaps the ninth time, then why are the update answers on the two reports identical? And why was she giving me such endless double-talk instead of directly answering my direct question?

My boss was sitting there listening to all of this, and by that point he was splitting his sides laughing.

Well, the girl said, maybe there was some kind of a problem if the two reports were exactly alike. This I can believe, I said, since I'd found an article on the Internet by an investigative reporter that had accused Plan of some pretty strange tactics. The girl tried to convince me that the author of the article was "negative" and had some kind of a problem. Then, incredibly, once again Ms. Donor Relations began to backpedal - and began to define templates!

I brought up the child whose presents I'd sent had never arrived, and Ms. Donor Relations said, "Oh, we've sat her family down and told the family very firmly that you want more contact with them, so now the family will make more of an effort to communicate with you."

I said, "WHAT??! I have no issue with the letters I receive from the family. I have an issue with the fact that if a sponsor sends a child presents in care of the Plan International office, Plan can't figure out, and track, what happens to them after they arrive in Rhode Island. There was no need to sit the family down and tell them anything - my issue was never with them."

Well, said Ms. Donor Relations, we've told them to communicate with you better, and off she went on another tangent that was almost as good as the one concerning the definition of a template, saying the family now understands that I want to hear from them more, over and over. All I had wanted to do, I said, was find out if the kid got her presents - that was it - and I'd have had my answer about that if Plan International had bothered to keep track of the presents that come into their office, which has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with communications from the child's family. Since there was no way to track the presents beyond their coming through the door of Plan International, they could have wound up anywhere I said; they may never have left Rhode Island. And I am not the only sponsor who sends presents.

Ms. Donor Relations repeated that the child's family would be communicating with me better, since Plan had sat them down and asked them to!

At that point I said I wanted to withdraw my sponsorship of all three of the children, and it was due to the blatant fact that there was obviously something wrong, very wrong, seriously wrong, with the whole operation at Plan International.

After the tsunami happened in December 2005, I wrote to Plan International to inquire about one of the kids I had sponsored, who had lived in the area that was hit by the tsunami. To date, and this is October of 2007, I still have not received any reply whatsoever about her.

While I think it is a very decent thing to try to help and improve the lives of children in Third World countries, the donations of the sponsors need to be directed towards decent, well-run charitable organizations, not the Rhode Island debacle that is Plan International/Plan USA.

Peace
Brooklyn, New York
U.S.A.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/21/2007 07:12 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Plan-USA-And-Plan-International/Warwick-Rhode-Island-02886/Plan-USA-And-Plan-International-Worthy-Charitable-Organizations-Or-Total-Scams-Child-s-280159. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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#1 Consumer Comment

Template

AUTHOR: kevin canuck - ()

Maybe they are using a template to respond What I find odd is why if your so happy with this org. you are on a site about ripoffs and scams you have nothing else to do very strange indeed

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#2 General Comment

Happy with Plan USA

AUTHOR: Rose - (United States of America)

I have been a Plan sponsor since 1979 and I have received many pictures of the children I have sponsored with the presents I have sent them  Years ago you could send a bigger selection of items and I have a picture of one of my first kids holding the doll I sent her.  I have recieved over the years many letters describing their lives and the happiness and gratitude they have for our help.  And, yes some kids write more than others.  I have found that the older the child usually the more letters you will get over the year.  Anyway I think it is a great charity and from the pictures I have received I totally believe that my sponsored children got what I sent them. 
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#3 Consumer Comment

Completely Satisfied

AUTHOR: satisfied - (United States of America)

I have been a doner to Plan USA since it was Foster Parents Plan. I have sponsered countless children in these many years. I now sponser 2 children. When we were able to send gifts, I received thank you letter s listing the gifts received by the child. I only had one problem with a child in Ecuador.not receiving some gifts, It was cleared up.
 
I have been very fortunite to be able to visit Thailand, Viet Nam, Peru and Ecuador to meet my sponsored children and to see the wonderful work that Plan is doing in all these countries. I saw the results of my donations with my own eyes. If you question whether this organization is legitmite, ask Plan to put you in touch with a donor who has actually visited these countries and they will reassure you as to the wonderful changes Plan has helped implemented.
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#4 Consumer Comment

Plan is Legitimate - I went to meet the children....

AUTHOR: Aaron - (United States of America)

After several years of sponsoring two children through Plan USA, I flew out to meet the children in person. All donors can meet the children they sponsor. Plan staff picked me up at the airport and drove me to the village school, which was paid for by Plan donors. The children had prepared a show and the principal introduced me to the teachers and showed me the school room by room. The entire village came to watch the childrens show, with songs and poems, which I couldn't understand. The villagers brought me gifts, bags of peanuts and melon seeds, and thanked me for my support. I tried to explain that my donations were only one of many, but they didn't understand, and since I was the first donor to visit the village, I received their warm thank you's. That afternoon, I went to the children's home and met their families. I had dinner in their home, pourridge and beer, and got to spend time with the children and families in the letters.

