Before donating to a charitable cause it’s important to do your research and know if your money is being wisely spent for a cause which you support. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is a religious charity with a presence in more than 130 countries. We will take a look at their mission, goals, and their overall effectiveness in accomplishing their stated vision.

What is ADRA?

ADRA began in 1956 as the Seventh-Day Adventist Welfare Service (SAWS). The Seventh-Day Adventist Church recognized a worldwide need for disaster relief. By 1958 SAWS was providing aid to 22 countries and had shipped supplies totalling $485,000.

In the 1970s, the charity expanded its vision to include long-term projects that improved the lives of communities. The name was changed in 1973 to Seventh-Day Adventist World Service to reflect the broader view. Their work now included programs such as assisting hurricane victims and building health clinics in third world countries.

They changed the name once again to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in 1984. They have continued to expand their mission of humanitarian service to all corners of the globe. In 1997 ADRA received General Consultative Status from the United Nations, which allows the organization to work in more countries on a broader scale.

What Does ADRA Do?

ADRA has nearly 6,000 workers in over 130 countries who are striving to improve the quality of life for the people of that region. This is done by focusing on key impact areas that ADRA has determined are crucial for growth and progress. The impact areas are livelihoods and agriculture, children, water, sanitation and hygiene, community health, disaster response, economic growth, hunger and nutrition, social justice, and gender equity.

Livelihoods and Agriculture

ADRA seeks to break the cycle of poverty by providing the means for families and individuals to care for themselves. They supply small animals, such as goats and chickens, that can create an income stream for a family. The ADRA seed bank gives individuals the opportunity to grow crops for both home and market. Many women benefit from this program as they are now able to earn a dependable income.


Education is the foundation of ADRA’s program to help children. The organization builds schools, trains teachers, and purchases educational supplies. ADRA also builds centers where children without families can receive counselling, support, and shelter.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Clean water is a basic need and a universal problem. ADRA has been installing pipes to carry clean water, digging wells, and building water filters for over 30 years. They have also established an education program to help individuals and communities learn about waterborne illnesses and how to prevent them.

Community Health

ADRA studies each community to determine what health needs and problems exist there. They then create a program to address those needs that includes the local resources and leadership. Possible programs may include building clinics, educating health workers, and securing necessary health supplies.

Disaster Response

Typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding all wreak havoc on struggling communities. ADRA provides disaster relief in the form of supplies, funds, and workers who can help clean up and rebuild. Since ADRA already has a physical presence in many nations, they are positioned to quickly act and respond to disasters.

Economic Growth

person holding a plant in the hand

ADRA assists families and individuals in becoming self-reliant by increasing access to funding, loans, and grants. They educate small-business owners about ways to market their product, reduce costs, and increase productivity. The goal of this program is to build and improve upon economic systems already in place.

Hunger and Nutrition

Nearly one billion people around the world are food insecure. ADRA works to help households achieve nutrient-rich diets through education and increasing the access to a healthy food supply. They also teach women and children how to care for themselves and treat the warning signs of malnutrition.

Social Justice

ADRA reaches out to the vulnerable and marginalized in society by training communities on the importance of inclusive policies. They work with displaced persons and refugees worldwide to ensure they have representation, rights, and access to education. The goal is to remove social barriers based on prejudice.

Gender Equality

Women and children are at risk around the world. ADRA works at the family and community levels to change perceptions about women and their place in society. They seek to improve the opportunities women have to receive education and find work that will enable them to support their families.

What is ADRA’s Mission?

“ADRA works with people in poverty and distress to create just and positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action.” As a Christian organization, ADRA believes that their work is a manifestation of God’s grace and that it is part of the Christian imperative to help others feel that grace in their lives.

A core part of the ADRA vision is the idea that no one is a stranger. We are all connected regardless of background or ethnicity and are, therefore, responsible for each other. To this end, ADRA strives to erase boundaries, help the lost and forgotten, and achieve permanent change.

How Can I Help ADRA?

ADRA accepts donations of all sizes. You can make a one-time donation or a monthly contribution. You can also purchase gifts from their catalogue. This allows them to give a goat or a chicken, whatever you purchase, to a family in need while you tell a friend you donated a goat for their birthday. It’s a great idea for the friend who has everything.

You can work for ADRA as a volunteer, an intern, or an employee. The requirements for each position are different, so it is necessary to read through all the listings to find the most appropriate position. Many foreign positions require citizenship in that country.

ADRA organizes mission trips to many different countries. You can choose to join one that meets your interests and talents. Spend two weeks building homes in the Dominican Republic or three weeks in Brazil working on water projects.

How Effective is ADRA?

ADRA has been a well-regarded charity for many years. It is a highly rated charity with Charity Navigator and is comparatively ranked at three stars out of four with similar organizations, such as Global Communities, CARE, and World Education. Lutheran World Relief is ranked slightly higher with four stars out of four.

On Charity Navigator, they have a total score of 87.18 out of 100. Their financial score is 83.74 out of 100, and their accountability and transparency score is 92 out of 100. These are very good numbers that show that they are serious about the charitable work that it does. It is not simply a glamour charity concerned with outward appearances.

From their total expenses in 2016, program expenses were 80.6%, administrative expenses were 16.6%, and fundraising expenses were 2.6%. It’s hard to evaluate these numbers fairly as every charity has special needs and expenses, but generally, an administrative expense of 15% or lower is considered excellent. their numbers are very close to that and are well within the range of a financially responsible charity.

According to their annual report for 2016, they provided aid and services to 1.5 million refugees, stateless people, and internally displaced persons. The top five countries for numbers of people assisted were the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Malawi. In 2016, they had 7,241 staff, 28,916 volunteers, and 94,277 donors. Their total contributions were $55,016,285.

adra website frontpage

Should I Contribute to ADRA?

ADRA appears to be a very strong charity on paper. It has good financials and accountability. It has been working on the international stage long enough that its reputation is sound. It also collaborates with other organizations worldwide and has UN recognition, both of which would not be possible if it were a shoddy or shady organization. If you want to be sure your donation is well spent, it is a good charity to trust.

It is an unabashedly Christian organization. Their mission, vision, and goals all include the mandate to share the grace of God with his children. If you are Christian or this vision appeals to you, by all means, contribute or volunteer. If you prefer a non-religious charity or something less overtly Christian, you can look elsewhere.

You should also make sure that you want to support its programs. They are quite successful in the work they do. In recent years, they have been particularly focused on refugees and other displaced persons by providing aid, supplies, shelter, and legal help. If this is not how you want your money to be spent, choose a charity that is more closely aligned with your personal goals.

Overall, it remains as a financially responsible and ethical organization that does good work around the world. They are concerned with the health and welfare of marginalized groups, including women and children. Their policies are founded upon a vision of compassionate humanitarian aid for all people, regardless of nationality or social status. You can donate to ADRA with a clear conscience that your money will be appreciated and valued.

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