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Friday, February 11, 2011

Anti Accountability: World Vision Pressures Agencies Not To Criticize Their Irresponsible Giving

Yesterday called attention to a questionable donation in the works by World Vision. There are 100 000 unwanted, misprinted t-shirts left over from the Super Bowl's losing team. The NFL is offering these shirts to World Vision as a charitable donation, claiming a value of $20 per shirt (resulting in a $2M tax deduction). World Vision is planning to send these shirts to Zambia, Armenia, Nicaragua, and Romania. So whats the big deal? 

The AERDO Interagency Gifts in Kind Standards, which World Vision subscribes to, serve to establish best practices in the receipt and distribution of Gifts in Kind to do no harm to local markets, and to enhance rather than deter community development. Flooding the market with cheap, unwanted foreign t-shirts is direct competition to local merchants and deters community development by reinforcing their dependency on foreign goods and services. 

Click to view the  GIK Standards

World Vision's decision to send these t-shirts (and any other unwanted goods of this kind) to developing economies is IRRESPONSIBLE GIVING which offers no long term benefit to the recipients and causes harm to local industry. And that's not all. 

The real issue I have with this entire situation is that no body is talking about it- and not because it's not worth discussing. No one is talking about it because World Vision is a multi-national, billion dollar budget, 57 year old aid organization. They have global reach and ties to many prominent institutions. And they've "kindly" asked that bloggers not write about it. There is enormous industry pressure to turn a blind eye to this unscrupulous act. 

According to Good Intents, aid workers have disclosed that that they can’t write - and some can’t even tweet – about the topic because they either work for World Vision or they work for another nonprofit that partners with World Vision. Even people that don’t work for a nonprofit are feeling pressure. One independent blogger reported receiving emails from friends that work at World Vision imploring them not to blog about the issue. 

This incident gives donors an interesting look at World Vision's commitment to transparency and accountability (or their lack thereof). 100 000 t-shirts is a drop in the bucket for this NGO giant. What else don't they want to talk about? I encourage World Vision to offer a response to this post- we will share it with our followers. 

-GlassFrog Blogger Jessica


  1. Maybe World Vision is too big to care- it seems like they are detached from the reality of what is needed in these communities. Or they just understand the benefits of keeping developing countries in a perpetual state of need.

  2. How did they think that they would get away with this!?? Telling the blogosphere to keep quiet- did they not just witness the events in Egypt? If they don't want to be part of the conversation then they need to rethink their line of business.

  3. I agree with you. Everyone who donates to World Vision becomes a stakeholder, supporting not only what their $5, $10, or $100 donation does, but what the ENTIRE organization does. World Vision has a responsibility to provide their stakeholders with an honest account of what they're doing, even if they've screwed up. Then they can learn from it and get better. Excluding us from the conversation is a very arrogant act. It is them saying "We want your money, but we don't care what you think."

  4. Honestly, it is obvious to me that this is irresponsible giving. It has no long term benefit to the recipients and reduces demand for local goods (goods that would have had a positive, sustainable impact on the local economy). It’s a bad move by WV, but everyone makes mistakes. It’s hard to snub donors and expect them to continue to support you. The thing that bothers me the most though is how unwilling WV is to talk about it. They don’t want to hear criticism or listen to creative alternatives. They’re snubbing the values of transparency and accountability that should be the guiding principles of any NGO.

  5. “Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”

    Robert F. Kennedy

  6. We would really like to see a response from World VIsion on this topic. If you would too, please tweet this: **RT** if you would like to see more transparency and accountability in the aid process @WorldVision

  7. All this is doing is creating a false economy, which hurts local entrepreneurship: the engine of international growth. But what is the most disturbing is the hidden information. It is like a black Opaque Gorilla..

  8. Couple of points.

    The AERDO/Accord and Interaction standards are primarily accounting standards, not programatic standards. Where they are programatic, they are very strongly focused on drugs and pharmaceuticals. The issue of distribution of shirts, well you could drive a truck full of shirts through these standards they are so loose on that.

    Now, standards come about through a context and a historical evolution. They don't just appear immaculately.

    We might infer from the content of these standards that the GIK sector in the US had to set these up with the focus they have, because historically or currently there are/were much more horrific issues of destructive programming, malfeasance and creative accounting than the distribtuion of a few shirts.

    So secondly, I wanna know who HOLDS these agencies to the standards they sign up to. A published set of standards that everyone can admire is a beautiful thing. Show me the independent audits, or at least the peer audits ,of the key agencies against the standard. Then publish these audits on the AERDO/Accord website.

  9. This is a very interesting post; But, apparently the NFL has been providing World Vision with such 'super bowl' donations for 15 YEARS. Its nothing new, and I certainly wouldn't argue its anything secret.

    The economic argument is there and rather valid, but let's not be shortsighted. Such material can be a great form of relief to people in need, especially in emergency situations.

    Arguing otherwise would be like saying that earthquake ravaged countries shouldn't accept tents or relief shelters from neighbours.

    I think what's missing from this post is the fact that World Vision has the capacity to build partnerships with real players who can contribute - whether its clothes or Procter and Gamble donating water in partnership with WV. That is, WV isn't necessarily the issue; the issue is a long standing economic mentality that aid should be 'tied' - i.e. dependency theory - whereby WV is likely the littlest of perpetrators.

  10. Religion and charity don't mix. This is but one of many reasons why people shouldn't donate to World Vision.

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