March 07, 2012

Light Gives Heat.

Oh man! Exciting stuff. I love me a good debate about non-profits.

You know me, you know I'm good at repeating myself. In an effort not to do that I'm going to refer you to this previous blog post of mine for some food for thought, ideally before you carry on reading here.

In the past 48 hours or so the internet has exploded with excitement about this KONY 2012 video. I'm going to be totally straight up with you and say that I haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet but I plan to when I go home tonight. I don't have audio on my work computer and I was going to check it out before bed last night until I realized it was a half hour long and decided to wait. Maybe I could have been a little more informed going into this, but really, I'm not hear to talk about Kony in particular. Let's be honest, it's hard to argue with obvious facts about how bad some people are. At the risk of repeating everything else out there, that's not what the issue is.

People are hating on Invisible Children right now in a big way but let's take a step back and look at how these things work. Non-profits have a long history of paying their higher ups massive salaries. Honestly, 89 thousand is nothing compared to what a lot of CEOs make; it's actually in the low range, at least in Canada. World Vision has long been criticized for its high expenses and salaries. $184,000? Yeah, that's a lot. Oh wait, look at how much the Red Cross higher ups get paid. Over $300,000 a year in 2009. Makes 89 grand seem a little low, doesn't it?

I'm not saying I agree with these outrageous salaries, I'm just trying to prove a point. I see no need for CEOs or anyone to be making more than a hundred thousand a year plus benefits. You tell me how that makes sense for someone involved in a non-profit who supposedly cares for their cause. I certainly hope they're making generous charitable donations throughout the year, ideally to companies with better reputations that their own. Maybe I need to be more realistic about how much money people deserve for the work they do but, honestly, people in positions that are meant to do good should have a passion for their work or they should step down. And I'm not just talking about non-profits anymore.

I've found myself quite frustrated with how organizations spend their money. Why is that goats from Oxfam, World Vision, Compassion, and a myriad of other organizations range in price from the believable to the absurd? I'm not a farmer, but I'm pretty sure a goat's a goat as long as it's healthy. I have helped raise hundreds of dollars for World Vision in my life, thousands if you count my leadership role in the 30 Hour Famine and, while it makes me happy to know that for every dollar I've raised over 80 cents has gone towards food, water, medicine, and education, it frustrates me to no end that a portion of the left overs has contributed to private jets flying into African conferences.

The Visible Children article mentions the white man's burden and I absolutely think that is something that we need to be aware of. Just because we live in a more privileged part of the world and don't suffer from the same problems of disease and malnutrition that many Africans do, it's not up to us to single-handedly go in  and rescue them from their underdevelopment. People are people and people have pride. That's another reason why we need to be critical in how we perceive aid. There are wells sitting broken and unused because well meaning agencies built them but did not show locals how to maintain them. Riding a high horse is not going to do any good aside from inflating your own sense of self righteousness.

Aside from my idealism I think it's important to note that the Invisible Children campaign was more about informing than fundraising, at least that's what I've gathered thus far.  Donating should be done with a view to what the need is and whether it is actually helping. Remember, sending Super Bowl tshirts to Africa really isn't going to solve the continent's problems.

As for an organization that is supporting rapists and looters I say give me a break. We're talking about a war. Obviously I don't condone either of those actions but I find it hard to believe that in a conflict like the one presently occurring in Uganda one side of the disagreement is going to be completely moral. Really? Look at conflicts taking place with more "civilized" troops (ie American and Canadian) and tell me that nothing questionable ever takes place. We may feel that as civilized people we are beyond war and can scoff at all those who take part in it, marking child soldiers as victims and everyone else as evildoers, but let's be honest with ourselves. Not every conflict is black and white. Obviously Invisible Children has taken a side in the conflict that, I'm sure, was not a spur of the moment decision.

There's a lot of support out there for this video right now, despite all the negativity. I like that this is making waves, though. It's nice to see people not just take something at face value. Everyone knows the existence of child soldiers is terrible and that, assuming they make it out alive, their lives don't necessarily improve with the end of their duty. The thing is, non-profits are still organizations and are run by people. My hope is that this whole Invisible Children and KONY 2012 thing will get people thinking a little bit more about what's out there.

What has it achieved? Dialogue! People are talking like crazy and that's fantastic. Invisible Children, you get a big A+ for achieving your goal of raising awareness. Nevertheless, I believe that these painful issues also need to be addressed critically. Giving this organization your money may not achieve the results you want. If you are 100% against war and taking sides then I highly suggest that you look elsewhere to share your riches. The thing about people is, they have their biases and their own individual beliefs that fuel the decisions they make. That's why it's important to research where you're putting your money. If only 30% of the funds raised by Invisible Children is actually getting to where they say it is, that's pretty sad.

Either way, I hope this whole internet debate is going to encourage rather than discourage people to look at these kinds of issues more critically and, hopefully, more generously.

1 comment:




 photo comments_zps824b3be6.jpg