Bono Charity Under Fire

Bono’s charity aimed at wiping out AIDS and poverty in Africa has come under fire for spending too much on a marketing campaign and sending too little of its income to charity.

The U2 singer’s $15 billion nonprofit ONE Campaign reportedly bombarded New York newsrooms with goodie boxes in a bid to get media backing for its efforts to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to find further billions of dollars for to fund the fight against AIDS.

The swag came in four boxes, allegedly delivered one at a time via an expensive courier, and included a $15 bag of Starbucks coffee, a $15 moleskin leather notebook, a $20 water bottle, an oversized cookie and a plastic ruler.

The boxes also included a small tin of Band-Aids and two syringe-style pens, along with a pitch challenging Obama to fork over $6 billion to the UN’s Swiss-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa.

All the items carried their own messages. the cookie and water bottle represented the need for clean water and sustainable sources of food, the leather-bound journal and ruler urged education funding in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Starbucks brew – made with Ethiopian coffee beans – signified the need to drum up support for investing in African agriculture.

The boxes were timed to arrive at the opening of the UN summit on Millennium Development Goals, which kicked off in New York Sept. 23.

“Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get through to reporters with the information about the lives of the world’s poorest people,” ONE Campaign spokeswoman Kimberly Hunter told the New York Post. “We think it’s important enough to try and break through the clutter – that’s why we sent the boxes.” ONE would not disclosed how much the media blitz cost in total.

Charity watchdog Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute of Philanthropy in Chicago described the PR campaign as being risky.

“There could be recipients or donors who might think that the money they spent could have instead been donated to help their cause,” he said.

The Post said ONE gives only a very small part of its charity income to the causes it supports.

In 2008 it took in nearly $15 million in public donations. IRS records for the year show $184,732 was distributed to three charities. More than $8 million went on executive and employee salaries.