By now, many have been emotionally brought into the #StopKony fold. In fact, the minute I saw this on Facebook, I was taken back to 2007. I was at my desk, when my childhood friend Karen called me with a story of her son Andy that had just returned from Uganda and asked if I would I meet with him. As she told me a little bit about the issue, I could not wait to meet Andy. Days later we met, he showed me clips of his movie The Children’s War and I was committed to helping him find the financing to finish the film which would tell the truth about Kony. Many people know Andy and helped raise the funds and create a follow up plan as to what would be AFTER awareness. In fact, Bridgeway Charitable Foundation was INSTRUMENTAL and has carried on terrific work in the area! So many individuals contributed to Students of the World to ensure the film was finished and released. And is the way of the world I try and operate in, many pointed me to Promise International and their Board Chair as an on the ground solution. I vetted each and every group before diving in! Although, I had worked with many of the individuals or trusted the referrals, I still wanted to be sure of the collaborating partners that were coming together.
So Imagine my surprise when the issue resurfaced yesterday with an immense digital presence. I spent HOURS researching the “charity” behind this phenomena. I could not find a BBB rating, the Charity navigator rating was less than stellar and there was no way to humanly contact them. Let me be clear, I LOVE the attention they brought to the forefront and pray the folks that are “buying kits”, etc, bypass that and just make a gift to Promise International or any other well vetted Charity. In fact, the organization that is behind this SHOULD be in the business of education and advocacy! They should just COLLABORATE and I am happy to help them as there are already established solutions and thus we need not sell you anything! We just need to make it easy on you, the donor to give in a secure manner.
So what does one look for beyond the bling:
I begin with the Better Business Bureau Standards as they are basic. If a charity can not at the very least pass this sniff test, something does not sit well with me. Keep in mind some are just too small to even take the time to file, but in time do. So if they charity raises less than 250K annually and posts their 990 on their own website, as does Promise International (they are very volunteer and mission driven) then that certainly says they are transparent.
If they are selling tools and or bling type “stuff” do they then support other charities on the ground with the proceeds or are they duplicating efforts? I certainly research who the “Primary Funders” are and who is on the Board to ensure there is NO Conflict of Interest. Seems the group in question does not collaborate, has no Board Of Directors other than the three principals being paid, and a large staff. Let me suggest, I am fine with the staff and Board members being paid, if the by-laws have a clause that precludes such a possible conflict of interest. Again, I love their talented digital media presence to expose a HUGE on going issue! I am not terribly thrilled with the how they spend the funds on a SOLUTION of the children that have and still flee to the South of Uganda.
In the end, I am so happy to know that the efforts of honest, humble and passionate humans such as Andy Krakower and his team have re-surfaced. So Now you know, will you really do something? Here are two ways to help:
1) Show the video circulating or buy the film The Children’s War and then fund or volunteer for a charity such as Promise International today! Post their information everywhere! Let’s see if we can by-pass bling and create solutions!
2) In the future, do some research before you just emotionally react! I did and am glad.
p.s. What did I get paid for working on this project in 2007? Not a dime, but that is not the standard I choose to live by as to success. When I met Andy and Lisa Sylvestri Erwin, I had been more than paid by having been touched by angels that get it done! There are other clients we get paid to help and that is because they have the resources or understand the value of well thought out socially responsible projects and businesses. And where is Andy? Oh, he is in another part of the world making a difference in his quiet way just by walking his walk of LOVE!