Feed the Children, the Oklahoma City-based ministry of Larry Jones, is battling to regain its credibility after a series of critical reports in the Daily Oklahoman.
Jones is an evangelist and former basketball star. The daily newspaper questioned the 20-year-old charity's financial procedures, employment of Jones family members, and other practices. Feed the Children's trustworthiness was already bruised after some Nashville employees were caught on videotape stealing donated supplies from a warehouse in Tennessee.
Jones closed the warehouse, inventoried donations, and reopened the facility with a new staff once everything was accounted for. Feed the Children also complied with an investigation by Tennessee state authorities and plans to help if the district attorney's office brings criminal charges against the former employees.
The Daily Oklahoman also recommended changes at Feed the Children, including that Jones hire a chief of operations, create stricter board policies, and join a fiscal accrediting association such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
Feed the Children, which received about $200 million in private support in 1998, may join the Better Business Bureau. It already belongs to the Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations, which has established accountability criteria for gift-in-kind donations.
Feed the Children received an F rating in the latest charity-watchdog report by the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), which said: "in our opinion [Feed the Children] spends only about 14 percent of its cash budget on programs that are not conducted in conjunction with fund-raising."
Consumers Digest ran a feature-length correction after publishing the findings and subsequently studying the AIP's methodology.
"The methodology upon which we relied in our original article produced mistaken results, and I am personally embarrassed that we presented inaccurate conclusions," Consumers Digest Editor-in-Chief John K. Manos wrote in a letter of apology to Jones in April. Manos called the magazine's original conclusions "either unduly harsh or simply wrong."
"Our purpose is to feed hungry children in the name of the gospel and to work with churches and mission groups," Jones told CT.
"These false allegations have not hurt the money our ministry receives, because the people of Oklahoma know us and they know we are doing a good thing here."
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