KONY 2012: think before you donate!

BY MATT GIROLAMI ’13
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Disclaimer: this is not entirely topical. Yes, I’m aware that the whole “Kony 2012” campaign is on its denouement in the public eye, and yes, I’m aware that many of the issues addressed in this piece have also already gone under public scrutiny—however, I feel the whole Invisible Children debacle can serve to inform the public’s views on charity and whether or not their donation actually does any good.

First, let’s talk terms: This article does not intend to belittle awareness, but rather mind- less donating. In all honesty, I have no problem with Invisible Children drawing attention to a Ugandan warlord; frankly, I had never heard the name “Kony” until the IC campaign started, and I thank them for informing me. What I do have a problem with is mindlessly encouraging donating, regardless of the facts.

When the face of Kony erupted all over Facebook and other social media, I, like millions of others, clicked the various links to read into the cause’s purpose. After reading a brief explanation of Kony’s exploits I scrolled down to see a “Donate” button. Huh, that’s strange, I thought. Where exactly is my money going? For the record, I did not donate, and here’s why:

After doing my research on the ever-resourceful charitynavigator.com, I was confused by the numbers. Overall, IC gets three out of four stars, but as far as accountability and transparency go, they get a startling 48 out of 100. In short, the majority of donations go towards “program expenses,” for programs such as the one at F&M in the Fall of 2010. And the rest of the donations, are, well, unaccounted for.

Other determining factors that deterred me from donating were accounts of IC founders’ open support of the Ugandan army (substantiated by unsettling photographs of said founders brandishing guns with said child soldiers).

While most consider military action the only thing that will extinguish Kony and his forces, I personally am not comfortable donating to a cause that may or may not fund an army rife with human rights abuses and is renowned for raping and looting (visit visiblechildren.tumblr.com for more information, all substantiated by reputable sources).

Although IC claims its funding helps with Uganda’s development, the idea that any money may possibly go to the military for fighting against Kony’s child soldiers (that IC swears to save and liberate in their mission statement) seems a bit counter-productive — killing the very child soldiers one is supposed to save surpasses irony.
Now, yes, IC has released their supposed financial records after scrutiny, but please, take them with a grain of salt (the size of Gibraltar). And also, let us not forget co-founder Jason Russell’s recent string of bizarre accusations, from masturbating in public to drunkenly joking in a YouTube video that $900,000 of the million raised for Haiti (that he had taken part in) was going to him.

Now, masturbating in public doesn’t discredit one’s so- called charitable organization, but tastelessly joking about robbing well-intended donators and victims to stuff one’s pockets crosses the line. And frankly, after doing my own research, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did take a fair chunk of change from the Haiti fundraiser; consequently, I wouldn’t be surprised if he steals from the Kony campaign’s donations either.

Now as cynical as all this sounds, I do not intend to deter you, dear reader, from donating to or partaking in other charitable endeavors.

That’s what resources like charitynavigator.com and visiblechildren.tumblr.com are for: to help you make an informed decision about where exactly your money’s going and if it’s going to get there.

But hey, if you want to donate to a megalomaniacal sexual deviant, go ahead.

Questions? Email Matt at matthew.girolami@fandm.edu.

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