Invisible Children, the advocacy group whose video about the murderous Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony unleashed a flood of donations in 2012 and galvanized millions of young Americans to take action, has announced that it will shutter its operations in 2015.
In a message to supporters on its website, the organization said that due to a lack of funds, it planned to shut down its U.S. programs and operations at the end of the year to focus on its political advocacy efforts and central Africa programs. "[B]ased on our current financial projections," a statement released by the organization said, "we have decided that the best decision is to shut down the media and mass-awareness efforts in the U.S. and to focus all remaining funds (and future fundraising) on the execution of our most essential programs. We will also be handing off ownership of our Ugandan programs and offices to regional partners."
The majority of staff, including executives, will be let go, leaving only an experienced advocacy team in Washington, D.C., and some staff needed in central Africa to maintain "the critical programs that are protecting communities targeted by the [Lord's Resistance Army] and helping those in captivity safely find their way home." To support that work through 2015, the organization is trying to raise $150,000. If the organization is unable to raise the money, the programs will end.
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey told GOOD magazine that after the online "Kony 2012" campaign, which was built around a 29-minute video, netted about $12 million, the organization spent $16 million on its offices in Uganda and Congo, a new office in the Central African Republic to assist child soldiers, and efforts to help captives escape the LRA. The group's "hyper-focused approach" on one issue "has been one of our greatest strengths as an organization, but as you get closer to the finish line, the next hurdle is harder," said Keesey. "And to get people to understand and to support the final laps of a long race has been more challenging than we thought it would be." Kony remains at large.
Following the success of the campaign, critics in the media began to attack the organization for, among other things, its posture of "white saviorism" and encouraging "slacktivism" among its young supporters. "One of the obvious things that we learned in the wake of the Kony 2012 campaign was how important it was to be able to simply tell your story. And I don't think we did that very well during the media backlash," Keesey told GOOD. "And what I mean by 'tell your story' is have your organizational strategy and your financials all lining up to your mission. We struggled to have the language to explain that."