Madonna seems like she had the best intentions with her Raising Malawi charity—but $4 million later, plans to build a school to educate approximately 400 girls have fallen apart with little to show for it. The project hasn't even broken ground, while school directors have been using the money to buy cars, golf memberships, and more.
Madonna plans to sue the director of her foundation to recover the $3.8 million in squandered donations; Raising Malawi staffers are suing Madonna for lost wages.
Meanwhile, the impoverished African nation of Malawi still has a major education crisis, hundreds of locals have been relocated to accommodate construction of the school, and The Global Philanthropy Group says it advised Madonna months ago that millions were being mismanaged by her charity.
The lesson here? Don't donate to a charity just because it's got a famous face behind it.
Celebrities are in a position to do a lot of good, but their causes aren't necessarily as well-run as established foundations. Freshly established charities may be on their way to success, but without a proven track record, you can't be sure of what you're contributing to.
In the case of Raising Malawi, Madonna recruited a number of Hollywood's elite to support the Academy for Girls project. Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alex Rodriguez, as well as "Madonna's associates in Kabbalah" were all backers for the cause, helping raise awareness and lending even more star power to the organization.
It was a high-profile endeavor that seemed completely legit, but now it's uncertain if donors will ever regain their cash.
Madonna's organization has raised $18 million so far, and the charity insists that Raising Malawi will not disband, but will instead redirect how it uses funds to help the poor in Malawi. Hopefully this incident will be the kind of wakeup call that helps the charity get on the right path for its future—but I imagine they'll have trouble securing donations for a while.
In the meantime, people interested in helping Malawi might want to take a look at RIPPLE Africa, which has been around since 2003. It may not be fronted by a pop singer, but they've been doing a lot of good work with very little money.
Image via Madonna.com