March 12, 2012; Source: Los Angeles Times
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey released a new eight-minute video countering many of the organization’s critics following the viral viewing of the nonprofit’s Kony 2012 movie. Watch it here:
Critics had suggested that the Kony 2012 video encouraged slacktivism, that the organization’s financials were not transparent, that too much of the organization’s money was spent on non-program expenses, and that the organization was making much about an issue that was in decline and oversimplified. To counter these criticisms, the video makes three main points.
First, to counter the slacktivist critique, Keesey argues that Invisible Children’s model includes “making compelling movies,” “encourage[ing] advocacy” and development. Keesey makes the case that their development work is directed and created by local leaders in Uganda, hoping to rebut some arguments about leaving out African activists.
Second, to counter the financial critiques, Keesey notes that Invisible Children’s 2007-2011 audited financial statements demonstrate that they spend more than 80 percent on program expenses. However, examining the breakdown of their 2011 financial statements, Invisible Children notes that they spent 37.14 percent on Central African programs, 25.98 percent on awareness programs, 7.8 percent on media and production costs, and 9.56 percent on awareness products. Invisible Children describes all of these as program expenses. This accounts for how they claim spending 80.5 percent for program expenses in 2011, but those who are concerned only about their development program expenses are likely to remain unconvinced.
Additionally, Keesey describes three of the four controversial line item expenses in their financials (the fourth—salaries of more than $80,000 for Keesey and two filmmakers—is not mentioned). Keesey defends Invisible Children’s travel and transportation expenses as needed to put on 3,000 free screenings of their films. Production costs refer to the costs of the items they produce and sell (awareness products). He attributes increased overhead costs, in part, to an operational capacity building grant of $330,000 that the organization received in 2011.
Finally, in response to critics of the campaign’s focus, Keesey notes that the organization does not have an exclusive claim to the truth. Instead, he suggests that because Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is in a weakened state, the moment for increased energy is now. What do you think, NPQ readers? Did this video have any impact on your views on Invisible Children and/or the Kony 2012 campaign? –Michelle Shumate