What to Know About UNICEF: Breakdown of the Charity & Its Mission

Get the facts on UNICEF and it's charitable legacy.

Published May 19, 2023
Eva Padberg visits Unicef projects

For over 75 years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has operated around the globe. Focused on supporting children's welfare and empowerment through international initiatives supported by donations and volunteers, UNICEF is one of the most notable charity groups operating today.

But, with such a storied career, you might question if it holds up to its impressive legacy. Learn more about UNCIEF and see if it measures up to being a good charity in the 21st century.


The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is a global child and adolescent organization that works to provide vaccines, give access to safe drinking water, health education, sanitation, and many other things to at-risk youth. Created post-WWII, UNICEF's been operating in over 190 countries working towards bettering children's lives everywhere.

What Is UNICEF's Mission?

For such a large organization as UNICEF, it's expected that their mission would encompass a ton of different areas. Some of their main focuses include:

  • Advocating for children's rights
  • Using political and material resources to help countries establish children-first legislation and services
  • Protecting endangered children, such as victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, exploitation, violence, and disabilities
  • Engaging in emergency responses to protect children
  • Focusing specifically on working towards equal rights for women and girls through their country programs
  • Working towards upholding and furthering the tenants outlined in the Charter of the United Nations
Need to Know

Wondering if UNICEF is a good charity to contribute to? Its 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, transparency about funds, powerful children's initiatives, and strong history make it a great choice to consider.

How Does It Work?

Now, this is where things get a bit complicated. Because UNICEF has multiple offices around the world, there's a bit of a multi-pronged approach to how they enact their work in various communities.

This can look like using local volunteering to implement a small-scale relief plan to massive international group partnerships that enact country-wide initiatives. Given that they touch the political arena, supply chain, and on-the-ground efforts, they're a well-oiled hydra.

What Charitable Work Is UNICEF Known For?

It's impossible to condense all of UNICEF's charitable initiatives in one list. Because of their international reach and extensive network, there are hundreds of ongoing individual initiatives happening at any given time. Yet, there are a few major areas that UNICEF continually puts resources behind every year.


Acquiring and distributing life-saving vaccines to at-risk children is one of UNICEF's major operations. Recently, UNICEF "helped deliver more than half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses in 144 countries" according to the United States' State Department. Also in 2021, UNICEF launched the world's first Ebola vaccine stockpile in Switzerland to help prevent any future Ebola outbreaks.


UNICEF is at the forefront of the movement to end child hunger. According to their research on child malnutrition, "nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to undernutrition." As of 2021, UNICEF worked with nearly 336 million children to prevent nutritional stunting.

Child Empowerment

To secure children's futures, UNICEF seeks to improve quality-impacted areas of life by granting access to education, preventing young women from falling danger to child marriage, and improving sanitation methods in at-risk communities. These efforts can manifest in plans like The Learning Passport and the UNICEF Let Us Learn program.

UNICEF's Funding Explained

UNICEF is fully volunteer operated and funded. They rely on donations to support all of their international efforts and are incredibly transparent as to their financials. Although you could consider this a reflection on their authenticity, it's also because they've signed the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which holds them accountable for giving broad access to their financial reports.

Since UNICEF is such a wide-reaching organization, each satellite office publishes their own reports. Currently, there's no easy way to access the exact donation allocation breakdown for the entire operation, but you can locate individual offices' online.

For instance, UNICEF USA reports that "for every dollar spent, 90 cents goes directly toward helping children," and that they spend "about 8 cents on fundraising costs and just under 2 cents on administration."

This focus on allocating funds directly towards their humanitarian efforts is also reflected in their executive staff salaries. UNICEF USA's President & CEO reportedly makes only $620,000 a year, which amounts to less than 1% of all yearly donations.

You Can Read Through Each Year's Annual Report

Most charitable organizations are required to publish an annual report outlining their donations and expenditures, and UNICEF is no different. You can see their most current reports on their website. Interestingly, they also give free access to their regional reports as well. For example, you can read all about UNICEF's relief efforts in Ukraine, such as providing health and nutrition supplies to 1,005 health care facilities in 2022, in their 2022 Ukraine Office Annual Report.

In 2021, UNICEF received $7,973,981,343 in revenue. That includes private, public, and private sector resource partner donations.

Is UNICEF a Good Charity to Donate To?

Charity Navigator, which is one of the most comprehensive charity ranking groups, currently gives UNICEF USA a coveted four-star ranking, endorsing them as a reputable and effective charity to donate your time and money to.

Based on their global efforts, multi-faceted approach to protecting and supporting children at every level, and their transparency about how much they make and where the money goes, UNICEF is a great children's charity choice.

How Can You Get Involved?

There are multiple different ways you can get involved with UNICEF.

Donate and Fundraise

UNICEF makes donating incredibly easy. Simply visit one of their digital donation links and sign up to give a onetime donation or a set up a monthly donation plan. On a larger scale, you can set up a fundraising event to raise money for UNICEF. One of the easiest ways to fundraise is to start an online fundraiser, and UNICEF goes over how to do that on their website.

Do Advocacy Work

Advocate with your local and national lawmakers to implement and back laws that support children's health, safety, and empowerment. But you don't have to spend hours on the phone with your state congressional representative to use your voice. You can also join UNICEF UNITE, which helps connect volunteers to resources and advocacy avenues that support the organization's mission.

Everything Done With Children in Mind

Ultimately, there's no better global children's advocate and charity than UNICEF. Thanks to its United Nations connections and country-backing donations, they have the resources to reach greater numbers of children than any other group today. It continues to be a great charity to consider partnering with.

What to Know About UNICEF: Breakdown of the Charity & Its Mission