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Central Asia Institute

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, International Development, International Relief

Mission: We empower communities of Central Asia through literacy and education, especially for girls; to promote peace through education; and to convey the importance of these activities globally.

Results: Central Asia Institute was started in 1996. Since then we have built 189 schools, supported 120 schools, 65 vocational & literacy programs, 14 community programs, 37 public health programs, 11 scholarship programs, and 14 teacher support programs. This past year we positively impacted over 100,000 people through CAI supported programs.

Target demographics: empowering girls and women in Central Asia

Geographic areas served: Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Tajikistan

Programs: We build schools, provide ongoing support to schools and children, women's vocational centers & literacy programs, public health programs, community programs, teacher training programs and scholarship programs.

Community Stories

84 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

8

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

I've spent many years in Afghanistan. I donated good money to the CAI nearly a decade ago. Greg Mortenson has been proven a thief. Believe me when I say this: putting up schools in these countries cost's nearly nothing out of pocket, but costs nearly everything out of heart and passion. When I was in the Marines, we built three schools in 1 DAY! You know what took 6 months? Getting students there, getting teachers to stay, getting girls there and getting supplies. Mr. Mortenson, you may think one day that people will see your overall effort as positive. Don't, for a second, think that I will. Spending $1.5 million on domestic travel for yourself. What you've done is beyond forgivable - not because we can't forgive, because we must forgive - but because a man of your malicious moral fiber can never be upstanding. There's a reason you spent your twenties living in a car - if that was even true - because you can only steal your wealth.

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 3

O and rachels beautiful and she makes me smile 24/7

Review from CharityNavigator

6

Donor

Rating: 4

Charity Navigator does not do itse reputation any good by assuming guilt based on allegations against Central Asia Institute. CN should continue to display the CAU financial information, and put an advisory about the allegations, but let the donors make up their own mind.

Review from CharityNavigator

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I have no idea why people would want you to take down your "Donor Advisory"; I, for one, appreciate it and it's one of the reasons I use Charity Navigator! No, simply reading the reviews and other info doesn't speak for itself - the advisory is helpful. As a co-founder of a non-profit that works with war-injured children, I'm appalled at the "salary" and perks that Greg Mortenson was taking from his "charity". I think what the CAI does is wonderful, but without removing Mortenson from the Board, I can't have much faith that the money is going where it should.

Review from CharityNavigator

5

Donor

Rating: 5

I agree with the other reviewers. Please just present the facts and treat them like any other charity. Information about their financials would be very useful. Links to outside web articles and a blinking red advisory seems excessive.

Review from CharityNavigator

8

Donor

Rating: 5

I agree with other reviewers who have asked you to simply post the charity's information and financials as you do for other charities so potential donors can make their decisions based on data. I believe you lose some credibility when you allow news magazines and authors trying to sell their inflammatory books to make your evaluations.

Review from CharityNavigator

10 Corey B.

Donor

Rating: 5

Charity Navigator, please take down the Donor Advisory. Just post their financial information and let it speak for itself. On their website, CAI says they have averaged spending 83% of their revenues on programs. Maybe recently they've been saving up, because of all the added revenue from the books. It would be wasteful to spend money that fast, just to say that their spending percentage met a certain requirement. They obviously have a larger revenue stream than ever before, and they want to be careful how they spend it. It takes a lot of time to lay the social and political groundwork for a new school. They can't just say, "let's build 100 schools this month, because we have the money for it." I've been a loyal donar to CAI for about a year, and all this controversy honestly scared my wife and I enough that we've stopped our monthly contributions to them. Reading the reviews of others on this site, and looking at CAI's site has reminded me how awesome they are. We'll be giving monthly to them again soon.

Review from CharityNavigator

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

People have to start looking into more and more charities. The public is just taking for granted that when the word charity is involved, that the money u give is being used in the charities best interest. What I am finding, is that alot of charities are benefiting contractors or members of these charities or services provided to these charities are profiting greatly and only a small % of funds are going to help the charities mission...please investigate the %of money made vs. money given to charity grants (not salaries, not expenses, not questionable payments to 3rd parties...one on my radar is Susan B Coleman that spends over 70 % for salaries and other questionable expenses...hundreds of millions collected for the AWARENESS OF BREAST CANCER...Im aware, how spending hundreds of millions on cure, research, care, and prevention

6

Donor

Rating: 5

I want C.N. to remove their "warning" as I belive CAI has satisfactorily answered all the allegations. It's over. I have confidence in their belief that education is the only way. Hey, all that killing and all that bombing have not changed a thing. Education both in the US and Pakistan and Afghanistan is our only hope in getting them out of the stone age, giving women the freedom of choices they deserve.

