So like many others I watched the KONY 2012 video and felt inspired. What they’re doing is really amazing and as a movie buff I already had respect for the Invisible Children crew.
And it’s easy to get swept up in this movement: the American youth uniting to help defeat a man who abducts and recruits children in Uganda to be soldiers, even forcing them to murder their own parents. Joseph Kony is an abominable person. And the amount of awareness this video has generated towards Kony and his crimes is a very good thing.
But before you reach for your wallet, you might want to know where that money is actually going. From an article on The Daily What…
“The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ‘misleading,’ ‘naive,’ and ‘dangerous’ by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of ‘manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.’ They have also been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide information necessary to determine if IC meets the Bureau’s standards.
Additionally, IC has a low two-star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a very bad thing, and should make you immediately pause and reflect on where the money you’re sending them is going.
By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone [pdf]. The rest go to line the pockets of the three people in charge of the organization, to pay for their travel expenses (over $1 million in the last year alone) and to fund their filmmaking business (also over a million).”
I don’t like the tone of that Daily What article, and ironically they are also being misleading and manipulating facts (IC have an overall 3 out of 4 rating on Charity Navigator, which puts them in pretty good territory). However it is disappointing to see that as far as charities go, this one isn’t as reputable as, say, MercyCorps (see the link on the right side of this blog!).
My final thoughts: The amount public discourse that has resulted from this campaign has been incredible, and that alone is a great thing. It’s unfortunate that they aren’t as reputable as most charities but they have my admiration regardless, because they’re at least trying to do good in the world and inspiring people to care. When you compare what they’re doing to what most of us are doing… yeah, they’re still pretty awesome.
March 12 edit: Having read more about Invisible Children, Inc. in the past few days I have more doubts about the perceived benefits of their cause. For a good explanation of why their call for military intervention could have drastic consequences, see this article by The Daily What. If you’d really like to help out in Uganda, I would suggest checking out any of the organizations mentioned in this WSJ article.