Kony 2012 Video Sends Mixed Message to Young Activists

March 14, 2012

Arlington, VA – The BBB Wise Giving Alliance has tried for six years to get Invisible Children to cooperate in a charity review. Since 2006, BBB has sent 18 letters (12 via Certified Mail) to the non-profit behind the Internet phenomenon Kony 2012 video, but has received no response.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance initiates charity reviews based on donor requests. Unlike other charity review organizations, it does not rely solely on public documents but requires charities to provide more in-depth information in order to evaluate its governance, effectiveness, finances, fund raising, donor privacy and other matters.

The BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, which were developed with extensive input from the charitable community and donors, are used by the Alliance in preparing evaluative reports on over 1,300 nationally soliciting charities, and by local BBBs for more than 10,000 local charities.  There is no charge to the charity for the accountability assessment and the resulting reports are available to the public free on the www.bbb.org/charity website.

Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video features criticisms of Joseph Kony, who heads an army of child soldiers in central Africa and has been accused of various atrocities against villagers in that region.

“I don’t understand their reluctance to provide basic information,” says H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “The whole point of the effort is to shine the light of truth on a terrible atrocity, and yet they seem to be reluctant to turn that light on themselves. It’s really unfortunate, because their campaign has the potential to inspire and galvanize millions of young activists and future philanthropists.”

“We don’t assume that nondisclosure is proof of bad faith,” continued Taylor, “but the vast majority of national charities we contact (70%) demonstrate their commitment to transparency by providing the Alliance with requested information so that we can produce reports for public inquirers.” The 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability offer the most rigorous evaluation of nonprofit organizations available.

The website of Invisible Children includes a statement about its lack of cooperation with BBB requests for information noting that “Participation in BBB’s program is voluntary - we [Invisible Children] are choosing to wait until we have expanded our Board of Directors, as some questions hinge on the size of our board….”

Despite Invisible Children’s statement on its website, the six-member board size would not be a problem with the BBB charity standards, says Taylor. He did express concern, however, that two of the six board members are paid staff.  One of the BBB charity standards calls for no more than 10% of the voting membership of the board to be compensated.

“For any charity, too many paid staff members serving on the governing board can result in a variety of potential problems,” Taylor explains, “including, but not limited to, a lack of objective board decisions being made about the charity’s budget, staff oversight, the selection of charity programs and how best to raise funds.” 

“There may or may not be other potential areas of concern with the 20 BBB charity standards,” he added, “but without the requested information from Invisible Children we are unable to determine this. We welcome Invisible Children to provide information at any time so that we can amend our nondisclosure report and conduct a full review in relation to our standards.”



For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, helps donors make informed giving decisions and advances high standards of conduct among charitable organizations. The Alliance produces in-depth evaluative reports on national charities based on comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability that address charity governance, finances, effectiveness, and fund raising. In addition, about one-half of the BBBs in the United States report on regionally soliciting charities.