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Just got off the phone with Justin at Invisible Children. He's the "faith outreach coordinator" or the "church relations" guy depending on whether you're reading e-mail or a web site. Either way he deals with Christians wanting to get involved with IC.

Here's the skinny - and I can't believe the IC web site or their peeps haven't just come out and said this to us yet:

Geneva Global, a for profit aid research group, finds churches in Northern Uganda and studies what their needs are and what they are doing and able to do for others in their city.

IC brokers these reports, called Delta Reports, for Geneva Global.

A church in the US (or elsewhere) can contact IC and BUY a report on a church from Geneva Global via IC.

The average price, IC says, is about 30K. Ten percent of that price tag goes to Geneva Global. The rest of the money goes to the church the report is about. These churches are in the city of Gulu. Money does not go directly to these churches though. IC accountants - Americans - on the ground in Gulu administer the funds. If the money was handed over in one lump sum IC fears it would be squandered.

The report tells the "sponsoring" church what needs the report church has and what their potential is. The reports are said to be very detailed. It tells sponsoring churches what exactly will be bought with their 30K: ten tents, five chickens, 100 shovels, irrigation etc. (Anyone seen one of these reports and gone through his process with Geneva Global and IC?)

The churches in Uganda are not at this point doing anything directly to aid the night commuters documented in the Invisible Children film, according to Justin. They are in "survival mode" and have been for 17 years since this war began. They receive little or no money from members and are not in a benevolence frame of mind - again, according to Justin.

I asked why the churches don't at the very least open their doors to let night commuters sleep in their buildings instead in hospital basements and outdoors. He said the night commuters are guarded by Ugandan soldiers and those soldiers will not patrol churches. Separation of church and state. So the commuters go where the guards are: hospitals, hotels etc. And churches lack the ability to go to the children themselves to administer aid. They have no aid to give.

More later. Justin's calling me back.


Blogger Dave Haupert said...

Anyone seen one of these reports and gone through his process with Geneva Global and IC?)

At last year's Catalyst Christian Leader's conference held by Andy Stanley's church (Northpoint Community in Atlanta GA), they had some people from Rwanda, and a children's choir from there as well. They presented the need for digging wells, a la Blood:Water Mission. They said that wells cost about 2K to dig and each well would provide an entire community clean water for bathing, cooking, and drinking for generations to come. They did an offering and got about 100K, which should provide 50 wells.

I went to check on that later, as if it really only costs 2K to build a well, then they are getting a much better deal than Blood:Water Mission which estimates at least 4K-6K. Indeed they were working through Geneva Global and they were able to fund 35 wells. Not quite 2K, but still a great accomplishment of hands and feet!

Anyway, I researched Geneva Global a little at the time, seemed like the minimum grant they did was over 10K, but typically as you said 30K. They said that it was far cheaper to let them do the research of the highest needs than to let corporations or foundations do the legwork on their own.

Lastly, their argument was that unlike giving to something generic like CI, Red Cross, etc, many foundations like to know exactly who and how they are helping, hence their existence.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for the lowdown, dave.

Anonymous Tim Ogden said...


Found your site while keeping tabs on where and how Geneva Global appears on the web because, well, that’s my job (not all of it, of course).

I wanted to provide some clarification of who we are, what we do, how we do it, how we make a living and our relationship with Invisible Children, which we think is a great organization (or we wouldn’t have partnered with them).

First let me commend the questions that you have been asking about Invisible Children and where donations go. Part of our mission is spurring more people to ask these exact questions, and based on the answers send their money where it will accomplish the most good.

Our business is helping donors find local/grassroots organizations that are highly effective in changing lives in the world’s hardest places. These organizations don’t have international arms and no way of connecting with western donors. Yet, our research over the last 7 years shows that these organizations accomplish, on average, 7 to 10 times more than spending the same amount of money on child sponsorships. We find and qualify these projects with a combination of US and local staff and volunteers. You can see an example of our research at www.genevaglobal.com/delta_reports. (You profvided this link in the post, thanks by the way).

We do charge a fee for our services because doing this research is expensive. But it is worth it because the money given accomplishes so much more. To put our fees in perspective, keep in mind that the most efficient US-based charities spend at least 11% of each donation on fundraising. Then they have to cover other overhead expenses. Best-in-class is around 5%, most charities are closer to 15%. So, in the best case scenario 16% of your donation is not getting to, in this case, Uganda. Our standard fee is 12%. So, even after paying for our services, more dollars actually get to the local community in need. We also follow up each grant with a detailed report assessing how the money was used and what was accomplished. So, clients don’t “buy” our reports, and the reports don’t cost $30K. The average project we recommend to clients is in that $30K neighborhood but that money is the cost of the specific project (e.g. building a school, training teachers, providing school supplies and meals for the students). Our fees stay separate from that so there is never any question about what our services cost or where money went.

We are a for-profit company for a quite simple reason – so we can’t ask people to literally give us money. It is impossible to make a donation to Geneva Global. The only way we can survive is by providing our clients with services that are good enough that they are willing to pay for them. That prevents us from misdirecting a single ounce of our energy to fundraising rather than serving clients, making sure more money gets to the most effective projects and more people’s lives are changed.

We are proud to be partners with Invisible Children. As you note, they are doing a fabulous job at bringing attention to the needless suffering of children in Northern Uganda, suffering that the rest of the world has ignored for more than a decade. Our role in the partnership is to find excellent, highly effective programs that are changing children’s lives in Northern Uganda and bringing them to the attention of Invisible Children. As with all our client relationships, IC maintains control over which projects they fund and which they do not.

I should also probably note that we don’t research churches. We research humanitarian projects. We measure the effectiveness of projects and base our recommendations on effectiveness, not on the faith-orientation of the organization. In sub-Saharan Africa in general, and Northern Uganda in particular, many of the most effective humanitarian projects are run by churches or other faith-based organizations. You can see our discussion of the incredible success of African churches and faith-based organizations in fighting the AIDS pandemic at www.genevaglobal.com/hiv_aids.

I hope that clears up some confusion. If you or any readers have questions about Geneva Global, feel free to contact me at togden@genevaglobal.com; if you’d like more information about our relationship with Invisible Children you can contact Christina Galanes at cgalanes@genevaglobal.com.


Timothy N. Ogden
VP, Communications
Geneva Global, Inc.
610 254 0000


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