The Truth Behind Social Media-Driven Donation Campaigns
Tactic often used to scam well-meaning people
Anthony Gucciardi & Mikael Thalen
While hospitality and charity remain a cornerstone of American society, a recent history of social media-driven donation campaigns show the tactic has often been used to scam well-meaning people.
Although more than $94 million in donations have been raised through the viral “ice bucket” social media campaign, the actual amount going towards the non-profit ALS Association’s research is strikingly different.
According to the ALS Association’s own 2014 financial breakdown, only 27 percent of funds make their way to researching a cure for the disease. Despite its non-profit status, six figure salaries are bestowed upon the group’s top 11 executives.
As Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo points out in his breakdown of the ice bucket phenomenon, even the smaller portions spent on research for ALS are actually going towards pharmaceutical interventions and the pharmaceutical industry at large.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, known for its pink ribbon breast cancer campaign, has received similar condemnation as well after the company’s expenditures were found to be less than charitable. According to Charity Navigator, the company’s 2010 revenue reached nearly $312 million. Of that, only 20 percent was used for research, with former CEO and president Hala G. Moddelmog making as much $550,000 per year.
“Komen receives over $55 million in annual revenue from corporate sponsorships, from such health-minded companies as Coca Cola, General Mills, and KFC,” noted AlterNet’s Emily Michelle. “Buy a bucket of junk food, and pretend as though you’re helping to save lives while you slowly take your own.”
Following the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the “Hope for Haiti” telethon brought countless celebrities out to raise awareness and funds for those hit hardest in the country. Shortly after, it was learned that much of the cash would be given to several foundations such as one run by former presidents Bush and Clinton. Donations were also funneled to United Nations operations as well as foundations with absurdly high administrative costs.
Most famously, the Kony 2012 campaign ran by the Invisible Children organization, was allegedly used to gather funds for children affected by Joseph Kony, war lord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Called ”misleading” and “dangerous” by former Yale political science professor Chris Blattman, Invisible Children only used $2.8 million of $8.8 million raised to directly help Ugandan children according to a 2010-2011 expenditure report.
Beyond the financial aspect, further research revealed the campaign to be part of an undeniable attempt to create support for military intervention into Africa.
Although Kony 2012 did eventually experience a major backlash from the public, the attempt to push war through social media campaigns has only continued. A video published earlier this year entitled “I am a Ukrainian” attempted to push the American public into supporting US policy in the region after so called “grass roots” protests arose in the country.
“The origins of the video are not quite as ‘grass roots’ as is portrayed. The clip was produced by the team behind A Whisper to a Roar, a documentary about the ‘fight for democracy’ all over the world, which was funded by Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco,” Infowars writer Paul Joseph Watson noted. “The ‘inspiration’ behind the documentary was none other than Larry Diamond, a Council on Foreign Relations member. The Council on Foreign Relations is considered to be America’s ‘most influential foreign-policy think tank’ and has deep connections with the U.S. State Department.”
Evidence indicating that protesters were being paid and armed by the US as they called for deeper involvement with the European Union only raised suspicions over the group’s legitimacy.
Amid all of the social media madness when it comes to charitable organizations like Susan G. Komen and now the ALS Association, it remains true that the key element necessary for real change is the spread of information. And when financial abilities allow for it, supporting real charities with a proven track record of directly supporting its stated goals with the bulk of its financial power.