There’s quite a scandal erupting right now about alleged mismanagement of funds by the charity that the musician Wyclef Jean founded in response to the 2005 Haiti earthquake.
Apparently, the sum that was used for aid doesn’t match the amount donated, and there’s some shady shell company mixed up in it. There have been accusations of corruption. Here’s an LA Times article with more detail.
Of course, the people who donated to Wyclef’s charity are very upset. But here’s the thing: it’s kind of their fault.
I’m not saying that any charity has a right to mismanage funds – far from it.
But international aid and relief is complicated and difficult. Every time a major disaster happens and relief fundraising goes into overdrive, stories of mismanagement and waste aren’t far behind. This is something that’s hard to do right, even for the professionals.
And yet – these donors figured the best horse to hitch their wagon to was a hip hop artist? Sure, he has ties to Haiti, but seriously? And now they’re surprised that it didn’t turn out all sunshine and roses? Come on.
This is what happens when we see an urgent need and skip our due diligence in our eagerness to fix it. The trouble is that just because a cause is good, it doesn’t mean everyone working on that cause has their act together.
Charities only have the power we give them. Donors complaining about bad charities is a bit like employers complaining about bad employees. Some of the problem may be with the employees, but it’s more likely to be about the employer’s choices in hiring them, setting expectations, and providing feedback.
It can be difficult, in an emotionally charged crisis situation, to resist giving impulsively. But if you do take your time, evaluate your options and choose carefully, you’ll have a lot more impact. And it’ll keep you safe from Wyclef.