Don't donate to Kony 2012, aka: Invisible Children. There are many better-run charitable organizations to contribute to that use their funding more efficiently, here are 5 reasons to find one of them before shelling out your hard-earned money.
If you want to put your wallet where your heart is in order to help alleviate the suffering of some of the world's most disadvantaged people, don't let your emotions get the better of you and blindly donate to the first group that comes along with a chilling video. Instead read below and you will learn why Invisible Children, also known as Kony 2012, is not the best option, and also be shown some charitable organizations with a much better track record.
Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau are two of the best impartial sources of information on charities and how they are run, and neither one of these resources has a very rosy picture of Kony 2012.
So though you were likely emotionally stirred to action by the moving video Kony 2012 released last month about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that went viral on Wednesday, you should take a step back and learn about the charity and its problems before blindly throwing money at it.
This is not the first time a charity has pulled at the heartstrings in search of wads of cash. Musician Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation brought in more than $1.5 million in the days after an earthquake wracked the impoverished island nation in 2010, as people throughout the world sought ways to help the Haitian people.
But a Washington Post analysis found that much of the money donated to Yele in the years prior to the quake went not to the people of his homeland but to administrative costs, businesses connected to Wyclef, and $100,000 even went directly to the musician for a single performance. This massive betrayal of the trust of his nation's people was part of what forced him to drop a presidential bid last year in the face of mounting criticism.
All this is not to say that you should not donate to charitable organizations. Just do your research first. The five reasons below explain why you should not donate to Kony 2012:
1. Overpaid Management: According to Charity Navigator, in the fiscal year ending in June 2011 (the most recent data available), Invisible Children's leaders were paid significant sums that add up to a sizeable portion of the money the charity brought in that year. CEO Ben Keesey was paid $88,241, or 0.99 percent of what the charity spent that year, and co-founder and filmmakers Jason Russell and Laren Poole were paid $89,669 (1.00 percent of expenses) and $84,377 (0.94 percent of expenses) respectively. These aren't the largest salaries you'll see, but the picture painted in the Stop Kony video of a humble organization just hoping to do everything in its power to end a brutal reign of terror seems less genuine in the face of such generous spending on personnel.
2. Poor Track Record: Charity Navigator's impression of the organization has fallen precipitously since 2009. Charity Navigator gave Invisible Children a four-star, 63.43 rating in July 2009, but by September 2010, its stock had fallen to a two-star 44.42 rating. Though it looks like it may be on its way back up, earning a three-star 51.52 record in March 2012, the volatility in Charity Navigator's opinion does not engender trust in the organization.
3. Its Colleagues Diss It, Too: Just browse the Charity Navigator reviews of Invisible Children for a second and you'll see the low opinion people in the know have of this charity. This one-star review from Mzungu, a professional with experience in the field, sums it up pretty well: From time spent in DRC (Ituri, Haut Uele, Bas Uele), I have a very poor opinion of IC. This poor opinion is shared by many colleagues in Congo. IC is known to have a lot of money at their disposal, so much that they don't spend it in an effective manner ... There are an estimated 50 LRA in Congo, but based on statements from IC, you would think the problem is much greater. There are also about 5,000 troops (UN, FARDC, UPDF, US) in northern Congo, supposedly looking for those 50 rebels. The LRA are a problem, but IC is just wasting money and sustaining their existence ... Think twice before giving your money to this group.
4. An Industry Has Been Formed To Expose It: A number of websites have been set up just to get out word that Kony 2012 and Invisible Children are not what they claim to be. From visiblechildren.tumblr.com to kony2012-is-a-scam.org, there is a whole cottage industry aimed at getting the word out about the organization and its alleged problems. A description on kony2012-is-a-scam.org reads as follows, and should give potential donors pause: This website has been set up by people who care that directors of charity organizations should not use political will to enrich themselves by intentionally confusing and misleading the public with biasly presented half truths. And Reddit has a whole thread of further critiques.
5. There Are Much Better Charities Out There: There are always the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and other wonderful organizations to donate to, any of which have high ratings and long histories of helping people in need. But even in the same realm as Kony 2012 and Invisible Children, Charity Navigator has a list of other organizations with better track records and ratings that you can choose to help. They include the East Meets West Foundation, the Bishop Gassis Sudan Relief Fund, the Haitian Health Foundation, and Fonkoze USA.