The impact Plan USA had on this village was very real, and it was such an honor to be a part of it, and see the impact first hand.
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#5 General Comment

Child Sponsorship is not easy!

AUTHOR: Mikey Mo - (United States of America)

I've been giving to Plan for some time now, and I actually work with some of of the largest NGO's in the world on a regular basis. From my experience, Plan seems to be one of the most effective charities out there. Please be clear, child sponsorship in general is essentially a donor retention tool. Plan is very upfront about the fact that the money does not go directly to one child, and has actually stopped transferring gifts that are larger then a photo or a piece of paper. It's obviously not because they don't want impoverished little kids to get gifts, but the hassle is far too great and it ends up negatively effecting retention which negatively effects these communities all together. Please remember that most of these communities are incredibly rural and therefor difficult to get to. We in the US complain about the postal service here all of the time, imagine what it's like to deliver goods in the most impoverished areas in the world. 

It's understandable why you would be upset that your gifts didn't arrive where they should have, and that Plan Rep conversation sounds like it was frustrating, but please remember why it's important that we give to NGO's like Plan in the first place. We should all have an appreciation for how difficult it is to coordinate communication between so many people, in such remote areas.

Having personally met people from the field, and people who're directly by Plan's work. I stay keep giving, give them the tools to break the cycle of poverty in these communities through education, so we don't need to ship gifts anymore. 

Thank you to those who chimed in to defend Plan USA here. 

-MM 
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#6 General Comment

Child Sponsorship is not easy!

AUTHOR: Mikey Mo - (United States of America)

I've been giving to Plan for some time now, and I actually work with some of of the largest NGO's in the world on a regular basis. From my experience, Plan seems to be one of the most effective charities out there. Please be clear, child sponsorship in general is essentially a donor retention tool. Plan is very upfront about the fact that the money does not go directly to one child, and has actually stopped transferring gifts that are larger then a photo or a piece of paper. It's obviously not because they don't want impoverished little kids to get gifts, but the hassle is far too great and it ends up negatively effecting retention which negatively effects these communities all together. Please remember that most of these communities are incredibly rural and therefor difficult to get to. We in the US complain about the postal service here all of the time, imagine what it's like to deliver goods in the most impoverished areas in the world. 

It's understandable why you would be upset that your gifts didn't arrive where they should have, and that Plan Rep conversation sounds like it was frustrating, but please remember why it's important that we give to NGO's like Plan in the first place. We should all have an appreciation for how difficult it is to coordinate communication between so many people, in such remote areas.

Having personally met people from the field, and people who're directly by Plan's work. I stay keep giving, give them the tools to break the cycle of poverty in these communities through education, so we don't need to ship gifts anymore. 

Thank you to those who chimed in to defend Plan USA here. 

-MM 
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#7 Consumer Comment

Response to Comment #9 and #10 regarding "fake reviews"

AUTHOR: htl2010 - (United States of America)

Hi,

I am the author of comment #4 written on 01/28/2010.  This is to affirm that I am NEITHER an employee of Plan USA NOR my comment #4  was a "fake review", as per your words.  

I only told my own experience with Plan USA (having been a sponsor of several kids in Burkina Faso (one of the poorest countries in Africa for many years).  I do not gain anything by posting my comments but it is up to you to believe me or not.  That was why I posted the link to the BBB to show that Plan USA has met  the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability (http://www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Standards/).  In fact, Plan USA is the holder of the BBB Charity Seal.

In my opinion, the main factor to check before giving your hard-earned money to a charity is to do your own due diligence and make sure that the charity is legitimate.  For me, one way to verify it is to check the Better Business Bureau (BBB).  The most important factor is that the charity should not spend most of its budget on adminitrative expenses (salaries, fund raisings, admin. charges, ...) but instead the majority of the funds should profit the charitable cause in question.  That is why, as far as I am concerned, the BBB Standards for Charity Accountibility are of premordial importance.

But in the end, it's your money, do with it as you please.  I just don't want the kids that Plan USA is helping to be negatively affected by some people's bad experience with Plan USA because Plan USA is not a scam (according to the BBB). 

If you do have bad experience with Plan USA (or any other companies, charitable or otherwise) and think that it tries to scam you, please report it to the BBB.  They will investigate it and the results will help all of us.

If you still choose not to work with Plan USA, please give your money to other charitable organizations.  Do not let one bad experience discourage you from helping others, especially small children in those forsaken countries.  We are their only hope.

