Editorial: The foundation of charity

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Legally, the Arthur Nibbs Foundation is a non-entity at this point in time. It is a name that is being used by the Member of Parliament for the Barbuda constituency for collecting money, for what we presume are various causes. It would be akin to Maria BirdBrowne’s Share Foundation, except Share is registered, and people give money to the foundation based upon the foundation’s stated mission.
You could jump up tomorrow and say that you have a foundation (in your name) and you are collecting money for charity. To do it right, you would have to register and be absolutely transparent about how the money is collected and distributed. You would have to account for every penny!
To a large extent, there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting a foundation. People do it all the time. People of means or those who have the ability to raise funds from third parties usually start it. Arthur Nibbs certainly falls into the second category as he has proven with the recent donation from American University of Antigua (AUA) for Barbuda restoration. The thing that everyone wants to know is how is he accounting for the money, and why isn’t he legally registered?
Other obvious questions arise. Have others given to the foundation? If so, how much? How do we know who gives and how much? How much is retained by the foundation for administrative work and expenses? Does Arthur Nibbs receive a salary or any remuneration from the charity? Do the directors? And, the list goes on.
These, and others, are basic questions that should be asked of all foundations and charities, and, if they cannot answerthem, then you are best to move on to another one that can.
Nibbs’ defenders have strong criticism for anyone asking questions about the foundation and label any investigation as a political witchhunt. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are just basic questions that should be asked of any foundation. Certainly from our perspective, this is not a political issue; it is more of an administrative one. We have consistently warned people of possible fraudulent fundraisers, especially as it relates to Barbuda. And, for the purpose of full clarity, we are not asserting that Minister Nibbs is doing anything untoward, only that there are basic questions that any bonafide foundation or charity should be willing and able to answer, including the Arthur Nibbs Foundation.
Plus, there is an overarching question of why funnel Barbuda support funds through yet another avenue? As the representative for Barbuda, we would expect that Nibbs would promote and direct all donations to the already established entities, such as the National Office for Disaster Services (NODS) and the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
When it comes to foundations/charities, where it begins to get messy is when you say that you are collecting “on behalf of.” Unless there is consultation and buy-in by the target group or entity, persons should not seek to utilize circumstances to solicit funds unless in a committed partnership.
Let’s just take a look at the popular gofundme.com website. A search for “Barbuda” delivers 799 results. Obviously all of these are not hurricane related donation pages, but a good many are. In the 50 or so that we sampled, the amount raised approached a quarter million United States dollars! That includes a page hosted by the American University of Antigua, which has raised US $64,185.
Now, it is probably on everyone’s minds: how much of all the funds raised on that site, by all of those fundraisers, will eventually reach Barbudans in need? How many are simply parasites taking advantage of a bad situation and people’s good intentions? The depressing answers to those questions are why it is very important for a coordinated approach to fundraising.
This could just be a case of Minister Nibbs leaving the details to his directors who, in turn, let him down. If that is the case, then we are sure he will be having a very unpleasant discussion with them.
Be that as it may, the foundation carries Arthur Nibbs’ name and ultimately, he is responsible for it. Deferring questions to his directors is not helping the transparency part of the foundation; and that is absolutely necessary. It would do Mr. Nibbs and his foundation a world of good to be open and honest about the foundation, its mission and the activity to date. To do any less will damage any respectability the foundation has or is seeking to obtain.

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