For some reason, I’ve always had my doubts about We Are Atheism. I just had this vague gut feeling that the whole thing was kind of a clusterfuck. Hemant confirms why after a very thorough investigation into how they’ve handled large amounts of money intended for various causes.
Over the past few weeks, using Mark Felt’s email as a foundation, and with additional research provided by Stiefel, myself, and others I’ve spoken to, we’ve looked into We Are Atheism’s finances and public statements in order to answer a handful of important questions, including:
- Has We Are Atheism always been an official non-profit group?
- Did the donations go where donors thought they would go?
- Does We Are Atheism’s website list accurate information about the various fundraising campaigns?
It appears the answer to all those questions is “No.”
I now believe there’s serious mismanagement within the organization that should concern anyone who’s ever given money (or is considering giving money) to them.
Among other things he has them pretty much dead to rights on: Telling contributors that they would have official 501(c)(3) status “next year” when they hadn’t even filed the paperwork for it (those promises went back to 2012; they didn’t even apply for 501(c)(3) status until April, 2014. But they had claimed that the paperwork was “being filled out as far back as 2011); giving money to people who had nothing to do with the purpose of the donations (after the Oklahoma tornadoes, for example, they gave thousands of dollars that was donated to help the victims of that disaster to an unemployed woman, a homeless family Amanda Brown says she heard about at an atheist meetup, and a victim of identity theft, none of which had any connection to the tornadoes); conflicting claims about which organizations they were giving the money to; and donation numbers that went down over time rather than up.
To all of this, Amanda Brown offers one of two excuses: That she didn’t know how to use Paypal or that someone else told her to do X but that advice was wrong. An attorney misled them, she claims, but she conveniently can’t remember that attorney’s name. A friend who was studying to be a CPA was checking her accounting work, but she refuses to give that person’s name so the story can be checked out.
At bare minimum, this is rank incompetence. They admit that the funds for their operating expenses and for fundraisers were “mixed together,” making it difficult to track what money is doing where, which is a huge no-no. They are either completely clueless or there’s some corruption going on. The most charitable interpretation of what happened with We Are Atheism is that two people who had no clue what they were doing mishandled tens of thousands of dollars in donations due to that incompetence. At worst, it was all just a scam. I don’t know which of those explanations is true, but if the best possible interpretation is staggering incompetence, I don’t see why anyone would trust them with another dime.
Never trust a non-profit that doesn’t have a professional accounting service that audits their financials. If they can’t afford to have an accountant to do that, they shouldn’t be running a non-profit — especially if, by their own admission, they were an “idiot” when it came to Paypal. If you can’t figure out how to use Paypal, why should anyone trust you with their money?