This is all very interesting.
A reader* sent me this link to a recent article in the New York Post on the subject of Bono’s non-profit, the ONE Campaign. The idea behind this campaign sounds like an admirable and excellent one in theory – it aims to end poverty and the scourge of AIDS among the world’s poorest people.
But the campaign’s recent promotional campaign has left me puzzled. I’m not sure that if I worked at ONE I could justify sending out promo press packs which contained such expensive goodies as:
“a $15 bag of Starbucks coffee, a $15 Moleskine leather notebook, a $20 water bottle and a plastic ruler”
Which arrived on journalists’ desks at a crucial time for the campaign
“in four, oversized shoe boxes, delivered one at a time via expensive messenger. The boxes were timed to arrive for the UN ‘Summit on the Millennium Development Goals'”
The contents of these boxes are especially disturbing when, as the New York Post points out, the ONE Campaign
“took in $14,993,873 in public donations in 2008, the latest year for which tax records are available.
Of that, $184,732 was distributed to three charities, according to the IRS filing.
Meanwhile, more than $8 million was spent on executive and employee salaries”
Um… Can you run those figures past me again, please? Less than two hundred grand to good causes yet eight million dollars spent on salaries in a year? Really???
“At ONE, we aren’t asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice. If you want to make a financial contribution to help fight extreme poverty and preventable disease, we encourage you to consider one of our partner organizations, the vast majority of which are providing direct services on the ground in Africa and around the world”
So can you explain again how you spent this $14 million to me then, I’m still not sure I get it..?
And I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it – this article by Johnny Dee in The First Post is highly critical of both Bono himself and the ONE Campaign:
“Bono needs those shades to help him ignore the bright, shining truth of his position. His offshore tax activities appear to expose him as a hypocrite – a man who pressures governments to put their house in order but is happy to exploit loopholes for his own financial gain.
With Ireland in recession, aid to developing countries has been cut. Perhaps Bono would like to make up the shortfall. Or perhaps not.
ONE says it is not a charity – it performs advocacy work, not charity work, said a spokesman. But it is registered in the US as a non-profit organisation and the wastage of its funds does a huge disservice to genuine charities less liberal with their budgets.
If a campaign headed by someone as pious as Saint Bono can be so profligate then, some may wonder, what goes on at other charities? How they must be thanking Bono for all his hard work”
However, on the same day that this column appeared, The First Post also published a letter from Olly Buston, the European Director of the ONE Campaign, rebutting the claims made by Dee and the New York Post and making a half-hearted attempt to apologise for the press kits mentioned above:
“The media kits that were mentioned in your article, which were delivered by staff and volunteers, not a messenger service, were an effort to focus reporters on the Millennium Development Goals, a set of promises world leaders made to cut poverty, hunger and disease by 2015.
There is a rich and vibrant debate in the UK media about aid that doesn’t happen in the US, which is why these press kits were delivered to US reporters in New York. In hindsight, the kits were not the best way to gain attention for the issues and we regret that sending them distracted from the work we are trying to do and the issues we care about”
* That reader being Grant, Another Kind Of Mind’s most diligent unofficial Research Elf, whose suggestions are always damn good ones! Big thanks for this, as ever…