Review from CharityNavigator

Previous Stories
2

Donor

Rating: 5

I beleive all the allegations have been answered by Greg Mortonsen and CAI. I believe this "warning" of these unproven accusations should be removed from Charity Navigator. I believe that the money is being used appropriately and I suspect some of you critics may not know a lot about his work...he is the attraction, he is the one that must travel, and sometimes to places where commercial planes, etc. would not be practical. He recently spoke at a small town in Michigan and spent hours signing autographs adn speaking to people personally. How many of us would kill our selves for a cause we fully believe in? I will continue to support this man. His approach, I beleive, is the only way to change things in the Middle East. And it's a lot cheaper than war.

Review from CharityNavigator

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10

Donor

Rating: 5

My husband, a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in Afghanistan during the 1970's, and I have been steady supporters of CAI since we initially learned of its activities several years ago. The building and schools and the training of teachers, focusing on female students, is of prime importance to the future of Afghanistan in our experience. All the information from CAI rings true to us. We follow their website, meet with their personnel, and attend their meetings on the West Coast.

The "60 minutes" program appeared to be based primary on a disgruntled employee. CAI has mounted all its financials on its website. We continue to support the group fully and gratefully.

Review from Guidestar

5 Anthony A.

Donor

Rating: 4

NAME ONE ORGANIZATION THAT HAS BUILT ANY SCHOOLS IN THESE CONTRIES???? HAS 60 MINUTES BEEN INVOLVED IN ANYTHING HUMANITARIAN IN THE US OR THE WORLD??? DOES DESTROYING AIS HELP ANYONE??? WHY DID 60 MINUTES DO THIS INSTEAD OF USING A HELPING APPROACH???

Review from CharityNavigator

4

Donor

Rating: 4

The CBS News / Jon Krakauer allegations of 4/17 and thereafter PLUS the ongoing investigations by the Montana AG and Penguin / Viking Books cause me to enter a 4 rating rather than a 5. In other words, I continue to support the organization fully as I have for 3+ years, but I recognize that there are questions to be answered.

I subscribe heartily to CAI's philosophy and success in gaining village agreement, resource support, and sweat equity for every bridge, school, women's center, and medical center they fund. Also their financial support for teacher training and stipends without any attempt to say what the subject matter and curriculum should be. Lastly, I believe in the engagement of students throughout the US (and beyond?) in funding school supplies and uniforms for village children who will attend those or other schools, taught by those or other teachers.

I expect CN to drop the Donor Advisory as SOON as the investigations are published, unless those results cause CN instead to reduce its own valuation of CAI's worth and viability.

Review from CharityNavigator

4 Dawn C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Yes, I saw the 60 minutes report -- but did anyone actually take the time to read his responses (and the CAI's board of directors) to the 60 minutes report? You know, his side of the story? The fact that perhaps the reporters who questioned folks in Pakistan and Afghanistan might have talked to the wrong people? 60 minutes raised some good questions, but they gave him less than ONE WEEK and were in his FACE demanding an answer. Anyone take a look at the CAI tax returns on the CAI website? Mr. Mortensen was making $28k in 1996. In 1997, it was $31k. In 2003, something like $50k. TO LEAD AN ENTIRE ORGANIZATION AND BUST HIS TAIL DOING SOMETHING NOONE ELSE WAS WILLING TO DO! You can start criticizing the day you go over to Afghanistan and build a school. Give the guy a break. His compensation now takes that into account (again, read the response from the CAI board on the 60 minutes website, at the end of the article). Perhaps he needs to hire a PR person or a business manager to handle the reporting better, or hire someone to track exactly how many schools are built and visit them each once a year to check on their progress, but Krakauer himself said that Mortensen's a good guy with a good heart. Don't believe everything you read, but don't believe everything 60 minutes reports. Everything is ALWAYS slanted, on both ends of it. I'm giving it 5 stars to compensate for the ignorance of some of the other reviewers.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Not impressed... if I want data on a publicly trade company I can access that data without registering, or being "authorized" to review the data. At first glance it appears that you are hiding something. I bought the book, but I have not donated and at this point will not donate.

