World Vision’s Decision Flip Leads to Public Relations Flop

by cindybrugge

An international Christian charity made a controversial public statement this week and, after receiving public outrage, made an unfortunate public relations mistake.

World Vision is a Christian organization that raises $1 billion per year to support international missions and economic relief to third world countries. One of the most popular Christian ministries in the US, the organization is commonly seen with booths at major Christian conferences, concerts and gatherings. They are most well known for their “Sponsor a Child” program, in which you can pay a monthly sponsorship fee to provide food, water, healthcare, education and other necessities for a child in need. World Vision is commonly associated with a positive mission.

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However, the organization ran into some public relations difficulties this week, when World Vision announced that it would be changing its hiring standards. The statement said that the company would not discriminate against hiring individuals in same-sex marriages, as long as the individual claimed to be a Christian.

World Vision received a much-expected outcry from the Christian community, who tends to stand against “sinful” gay marriages. Within a two-day period, World Vision reversed its previous statement and said:

“The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman… We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

Huge mistake.

First of all, World Vision’s first announcement was a public statement. The executives thought through their decision to instate this new policy and thought to themselves, “Hmm. I guess it’s time to take this to the public.” But did they consider how the public might receive the news?

I guess not because, obviously, if they had, they might have recognized that they would undoubtedly receive negative backlash. It was going to happen. Their primary stakeholders and supporters are Christian. Their target audience is Christian. Where do Christian beliefs tend to align? Not usually in favor of same-sex marriage.

What I must interject here is that I have no prejudice at all here. I am a Christian female that fully supports same-sex marriage. I am somewhat of an anomaly in certain circles, but I understand their intention to reach out to both groups simultaneously. Unfortunately, most of the Christian community is not on that same page. Most of the community honors the biblical stance of homosexuality as sin and has aligned their social views against gay marriage.

For this reason, I am very surprised that World Vision made the decision to change their policy in the first place. However, once they did, I am mostly astounded that they didn’t foresee this backlash and plan to stand firm in the face of public outcry. By wavering in this decision, no party is happy.

Same-sex marriage supporters will shy away from an organization that has shunned the issue and individuals who do not support same-sex marriage will be relieved to know that World Vision has changed its decision. However, they may feel reluctant to donate to an organization that faltered on this stronghold.

No faith-filled supporter wants give to an organization that seems unstable in its beliefs. World Vision should have been more prepared for the reaction it received and not flipped so quickly. 

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