Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


Misguided trust?

Q: Should we admire Haitian singer Wyclef Jean for his charitable work even if it turns out that some of the money raised by his foundation, Yele Haiti, has been spent in questionable ways? How often do successful, high-profile people disappoint their admirers or lose their trust? And is that kind of trust be misguided in the first place?

Successful, high-profile people win and lose support like the stock market goes up and down ... all the time. It comes with the territory. And if there is a surge in positive flow that is undeserved, it is just a bubble in the market destined to right itself at the expense of the star's social capital.

Is this trust misguided in the first place? Maybe, but there's nothing to do about it. We all want heroes, just like we want a quick buck. As long as there's fortune to be made, someone who raises our hopes, we will follow, throwing our fortunes in with our hopes. It's programmed into our DNA. That is why it pays to be careful when it comes to investments of any kind: trust or cash.

If you are going to give your hard-earned money to help the tragedy in Haiti, make sure you are giving to a cause you can believe in. Wyclef Jean's charity is under scrutiny, but frankly nothing has been proven at this point. They say that of $1 million raised this year, a third went to questionable sources. But a third of $1 milion isn't that much when it comes to funding a charity that will distribute over $700,000 and produce concerts featuring Wyclef. Now, if it was a third of $10 million, that would be another issue!

Overhead is something every organization faces. $333,000 of overhead for a year's operation that includes concerts for a star of his caliber and the required promotion to get the word out doesn't sound unreasonable to me.

That's because when you give to Yele Haiti, you are not just pouring your money into aid. You are doing it through Wyclef and his chosen methods. If you love Wyclef, it may feel like a win-win. If you don't care for him, it is probably money misspent just because there are more efficient ways.

By Seth Kahan  |  January 21, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  giving Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I don't "need" heroes, but I have a few anyway. They are not the sort of people who would sparechange anyone. As for the featured clown, I've never heard of him and hope to hear as little about him as possible in the future.

Posted by: beowulf3 | January 23, 2010 5:30 AM
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Of all the 'so called' experts assembled to comment on this topic you are the only one making any sense Seth. I haven't read the whole Wyclef story but the way i see it people are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Most charities don't even spend 30 percent of their intake. Wyclef is not the cause of Haitians misfortunes and trying to blame the helper is a little misdirected anger. A helping hand is a helping hand, clean or otherwise.

Posted by: PlzGodCome | January 23, 2010 1:56 AM
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