Central Asia Institute

Rating: 3.08 stars   50 reviews

Issues:

Location: PO Box 7209 Bozeman MT 59771 USA

Mission: Central Asia Institute (CAI) works with communities in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, to promote education, especially for girls. At home and abroad, CAI is committed to sharing its expert knowledge with the public. Together we can cultivate peace, nurture hope, and change the world, one child at a time.
Results: Central Asia Institute has: - Built and or supported just under 300 schools - Constructed or sponsored 48 women’s vocational and literacy centers - Created 34 public health programs - Established 9 scholarship programs - Undertaken 16 community programs
Programs: Since its founding in 1996, Central Asia Institute has:
  • Built and or supported just under 300 schools
  • Constructed or sponsored 48 women’s vocational and literacy centers
  • Created 34 public health programs
  • Established 9 scholarship programs
  • Undertaken 16 community programs
  • CAI’s service-learning program, Pennies for Peace (P4P), was started in 1994 to teach children that a little goes a long way. By raising pennies to donate to impoverished schoolchildren in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, kids discover their potential as humanitarians and philanthropists. While a penny is virtually worthless in many societies, it can open the door to literacy for a child in Central Asia.
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    EIN 51-0376237
    406.585.7841
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    Community Reviews

    Rating: 1 stars  

    2 people found this review helpful

    After reading the book I called CAI and offered to fully fund the construction of a school, however it had to be a specific school and I had to see a specific budget as well as see pictures of the site and village served before construction as well as during construction and upon completion. I was told, "We do not do that." I was invited to give money for a construction fund, but was told it wasn't possible to fund a specific school. I was astonished. I found that the board chair was a professor, so I got his e-mail that way and made my offer directly to him. He didn't even reply. I thought this was very strange that they would so easily refuse $30-$40K, but this fits very well with the charges that have come up.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    They refused the offer. Their board chair didn't even honor my offer with a reply to my e-mail.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Fully document each school constructed with locations, photographs, receipts, budgets, etc. so that if there was any question how many schools had been built or where they were, those questions could be immediately answered. I think this organization should accept restricted gifts. I think this organization should immediately and enthusiastically respond to any offer of $30-40K.

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    Review from CharityNavigator
    Rating: 2 stars  

    2 people found this review helpful

    I'm only responding to the "60 Minutes" piece. Despite the glowing defenses made here, I think prospective donors should watch the piece and make their own conclusions. There is a transparency issue with nonprofits who believe avoiding journalists -- even "yellow" journalists -- will benefit them. By not participating in the dialog, it creates the impression that the charity has something to hide. In the case of this charity, at the least, it creates an uncertainty about the Board's veracity. At worst, it undermines trust in the nonprofit's governance. I'm putting this in the "Nice idea, but . . ." category. I have no problem with Mortenson's making $, either directly or indirectly through the charity. It's not even unseemly; this is America. The lack of transparency is my complaint.

    I must confess that CharityNavigator's response to the report seems a bit complacent. True, they're just rating based on the public reports, but maybe it's time to look for additional metrics. I don't think this charity will be in the situation that the Philadelphia Orchestra finds itself anytime soon.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    N/A. I'm evaluating the charity as a prospective donor.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Greater transparency.

    Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

    Unsure

    How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

    Some

    How did you learn about this organization?

    DoD press releases and 60 minutes story

    When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

    2011

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    Review from CharityNavigator
    Role: General Member of the Public
    Rating: 1 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    Need to release yearly finacial statements and to have an audit every year befor I would give money to this organization.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    N/A

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Release yearly finacial statements and to have an audit every year.

    Was this review helpful? 
    Review from Guidestar
    Rating: 5 stars  

    2 people found this review helpful

    The "60 Minutes" expose is not the first time this program has been sloppy, at best. Before detailing another example that is not well known I wonder why they challenge someone who risks his life to make a difference in an admirable way, something not done by anyone else--and there have nearly two decades for someone to replicate his activities.

    Did the program compare Mortenson's salary with that of others in similar situations? Nope. And it is not excessive. Did the program take into account the risks Mortenson faces when he appears publicly--because he has friendships with and helps Muslims, who are viewed in this country today the way Japanese-Americans were viewed during WWII?

    Did the program include Tom Friedman, who wrote about his experience with Mortenson when a new school was opened? No.

    Too often "60 Minutes" shows its fondness for yellow journalism.

    And now the vulture media--the parrots--repeat and exaggerate everything concluded by the program.

    Now for another grievance about "60 Minutes." In December 1996, featuring Morley Safer, there was segment about the new viatical settlement industry. Safer seemed to praise it. He was widely quoted by viatical companies as stating this was "the perfect no-risk investment." The phrase was taken out of context, but it led to tens of thousands of elderly people investing in fraudulent viatical contracts.

    I contacted the program, asking to speak to several anchors, finally left a message asking them to retract the apparent endorsement and run a correction. Silence.

