For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. --2 Corinthians 8:21 (NIV)
Most of you reading this blog may have seen or heard about the April 17 60 Minutes story concerning Greg Mortenson, author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea, and allegations that he received substantial financial benefit from the non-profit organization he founded, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Those allegations include:
- Only 41 percent of the funds donated to CAI in fiscal year 2009 went to schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan;
- Mr. Mortenson personally received all honoraria from his speeches; and
- CAI spent more than $1.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to promote Mr. Mortenson’s books and his speaking engagements, for which he reportedly was paid $30,000 each.
Since the story was broadcast, many of the charity’s supporters have expressed shock and dismay at the allegations. The Montana state Attorney General has launched an investigation into the organization, and Mr. Mortenson is currently under the care of a physician due to a heart condition.
None of this is good news for Mr. Mortenson, or the Central Asia Institute. I only have the CBS News story, so it is not my intent to pass any further judgment on them. But a caution must be raised to all charities: Once a reputation is damaged, it may take years to restore it, if that happens at all. One of Ben Franklin’s most familiar comments comes to mind: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”