Regards,

HTL   
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#8 Consumer Comment

I love Plan USA

AUTHOR: CozyAndy - (United States of America)

I have been sponsoring a child in Asia for about 9 years, and briefly sponsored a second child in Africa until she "aged out."  I am a real person, not someone hired by Plan to write a positive review!  Over the years, I have been impressed not only by the work Plan has done in the communities they serve, but also by their emergency response to various catastrophes over the years, such as tsumanis, earthquakes, droughts, etc.  I have donated to many of these emergency relief efforts, and my research has convinced me that Plan is one of the few organizations trusted enough by local governments to actually get in there and deliver help.  I sent my sponsored child gifts and letters over the years, and occasionally received back a letter that thanked me for a gift in detail, so I know it was received.  While I was concerned about whether a gift was received and was relieved to hear that it was, I also realized that these families and children do not really have the leisure to sit down and write letters.  It takes a lot of effort for them to do so.  They are all working to subsist, even the children, and donors should just be happy to be making a contribution to help their communities develop stronger means of infrastructure and support.  Americans are used to having extreme accountability - and that is fine when it comes to the financial reports of a charity or business.  But to expect a charity that is ferrying letters and gifts to thousands of children, through many layers of staff and local aide workers, in poor rural communities without the types of offices, technology and modes of communication to which we are accustomed is pretty unreasonable, if not unthinking.  I was notified that Plan was discontinuing its policy of accepting and sending gifts for sponsored children, in part due to the fact that not every sponsor sent gifts and so it set up inequities and jealousies among the children, but I would imagine that another reason was that it was just too difficult to ensure that gifts reached their intended recipients.  (By the way, I was told very clearly at the outset that theft or misplacement could easily occur and that I sent gifts at my own risk.  I did so anyway in the hopes that at least a few of them would reach my sponsored child.)  Plan does amazing work in communities that are so challenged that in many cases they do not have reliable clean water, power sources, job opportunities, shelter.  It would be a shame not to support their efforts just because you do not hear from a child (or the parent or staff worker writing on their behalf) on a regular basis. The letter writing (and gift giving) is just a means by which to make the support we give more personal, so we know there are real people benefitted by our donations.  It is not the point of our giving.  I intend to keep donating to this wonderful organization that tries very hard to make a difference.
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#9 General Comment

Agree with comment #9 Plan USA: Suspicious scam, likely fake positive reviews

AUTHOR: Andrew - (United States of America)

I was also approached today in Atlanta by a man who said he was out helping save children. I said that I needed to check out the organization and asked for it's website. He said "man, you don't need to see a website, I am a walking website. I am touch screen and have all the information you need"
I asked to take a brochure back and reiterated that I wouldn't give unless I knew more about the organization and he said I couldn't have anything to take. He did give me a card with the URL of planusa.org/atlanta which redirects to the homepage. I also think it is strange that there were positive comments right after the posting as this is a common technique used by reputation management folks. They post fake positive reviews in the hopes that people will read two or three rebuttals and then dismiss the initial complaint.
Looking at the BBB report on finances:
http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/relief-and-development/plan-usa-in-warwick-ri-2809#charFinancial
Looks like the former CEO made close to 200k:
Although current CEO compensation is not available, compensation
for former CEO W. Ahuma Adodoadji was $198,918 for the fiscal year ended
June 30, 2010. Compensation includes annual salary and, if applicable,
benefit plans, expense accounts, and other allowances.
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#10 Consumer Comment

Plan USA: Suspicious scam, likely fake positive reviews

AUTHOR: vkrn - (USA)

I find it suspicious that suddenly, in January 2010, people decided on the 6th, 18th, 22nd, and 28th, to file positive reviews of Plan USA.  What's even more interesting is that these supposedly different people all cite similar, if not almost exact, fact patterns to support their glowing comments.  It seems like a coordinated publicity effort by Plan USA employees themselves.

I just had an encounter with Plan USA where, after work, I was accosted by an employee on a street corner to sponsor a child.  He was very aggressive and used typical, obvious sales tactics to close the deal with me (shaking my hand, making eye contact from a distance and continuing that to draw me in, talking about how he wanted me to sponsor "Marisol", and thus using a specific child's name to engender pity).  Out of politeness, I allowed him a few minutes of my time, but standing at that street corner, I felt I was being shaken down as though he was a panhandler.

I told him frankly that I preferred to research Plan USA online before deciding to sponsor a child, but that I would be more than happy to take his literature.  He was quite against me both looking anything up online -- which is strange, in this Internet age -- and claimed that he was a "walking website."  He also refused to give me any brochures about this child, citing understandable privacy reasons.

All told, my suspicions were definitely triggered by this pushy Plan USA hawker who certainly seemed more interested in locking down my money versus encouraging me to read about his organization on my own to make an educated decision.
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#11 Consumer Comment

AFFORD ALL LITERATURE/FOLDERS/ADS?

