Is UNICEF a good charity? All about the workings of this global humanitarian organization


As a 75-year-old universal humanitarian organization, UNICEF is one of the most prolific charities there is. While it is best known for its good cause and extensive network of charities around the world, it has also established itself as an efficient organization that has brought about significant results.

However, some may be unfamiliar with the workings of UNICEF and remain skeptical of its charities. So, if you are thinking about donating to UNICEF, you might want to know whether your donation will reach its intended destination.

Key Takeaways

  • As a non-profit organization, UNICEF has a program expense ratio of nearly 90 percent.
  • Not only is UNICEF a top-rated charity but is also exempted from tax by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • UNICEF supports a very relevant and important cause by working for the welfare of children.

UNICEF’s non-profit endeavors maintain a program expense ratio of nearly 90 percent

A donation made to UNICEF’s fund would mostly find its way to the welfare of children as UNICEF USA has a program expense ratio (that determines the percentage of program expenses that a non-profit organization spends on its core mission) of 88.4 percent.

It simply means, as stated on the finances page of their website, that “for every dollar spent, 88 cents goes directly towards helping children, about 8 cents [is spent] on fundraising costs and just over 3 cents on administration”.

According to a 2017 article on Forbes, the U.S Fund for UNICEF had maintained an expense ratio of 90 percent for most of its years. The significance of such a high program expense ratio is best explained by Edward G. Lloyd, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, as;

“We maintain our 90 percent program ratio – and adhere to other core financial principles of efficiency – for one simple reason. We put children first. The more money we spend directly to help children, the more lives we help save, every day, in more than 190 countries around the world.”

UNICEF is recognized as a top-charity and the donations made to UNICEF USA Fund are tax-deductible


Charity ratings for UNICEF recognize it as a top organization. For instance, from a 2020 assessment done by Charity Navigator, which is a charity assessment organization based in the United States, UNICEF USA topped the ratings by achieving a score of 97 percent in terms of transparency and accountability.

Besides, in the 20 years of being evaluated by Charity Navigator, UNICEF has an average rating of 89.25 out of 100 and has consistently earned a 3-Star rating out of 4 Stars.

UNICEF has also been vetted by GlobalGiving, which is a top-rated non-profit charity that connects global crowdfunding platforms with grassroots charitable projects. Further to being vetted, UNICEF was awarded GlobalGiving’s ‘Superstar’ status for recording the highest level of engagement and effectiveness in the previous year.

Moreover, as a non-profit organization, UNICEF is exempted from federal income tax by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is qualified for maximum charitable contribution deduction by donors.

Generally, this means that donations made to the U.S. Fund of UNICEF are tax-deductible and would help lower the donor’s taxable income.

UNICEF has a well-established commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability

As one of the most widespread and known humanitarian organizations in the world, UNICEF has a well-established reputation for committing to transparency and accountability. The organization is directed by its Information Disclosure Policy 2010 which intends to ensure the availability of information concerning its programs and operations to the public.

Moreover, a decade ago, UNICEF became the 29th signatory to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Its executive director, Anthony Lake made the announcement in the Opening Remarks of the First Regular Session of the UNICEF Executive Board on 7th February 2021. He said;

“UNICEF also will be joining the World Bank, DFID, the African Development Bank, the European Commission, and others, in the International Aid Transparency Initiative, or IATI. By creating common standards for sharing information about aid flows, IATI should make that information much more accessible to the public.”

As a signatory of IATI, UNICEF is obligated to publicly divulge its aid information in the form of activity files detailing program budget figures, expenditure data, and results in areas of its operation. This provides a transparent record of financial and program information on the IATI registry that can be accessed by any stakeholders to study and compare.

Additionally, the 2020 Aid Transparency Index ranked UNICEF in the 6th position out of 47 international development organizations. On the index, it scored 92.9 points and was placed in the “very good” category for its performance.

UNICEF’s mission of working for the welfare of disadvantaged children is a very relevant cause for all times to come

Children play in an Internally Displaced Camp near a school supported by UNICEF during UNICEF Representatives for Afghanistan (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

Working in 192 countries and territories, UNICEF focuses on saving children’s lives and defending their rights. But what makes it stand out is its efforts towards helping disadvantaged children and improving their welfare, chiefly in developing countries and regions facing conflicts.

Their mission towards the welfare of disadvantaged children has been elaborated on the organization’s website as;

“Day-in and day-out, we work in some of the world’s toughest places to reach the children and young people who are most at risk and most in need. We work to save their lives. To protect their rights. To keep them safe from harm. To give them a childhood in which they’re protected, healthy, and educated. To give them a fair chance to fulfil their potential. We are UNICEF. We stand for every child, everywhere. And we never give up.”

According to the 2020 Annual Report, despite the pandemic’s plight, UNICEF USA raised $631 million for the support of children in 2020, which is the highest amount raised in its history.

In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, it has also responded to 281 humanitarian emergencies that included the provision of vaccination, safe drinking water, nutrition, and mental health support to millions of children around the globe.

Moreover, in the last 20 years, UNICEF has immunized more than 760 million children with essential vaccines against life-threatening diseases such as polio, tetanus, measles, and most recently, COVID-19. These combined efforts have saved the lives of more than 13 million children.

Currently, UNICEF is working towards fulfilling humanitarian needs in troubled countries such as Afghanistan and Ukraine with particular emphasis on the wellbeing of the children who are more vulnerable to the calamitous impacts of the ongoing armed conflicts.