Donating To Kony 2012: Where Does The Money Go?

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a chilling account of the atrocities in Uganda, especially against children, at the hands of rebel army leader Joseph Kony. It’s all exposed in the documentary KONY 2012.

The California non-profit, Invisible Children, is behind the film that’s gone viral. As of Thursday evening it had more than 38-million views in a matter of days on YouTube alone.

There’s no question the group has been successful spreading their message and doing some good but Tim Longman who heads up the African Studies Center at Boston University says the video raises questions and doesn’t portray the Uganda of today. Longman says, “One of the problems they do mention but quickly pass over is that Uganda itself is very peaceful. Most of the problems in the north have been resolved for now because the group has moved to other countries that are more lawless.”

The video has sparked interest in Uganda which Longman appreciates but he wishes more of the money donated actually went to the people of Uganda and not to making films. The group is very open about where the money goes.

According to their financial statements, 20% is spent on management expenses and overhead. Last year $1.7 million were spent on travel, $3. 8 million were used for the film, advocacy and spreading their message and $3.3 million went to programs in Central Africa. Longman adds, “It’s very slick, not in a bad way. They do a great job of publicizing this cause but I wish they supported the established groups working in the area.”

There’s tremendous support for this group. It is a legitimate charity that’s spreading their message. Invisible Children’s mission is to make the world aware of this issue which includes film-making and touring the film around the world. They want to spark a campaign to stop Kony and his army. They also operate programs in the affected areas that they say offer protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

  • Nikki

    I’m less concerned about the “Uganda of today” than I am about the lives Kony is still destroying! The film maker learned of this guy in Uganda, Kony has now moved on to other countries. That doesn’t mean Kony isn’t a threat anymore, it means he’s moved on to areas less prepared to deal with his attacks.

    • Tsal

      Absolutely. Nikki. Doesn’t matter where he’s been chased to or where he is hiding. He has to be stopped.

  • danielle

    why is it our responsibility to stop him… Maybe make a video of our own homeless and abused children in the USA.

    • Tom

      go for it Danielle…

      • vale

        Oh wow, I can’t believe how ignorant some people can be… Tell me one thing – do you know a person who has been sexually abused, forced to kill their parents or disfigure someone’s face? The answer is most likely no. I know that every country has its problems, but seriously? You want to compare your situation to theirs? That’s seems a bit…childish. I’m from Croatia and honey, I know what homeless, abused, destroyed looks like. But It’s NOTHING compared to what these people are going through…

  • sally

    i believe that people who compare poverty and abuse in the US to poverty and abuse in Africa haven’t actually been to Africa. I used to live in Central Africa and had a friend, who had never been to Africa, tell me that there was poverty in American cities just as bad as in Africa. It is such an ignorant statement!

    Also, I totally agree with Nikki. Let’s get Kony out and then start putting money toward rebuilding something sound and strong. So much of traditional aid does not work (I say this as someone who has worked on aid projects for many years), so this effort is just as good as any other, and it is worth trying something new. The truth is that it takes this kind of glamorization of an issue in order to get Americans out of their comfort zone and involved in bigger issues.

    • Frankie G

      Who cares! We don’t live n Africa. You want to help Africa? Go to Africa! We have our own economical and political problems to solve here.

  • Think

    If you examine their expenses more closely (Part IX of their 990), you’ll see that, beyond grant giving, not much money at all is going to direct services. Let’s break it down a little:

    $2.8 million goes to grants, as noted above
    Over $1 million goes to travel
    $851k goes to production costs
    $357k goes to film costs
    $244k goes to professional services

    Essentially, the flush non-profit spends as much on travel, film-making, and lobbying as it does on serving. That’s generally a red flag. They also granted more money in 2009 than 2010, even though their revenue increased by over $4 million between the two years. You can read more from the Guardian.

    • READ

      Invisible Children’s mission is to make the world aware of this issue which includes film-making and touring the film around the world

      • Frankie G

        Sounds to me like everyone is pretty much aware already. Now what are they going to DO about it? It’s easy to spread news now it’s time to act, if that will even ever happen.

      • SEE
      • Angela

        Exactly! People are ridiculous for questioning their spending. How else are they going to have enough money to travel to Africa and promote the issue and properly run the organization if they cant use donation money to accommodate those expenses? Its common sense!

      • READ AGAIN

        What is there mission? Invisible Children’s mission is to make the world aware of this issue which includes film-making and touring the film around the world

        what are they doing? what they said they would by….making the world aware of this issue which includes film-making and touring the film around the world

        Who pays for that? the donations.

  • Joey

    You have to ALWAYS question the spending! Promoting the issue means nothing unless it includes a plan for solving the problem. Yeah, we all know Kony’s a bad guy…GREAT! Now what are we gonna do about him? How about telling us who’s funding his operation so we can put pressure on them or boycott them? And I hope this doesn’t turn into another Libya or Iraq! You have to wonder who’s actually behind this charity campaign. Africans have been getting slaughtered for decades now… what, someone just woke up and said “Hey! We gotta do something about this!”

    • Nikki

      Joey… we all know Kony’s a bad guy BECAUSE of this video (it’s great if you knew about him before hand, most of us didn’t). This video got made to spread and educate us about a massive yet specific problem we can help solve, to get us angry enough to take action. We can lobby our congressmen and the influencers around the US, putting so much pressure on those who can actually execute the plan that they will be forced to listen, and forced to act. The plan is to arrest Kony and try him for crimes against humanity, but the people of Africa (not just Uganda) aren’t trained or united well enough to execute. That’s where we come in, to help them.
      Travel, as other posters mentioned, is to and from Africa. Those who saw Kony’s destruction first hand came to America to speak about it, adding legitimacy to the cause, and endearing the cause to others. It’s a pretty basic PR move, totally a legal spend for a non-profit.
      As far as who is funding Kony’s operation… the guy abducts kids and makes them murder their own parents. I don’t want to assume, but I think it’s a safe bet he’s stealing to fund his operation too.
      As Americans, we have literally thousands of things to give our attention to, it’s easy for us to get distracted when we don’t know anything specific about who the enemy is. Now we know, we have a name and a face to hold accountable. Thanks to the Internet and social media (a way to reach the masses not available over the last several decades), this video helped us, as a nation, wake up and say “Hey! We gotta do something about this!”

  • Clark

    I’m from Australia. Over here we have indigenous people living in third world conditions out in the middle of the desert. People on the coast compare them to poor people there. It’s just not the same. You can’t even imagine what it’s like out there if you have never seen it. We should all be human first, not American or French or whatever but human. As humans it is our responsibility to help each other.
    It is healthy to question where a charities money is spent but too many people get their own ideas of what a charity is all about. In this case the charity has a clear mission statement outlined many times. To make people aware of Kony. From what I have seen here and in the papers this charity does even more than spend on film making and travel. To tell you the truth that’s all I expect of them because that’s what they are there for. Now it’s up to us to put pressure on all our governments to sort this out.

  • Chase

    Okay so if we did want to dnonate, what else is available other than the tri website and the ones promoted by the video? I want to help but want to know the best way of doing so.

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    Donating To Kony 2012: Where Does The Money Go? « CBS Boston

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