I never really thought that December 15, 2014 would be noteworthy in any regard but the fates decided differently as this was the day that Invisible Children quietly announced that they will be shutting down. Sure, they state that they’re “downsizing” but that’s just corporate non-profit doublespeak for “we’re over” and I couldn’t be happier.
I wouldn’t even be writing about them at this point but they were on my “ire radar” for some time given that they’re one of these “awareness” groups that are so popular in non-profit charity spheres in the US although they ultimately do nothing. A big part of their do nothing ability was shown in the “Kony 2012” campaign that I tore in to two years ago when it made the news and raked in the mega bucks for the group.
Thankfully, many stood up immediately and decried this group as nothing more than a front that raised money to keep themselves in business. It’s much the same thing as Inepd who were the “International Network for Enabling Poverty Development” except that Inepd was a brilliantly funny farce and the head of it wasn’t running around naked in San Diego, masturbating in public as Jason Russell did.
Amazingly, this breakdown didn’t stop them and they raked in $25 million in 2012 solely due to the Kony blitzkrieg rolling out and knocking all lesser non-profits who might actually do something, to the sidelines. They apparently thought that if they continued to make Christian inspired videos that said nothing about Kony, the LRA, or even Uganda that the money would keep rolling in. It didn’t and they pocketed a mere $5 million in 2013 although there is something weird with their funding that makes it look as if they made sure to spend out exactly what their assets were. It doesn’t say anywhere what that was, but it could have easily been channeled in to another non-profit of their choosing as that’s a fully legal although completely dishonest thing to do, so let’s just assume that that’s what they’re doing given their track record.
I feel truly sorry for those who were suckered in by this group. But, much like Greg Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea, this group was nothing more than one piece of the morally bankrupt charity industry in the United States. I know that it doesn’t seem like it as they marketed themselves so well but any group who has to really and truly show where their money is going all over their website has a problem, especially as they don’t really break it down–77% to “programs”? What the hell does that mean? Doctors without Borders doesn’t have to go about things this way as they aren’t an “awareness” group, they’re a “doing shit” group and they can easily point to the work they’re doing, everyday, around the world.
I can talk freely about all of this because it was only after I worked in Africa with the ill-fated Maneno non-profit that I started that I saw just how ineffectual and doomed American non-profits are. The majority exist to keep funding themselves and do little else. Their field workers are generally horribly untrained, paid, and equipped. They drown out and forcibly quash other non-profits in the similar sectors unless they work on “partnerships” with them.
And this comes to the last point wherein these cheeky bastards are trying to raise one last chunk of $150,000 to continue their operations with a “small team” that they’ll supposedly continue with. I would plead of anyone who thinks about donating to put your money in to another group if you feel you have to donate this holiday season. How Invisible Children still needs $150k after raising literally millions is inexplicable and the fact that they’re doing it during the classic donation season just before Christmas isn’t a mistake. I just can’t wait until they truly go away or show their true colors as the hard core Evangelical group that they actually are.
If you would like to see a clever, British-accented summary of all of this, check out this bit by Charlie Brooker shortly after it broke.