    A number of viatical companies even used a video of that segment as a marketing device.

    In a follow-up message I told "60 Minutes" that they were co-conspirators, helping to induce people into becoming fraud victims.

    No response. In my mind, "60 Minutes"chooses not to be responsible.

    ln my mind, the veracity of reports on "60 Minutes" should be questioned whenever they attempt an expose.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    I've read reports of Mortenson's success from other sources, unbiased, objective sources who were witnesses to his achievements. AND, the IRS forms for the organization are readily available to the public. I do not have a problem with how this organization is run.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Have an audit committee since that seems to be the only thing lacking.

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    Review from CharityNavigator
    Rating: 1 stars  

    2 people found this review helpful

    If you are considering donating money to CAI, please understand that this organization has effectively been committing fraud. I have spent years in the development field and this is not an uncommon result when an individual sets up a program without a good management team, board of directors and other forms of proper oversight. Until the management team admit their mistakes and make the necessary changes you should consider giving your hard earned money to more effective organizations.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    No need for firsthand experience; the research has been done by many other respected individuals and institutions that confirm the serious deficiencies with CAI.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    New board, hire a staff accountant (!), admit mistakes, change policy concerning financial support for Mr. Mortenson's activities, replace Mr. Mortenson with a professional NGO manager who has solid experience in both management and international development.

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    Review from Guidestar
    Rating: 1 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    There is no accountability with CAI. One audited financial statement in 14 years is unacceptable for an organization bringing in $10M+ every year. Their operations appear more like an organization in its first year or two with very small revenues. In addition, 60 Minutes revealed that half of the supposed CAI schools either do not exist or were not funded by CAI.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    Reading about the organization.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Ensure they are audited every year.

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    Rating: 1 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    The lack of transparency of this organization’s leader, and the personal use of the bulk of funds it raises, is cause enough to not support the Central Asia Institute. Continuing to rate them highly certainly calls into questions the basis by which GuideStar makes and monitors its ratings.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    --

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Replace its Board of Directors and leader.

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    Rating: 1 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    I do not understand why Charity Navigator awarded this charity a 4 star rating. The annual tax filings prepared by the organization do not satisfy the need for annual, independent audits.

    With respect to the other reviewers comments regarding the inspirational books, how can they inspire when the author (exec. director of this organization) freely admits that these events never occurred?

    Their response that they do not have time to respond to the concerns of the public is unacceptable. His book tour expenses should be paid by either his publisher or himself, not the organization. I also question the figures reported on the Form 990. It appears the organization materially understated both the fundraising expense figure and director compensation totals. If the charity funded all the book and speaking engagement expenses, they need to receive the income from those activities.

    Unless and until they submit to annual independent audits, I sincerely hope their 501(c)(3) tax exemption is revoked.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    Reviewed their false assertions regarding projects completed.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Revoke their tax exemption for the reasons stated above.

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    Review from CharityNavigator
    Rating: 5 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    Despite the critical 60 Minutes report (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/04/15/60minutes/main20054397.shtml) and AIP report (http://www.charitywatch.org/articles/CentralAsiaInstitute.html), I currently still highly recommend this organization.

    In the big picture this organization has had a huge positive impact on how the general public and the US military understand what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even its critics and 60 minutes admit that it has succeeded in educating many girls and having a tremendous positive impact.

    No the organization or the leader can be expected to be perfect. CAI is working in an area that is extremely challenging. By his own admission in his books, Greg Mortenson admits to not being so great with administrative matters -- he is a doer, not a detailed administrator. It does appear that some issues need buttoning up. But it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Give CAI some time and I believe it will address the concerns that have been raised. The US government itself has made many much bigger errors, yet it has survived and continues to improve. Life is complicated and messy.

    Even with some "inefficiencies", CAI and Greg Mortenson are still doing more for Peace with fewer dollars than any other organization I know. Greg's books are still worth reading.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    talking with CAI staff, talking with Greg, reading his books, talking with other volunteers and donors, and reading articles about his work.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    Improve its transparency and rectify some issues so there is no doubt that this organization is doing the right thing.

    Was your donation impactful?

    Definitely

    How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

    Definitely

    How likely are you to donate to this group again?

    Definitely

    What specific problem, purpose, priority, or project prompted your gift?

    Educating girls and world peace.

    When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

    2011

    Was this review helpful? 
    Review from Guidestar
    Rating: 1 stars  

    1 person found this review helpful

    This organization was on 60 minutes and I immediately started my computer to look for it on Charity Navigator.

    I don't believe in donating to an organization that does not have an Audit Committee.

    I don't understand how they received a 4 star rating.

    I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

    I have heard many good reports on media outlets until recently about this organization.

    If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

    I would consider the rating process and provide the public a clear understanding what a Audit Committee does to validate a charity.

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    Review from CharityNavigator