New York Times discusses Madonna and Kabbalah Centre debacle in Malawi

March 26, 2011 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: News, Global Giving, Ethics and Canadian Charities, Avoiding 'Charity' Scams

The New York Times, in an article entitled “Madonna’s Charity Fails in Bid to Finance School”, discusses how Madonna has abandoned her efforts to build an expensive school in Malawi after investing 4 million in the prepatory work to the project.

Here is a link to the article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/us/25madonna.html

That Tom Cruise, a fervent scientology supporter, supports the project should give some pause.  That the Kabbalah Centre International is co-directing should really give further pause as there are lots of articles on the web alleging that they are a cult or destructive cult - I will let people make up their own mind about that one.

There are many great organizations doing good work building schools in the developing world - why anyone would want to support this initiative is beyond me.

What can a celebrity learn from an experience like this:

1) Good intentions and money are not enough to have successful philanthropic projects.
2) Be careful who you get involved with and partner with.
3) Work with organizations that have proven models that are cost-effective.
4) Problematic philanthropic initiatives, in addition to hurting beneficiaries and diverting resources from good projects, can also damage the reputation of a celebrity.
5) Get good advice - the cost may be less than 1% of the alternative.


Here is a further link to an article that is particularly troubling:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-04-03/madonnas-kabbalah-disaster-in-malawi-1/#


“The Berg family and Madonna have hired top-level spin doctors to help them manage the Raising Malawi blowback. The Bergs brought in Mark Fabiani, a key player on the Clinton White House counsel’s damage-control team during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Madonna hired Trevor Neilson of Global Philanthropy Group, which specializes in star donors who need a public-relations face-lift.

Fabiani and Neilson have successfully diverted attention from Madonna and the center by pinning much of the blame on Raising Malawi academy director Anjimile Oponyo, accusing her of “outlandish expenditures.” But the totals seem trivial in the face of the $3.8 million lost on the school project.

The more important fact seems to be that only $850,000 of the $3.8 million spent on the academy was paid out in Malawi. The lion’s share, almost $3 million, was spent by the Kabbalah Centre’s office in L.A.”

As well it appears that the FBI may be investigating Madonna and the Kabbalah Centre:

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/04/03/040311-news-madonna-fbi/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1373417/Madonnas-charity-Success-Kids-iinvestigated-amid-claims-financial-mismanagement.html

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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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