Invisible Children, the organization behind the viral “Kony 2012” video, announced today it will be shutting down its operations in the United States and Africa.
In a message posted on its website, CEO Ben Keesey announced that the organization made the decision to cease its operations due to the difficulty in finding funding for its work, especially during the past two years. Due to this, Keesey wrote that the organization would be “downsizing” over the next year and handing over operations to African-based partners.
“Based on our current financial projections, 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,” wrote Keesey.
According to its most recent Form 990, Invisible Children raised $4.94 million in 2013, significantly less than the $26.48 million raised in 2012.
Based on information obtained by The Washington Post, the staff in the organization’s U.S. office will be cut from 21 to four before the end of the year, while the number of staff working in Africa will be scaled down from 20 to 10 in March.
Before all of Invisible Children’s operations go dark, the organization is attempting to raise $150,000 to keep a small team in Africa through the end of 2015. According to Keesey, they will be forced to end their work earlier than anticipated if they do not meet this goal. “Every dollar we raise in the next few months will go toward our Finishing Fund and will enable us to responsibly hand over our programs to local community partners,” wrote Keesey.
Attempts to contact Invisible Children for further details, including whether the organization will reform at some point, were not immediately successful at press time.
Invisible Children was founded in 2003 by Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell, three young filmmakers who wanted to shed light on the atrocities of African warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Specifically, they focused on the LRA’s abduction of children for use as soldiers in Uganda and other central African countries. While the organization has been operating for more than a decade, it only gained national prominence in 2012 with the release of the only video “Kony 2012.” The video gained worldwide attention for the cause, with the Twitter hashtag #KONY2012 getting retweeted 2.4 million times in March 2012 alone.
Yet despite its success, the campaign also drew criticism, with some calling into question the goal of generating money for the organization rather than advocacy for the victims. This criticism, along with the massive amount of media attention Invisible Children received, led to co-founder Russell’s arrest in 2012 for indecent exposure. At the time, Keesey said that the incident was due Russell suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.
“We’re firing ourselves, but we’re not quitting,” wrote Keesey. “Because we won’t stop until every captive man, woman, and child is out of the LRA.”