Review from Guidestar

2

Donor

Rating: 4

Charities that do this type of work are desperately needed in places where war zones are present in Pakistan/Afghanistan. Greg M had the foresight to see the need for schools and then figure out a way to implement his ideas after voluntarily deciding to get involved in this activity. From the beginning as he states in his books he is a much better volunteer than a businessman or accountant. Unlike many of us fellow Americans safe in our homes he is risking his life every time he goes to Pakistan alone. Often he has to deal with the diverse and confusing Pakistani political scene to travel and to procure materials. Logistics are a nightmare and often require extreme patience and money to protect and store supplies. His campaign for building schools starts and ends with the local population in each village. This most significant fact was omitted in the 60 Minutes interview. On top of all this he has had to deal with religious leaders and issues that could have not only stopped him in his tracks from continuing but could have lead to his death because he would be viewed as an infidel as well as an American in terrorist infested areas.

I don't know of John Krakuaer's involvement other than that he is complaining about a fellow mountain climber and has some strange idea about what it takes to do the things Greg and his family have accomplished.
Clearly, some accounting must be made to clear up Greg's good name and to reaffirm his voluntarism. I plan to continue my support of CAI as I know of no other similar organization that has had such a positive impact on the Northern tribes of Pakistan.
They rely on CAI much more than on the broken promises of the Pakistani government.

Review from CharityNavigator

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

The news about CAI's alleged fraudulent activities continue to grow. I would like to know how Charity Navigator can continue to list them as a 4-star charity given the amount of data that is now available.

Review from CharityNavigator

3 Ann E.

Donor

Rating: 1

I have discontinued support of this organization because the funds are not being used properly. Something is amiss when travel accounts for more than 50% of service expenditures. Something is amiss when no per diem monies received by GM are returned to the organization despite it paying for his travel to events where he earns per diem (sometimes first-class according to the 990). Something is amiss when the CAI publication purchases exceed $700,000 and the obvious purchase option is GM's books. I don't agree with the conclusion of the internal review of potential conflict of interest; GM has a conflict of interest that has not been adequately resolved.

Review from Guidestar

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Guidestar apparently does not rate these charities, but must regurgitate whatever marketing comes from the organization. Don't just watch "60 Minutes", read Jon Krakauer's unbiased report. I am only adding this ZERO (but made into a 1 because the system does not allow below that) rating to neutralize some of the 5star opinions listed here. BUT I am informed.

Review from Guidestar

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 2

I think Charity Navigator needs to explain how it arrived at its 4 star rating (and stands by it). In particular, how idd you calculate that 88% of funds go for "Program Expenses"?

Review from CharityNavigator

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

The fact that this has 4 stars is a major blow to charity navigator's credibility.
$4,607,300 spent on "domestic outreach"(telling people in America about the problem) while 3,954,644 was spent on actually building and supporting schools.
"A donation to Central Asia Institute, at least in 2009, was more likely to be spent on costs related to educating people in the U.S. about problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan than on helping children in central Asia with their education." -American Institute of Philanthropy
Having these two completely different costs lumped in together as "program costs" on charity navigator's rating page is just not helpful. The rating should compare how well the finances line up with what the charity purports to care about, not what they can legally define as "program costs". If CAI rebranded as a charity partially devoted to educating Americans about the importance of education in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they would have a much harder time gaining funding.
My faith in Charity Navigator is seriously shaken, and the donor advisory warning is ridiculous: "Charity Navigator, as an impartial evaluator of publicly reported financial information, takes no position as to the seriousness of the issue(s) nor does it seek to confirm or verify the accuracy of such reports."
Why have a rating system then? Reporting numbers without context is just helping the organization whitewash it's numbers and lend false credibility. This is serious problem.

sources:
http://www.charitywatch.org/articles/CentralAsiaInstitute.html
https://www.ikat.org/about-cai/financials/

Review from CharityNavigator