Thursday, March 8, 2012

When donating, always do your research.

Joseph Kony is a very, very evil man, who has done some atrocious things. The KONY 2012 video put out by Invisible Children documenting his war crimes has gone viral across the planet. While it's great that awareness of who Kony is and what he has done is spreading across the globe (even though there are some inaccuracies/misleading statements in the video itself), what is the result of all this awareness? Well, for one thing, after tugging at your heartstrings (and boy does it tug...), it asks you to donate money to Invisible Children.

But the thing is... Invisible Children, while obviously an excellent organization in terms of raising awareness, has a rather crap track record in terms of actually using their money provide direct assistance to children in Africa. In fact, Invisible Children only uses 31-37% of their funds to provide direct assistance. In contrast, here are some of the percentages of funds going towards direct assistance from other well known charities: Direct Relief 98.8%, American Red Cross 92.1%, UNICEF USA 90.3%, World Vision 88%, and Compassion International 83%.

The KONY 2012 movie is incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, it seems to be powerfully motivating individuals to donate to... filmmakers. Now, if you want to support a group that makes films to raise awareness, then by all means, give them money. If watching the film has motivated you to donate money to help children in Uganda, Africa, or the world... choose another charity.

When donating to ANY charity, for ANY cause, it is very important to do your research and see where your money is actually going. I wrote about this a good bit back in December, focusing on my main cause, animal welfare. The Humane Society of the United States has incredibly powerful ad campaigns showing sad, pathetic animals, confined behind bars in a shelter. The ads tug at the heartstrings of animal lovers... many of whom mistakenly believe that the HSUS funds local animal shelters. In fact, roughly 1 cent of every dollar donated to HSUS makes its way to local shelters. One penny. The shelter where I used to work received $0 from HSUS. Now, HSUS does a lot of advocacy work. Supporting them does help in terms of funding lobbying for animal rights and raising awareness of animal welfare issues. If that's what you want to support, then by all means, donate to them. However, if your main goal is to provide direct aid to animals, donate to a local shelter, humane society, or rescue (and read my earlier post for tips). $100 given to your local shelter will have a far greater direct impact on the lives of animals than $100 given to HSUS.

Likewise, $100 given to an organization such as Direct Relief, Red Cross, UNICEF, World Vision, or Compassion International will have a far greater impact on the lives of the people you wish to help than $100 donated to Invisible Children.

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