Published March 09, 2012
The viral documentary aimed at bringing infamous Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to justice has sparked a debate about the charity group behind it and how it spends the money it raises.
San Diego-based Invisible Children's half-hour video, "Kony 2012," drew nearly 60 million YouTube views in just three days, using social media and viral marketing to appeal for viewers to buy $30 "action kits." But the group's sudden prominence brought questions about its finances.
According to the Invisible Children's 2011 990 filing, it took in $13,765,180 and spent $8,894,632, reporting the balance as assets. Some 80.5 percent of the organization's expenses went to education programs, awareness campaigns and grants to existing programs in Central Africa. Just over 16 percent went to administrative and management costs with the rest going to direct fundraising in 2011.
The group also claims that last year brought "unparalleled growth and advancement" to Invisible Children since their inception 8 years ago.
Of the administrative costs, approximately $1.4 million went towards employee salaries and general costs, with CEO Ben Keesey earning a salary of $88,241 and founder/filmmakers Jason Russell and Laren Poole taking home $89,669 and $84,377 respectively.
Still, while the expense ratios are in line with accepted charity guidelines, some critics have found fault with the group's focus on raising awareness to the atrocities of a madman who is no longer in power and is already facing trial for international war crimes. Kony's whereabouts are unknown, but he is not believed to be leading the militant and genocidal Lord's Resistance Army anymore. Critics say Invisible Children's money and focus should be on Kony's victims and not simply on his capture.
“The issue they have is money spent on campaign awareness,” said Grant Oyston, a graduate student from Nova Scotia who has been raising questions about the Kony Campaign on his blog Visible Children, where he provided an analysis of public finance reports by the group.
The LRA, has been responsible for nearly three decades of violence and genocide throughout Central Africa, has forced some 30,000 children into sexual slavery or life as soldiers, according to Invisible Children. It's young members have even been forced to slaughter their own families, according to the video, which even critics acknowledge is powerful.
President Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday the commander-in-chief applauds the campaign.
"We congratulate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized to this unique crisis of conscience," Carney said.
More support has come from such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and P. Diddy. The goal of the campaign is to use the wide reach of the Internet to stop the atrocities of the warlord, who through his Lord’s Resistance Army, has been responsible for nearly three decades of violence and genocide throughout Central Africa.
The video encourages views to buy a $30 dollar “action box” which contains bracelets, T-shirts and posters, and urges then to participate in a national day of action to plaster the posters on city streets across the nation on April 20.
film “Hotel Rwanda” earned him an Oscar nomination, “as long as it is tempered with awareness, sensitivity, research and a healthy dose of skepticism - as should always be the case.”
Others agree that the group’s campaign oversimplifies a complex issue.
“While their intentions are good, it’s quite dangerous because they make no mention of the fact that someone will have to use force to apprehend Kony,” Jack McDonald, a doctoral candidate and research associate at King's College's Department of War Studies in London told FoxNews.com. “People will get hurt trying to bring him to justice and it will likely be the local nationals.”