Rationalize before supporting Kony 2012 campaign

Avantika Khatri

Feature photo by Savannah Viles. (Calistus Nyeko, a Ugandan principal who came to RBHS in spring 2011, arrived through the Invisible Children program. From a print edition of The ROCK, Jan 2011, "Invisible Children sends African principal to RBHS")
Inspiring. Motivating. Sensational. I wanted to do something after watching the Kony 2012 video on March 6. The next day in school, one day after the video aired, I saw posters all over.
I was a little shocked. I accepted the video only because of my familiarity with Invisible Children. Global Issues paired with Invisible Children last year to help fund Calistus’ trip as part of a teacher exchange.
The exchange was a success. I thought both RBHS and Calistus’ school in Uganda benefited, but I was under the impression few people knew anything about Invisible Children, having only experienced moderate success with our fundraising attempts last year. I could be wrong, but it appeared a limited scope of people even knew about the fundraising before Calistus arrived, let alone that Invisible Children hosted it.
And that people became ardent Invisible Children enthusiasts overnight was disturbing.
But the turnaround was just as unbearable. When I logged onto Facebook earlier today, I saw one of my friends had posted a link questioning the Kony 2012 campaign and Invisible Children. While this in itself is not bad, repeated accusations and angry remarks toward Invisible Children are.
Though the Kony campaign is questionable and imperfect, this is the case with most not-for-profits, especially when meddling with controversies like the one in Uganda. Every organization requires enormous sums of money to fund travel and to pay workers. Transporting large numbers of people to and from Africa runs in the thousands per person (totaling $1.07 million in 2010, according to the organization’s IRS Form 990, found here*), and good publicity costs a fortune ($851,552 in 2010 for all production costs and $357,610 for film costs in 2010 relatively low for such high-impact films as the organization has pulled off).
The blog and many others that popped in my newsfeed questioned the exorbitant amounts the organization spends on making videos. But few documentaries capture an audience as Invisible Children’s documentaries have. Most organizations go completely unnoticed. This kind of advertising is essential for anyone to hear about their cause.
Think about this: few people heard about Kony’s deplorable acts last year when Global Issues, a school club, tried to raise the same issue. No one would have heard of Invisible Children had it not created the video.
Also, critics have blown the expenses out of proportion. Invisible Children’s revenue in 2010 was $13.77 million and its expenses amounted to $8.89 million, with $4.87 million going into savings. Around 65 percent of revenue covered expenses of running the organization, not an unreasonable amount especially considering the publicity the organization does.
The purported spendthrifts running the organization don’t make millions. The most any makes is $89,669 a year, according to Form 990, and this money goes to one of the founders of the organization.
The primary difference between Global Issues’ and Invisible Children’s focuses remained in education. Calistus came over to understand how American schools run and to take the teachings back and apply them to his school in Uganda. The Kony 2012 video’s focus was on mobilizing support for the troops that are already in Uganda, to spread knowledge.
If people don’t know or care about Kony, politicians could withdraw troops from the area. It is a great idea, but capturing Kony using troops is more questionable.
Funding the Ugandan military to capture Kony might not — and also might — be the best idea. To call Invisible Children a scam, however, is a hasty conclusion. To question its solution to the problem is reasonable. While I don’t know the best solution, and I think it’s impossible to know what the right thing to do is, I think the solution is something peacekeeping forces like the United Nations need to sort out, not one nation or one organization.
Though that’s just one high school student’s thoughts, I do think it’s important to question. Before jumping on either bandwagon, extreme loathing or love for the campaign, it’s important to question.
By Avantika Khatri
*As a side note, before jumping to conclusions about Invisible Children’s low rating on the site, check the dates on the comments