AUTHOR: hoppy - (Canada)

I certainly like to believe this is a legitimate outfit.  What has me puzzled, is how can they afford to send me all this ad/report materials?brochures that keeps coming, and much with my individual name and the beneficiaries name in beautiful colors, and still perform within their administrative cost statements which if i remember correctly is around 23%.

Can anyone out there explain this to me?   (i support Plan International Canada for about one year one child,  and assume it is the same organization).
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#12 Consumer Comment

Please give from a good place with no expectations

AUTHOR: keith - (United States of America)

I have just sponsored a child with this organization.  I did it because I trust Laurie Metcalfe, and she was the spokesperson on television.  She is an actress, but she would have to be pretty empty to be anything other than genuine in her role with Plan USA.  So I trust her here.

Maybe they will take my money and run to Vegas and bet on horses, but I choose to believe that a child will be helped.  And I may never, ever know for sure in the way that we do day-to-day in our society.  But I choose to believe that even if my child isn't getting the gifts, some child is.  If there is a nefarious use of a blanket other than keeping someone warm, I don't know what that is.  So if I send a blanket, and it gets stolen, then probably someone else who needed it is now keeping warm.  That's ok too.

If what Plan USA says is really true, though, what a great thing to do for the world.  Please remember that before you post something that paints alot of people in a certain way.  I don't know them, but your post might dissuade people from helping children, and I know that is not what you want.  You seem like a good person because you are trying to give.  Maybe if you decide that it's ok not to know for sure and give up control of that, you'll be ok knowing you are doing good in the world either way. 
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#13 REBUTTAL Individual responds

I am considering withdrawing my sponsorship too

AUTHOR: May - (United States of America)

I've sponsor a girl thru Plan USA for several years now. I received about 3 letters from the child in the first 2 years, and then it stopped. I still send letters and cards to my child periodically but I don't hear from her any more. Last year I received a very strange letter. In the original copy, which was written in Chinese, the letter was addressed to someone else. But in the translation copy, it was addressed to me. Luckily I can read Chinese, and from the content of the Chinese letter, i know it was not for me. However, some of the content was omitted in the translation and it almost appeared that the translator purposely made it look like it was for me. I was very puzzled. I called PlanUSA and they were not able to provide an explanation. I am really doubtful about where the money and letters go. I think I'd want to discontinue my sponsorship too.
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#14 General Comment

this is a good charity

AUTHOR: pat - (United States of America)

I have sponsored about a dozen kids over the past 20 years with Plan and currently have 5. I've sent letters, cards and presents to all of them. I have always gotten letters back from the child thanking me, as well as random letters throughout the year. Some write more than others, sometimes the mother writes. The reports have always been different and individual even though a template form is used for them to follow. I firmly believe Plan to be an effective way to help children in poor countries.
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#15 Consumer Comment

According to the BBB, Plan USA is legitimate

AUTHOR: htl2010 - (United States of America)

Hi,    

I have sponsored kids (and still am) for over 12 years through Plan USA. 

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Plan USA is legit and meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Here's a link to the BBB's evaluation:

http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/child-sponsorship/plan-usa-in-warwick-ri-2809

If you're wondering what the "20 Standards for Charity Accountability" are, click on the link below:

http://www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Standards/

So don't let the original report scare you, please go ahead and help those kids.  They need us!

By the way, it's always good practices to check out the charities you want to support by going to the BBB web site: www.bbb.org.

Regards,

HTL 

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#16 Consumer Suggestion

Resources for sponsors of Plan USA

AUTHOR: Plan USA - (United States of America)

To whom it may concern:

My name is Deb and I have been sponsoring a child for a number of years. I am sorry to learn of this sponsor's experience. By posting this comment I hope that people considering sponsorship will be able to access the information they need to be confident with their charitable giving.

You can learn about their child sponsorship program at:
http://www.planusa.org/learnmore

If you have questions or concerns their customer service number is: 1-800-556-7918
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#17 Consumer Comment

plan usa

AUTHOR: vincent - (United States of America)

I have sponsored three children for approx 12 years.  I find the oganiztion upstanding. I receive periodic reports on my children's progress, periodic notes from them individually, photos of them and their families, and acknowledgement and thanks for Xmas gifts sent. I don't know how they could do any better.
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#18 Consumer Comment

Plan USA is a legitimate organization

AUTHOR: Tiki - (United States of America)

I have sponsored two children in Plan USA over the last 18 years. I regularly get photos of my child with the gifts I sent.I also get letters about my gifts from them. Perhaps Plan USA has a customer service problem these days as I have noticed the staff at the offices in charge of donor relations are not as helpful or friendly as they used to be but my experience has been that the children and communities do benefit. Sponsors are always welcome to visit and see for themselves as well.
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