Sunday, April 08, 2012

'Three Cups of Tea' Author and Nonprofit Founder Determined To Have Mismanaged Org After Year Long Investigation

This week, headlines have risen declaring that Greg Mortenson was found to have mis-manged his nonprofit organization, after a year long investigation, and must repay it $1 million.

The investigation into Mortenson's Montana based charity, was conducted by Montana State Attorney General Steve Bullock's office, the government entity that oversees nonprofits in the State of Montana.

Greg Mortenson is the author of Three Cups of Tea, a book that three years ago was flying off of bookshelves in the U.S. and elsewhere because, it seemed, every book club member or avid reader had to find out what the buzz was about.  It remained on the New York Times nonfiction best seller list for four years.  Mortenson, in it, alleges an experience becoming a humanitarian in Afghanistan and Pakistan ultimately building schools for girls in both countries.  He founded a charity to help provide those schools.  CBS later investigated the allegations in Mortenson's book and found much of it to be untrue.

To quote the Montana State Attorney General's Office's investigations report, "...Mortenson’s control of the Central Asia Institute (the nonprofit he founded) went largely unchallenged by its board of directors, which consisted of himself and two people loyal to him,..." and "When an employee would question his practices, Mortenson either resisted or ignored the person, the report found."

Readers of this blog know that my first goal is to provide the reader with nonprofit best practices (the latest in professional nonprofit thinking and practices for all operations of nonprofit administration that are proven time and time again) in order to save the reader (a presumed nonprofit supporter) time, money, and all other resources (i.e. the nonprofit's reputation, its volunteers, its potential to recruit new donors, volunteers, and community partners and keep them, etc.).  Operating an organization adhering to professional nonprofit best practices is a good way to save any nonprofit its resources, reputation, and even its official charitable status with the governments overseeing it.

So, I appreciate cautionary tales from the real world of the nonprofit sector because they demonstrate that what I discuss herein is often unknown, ignored, or worse by some nonprofit's leadership - and there is sometimes real fallout from that.  Almost always, though, amid poor nonprofit operations it is the nonprofit's intended beneficiaries (i.e. the girls of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have no resources, themselves - in this instance) that are harmed the most.  This is the reason that operating through best practices is so critical.  Often it is the least powerful with the least resources that are harmed by poorly run nonprofit organizations.

To see what led to and what the fallout of the the Three Cups of Tea scandal is, see:


CBS' "60 Minutes" report on the Three Cups of Tea allegations proven untrue

Questions Over Greg Mortenson's Stories

Three Cups of Tea Author Defends Book

AP News Break: 'Three Cups' Author Mismanaged  Group

'Three Cups of Tea' Author To Pay $1 Million To U.S. Charity

And a terrible tragedy that is allegedly the result of the allegations that the book's story was at least in part fiction:

Three Cups of Tea co-author, Relin commits suicide

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