Wyclef Jean's Haiti Foundation: A Cautionary Tale

Wyclef Jean's Haiti Foundation: A Cautionary Tale

Friday, January 22, 2010 - 12:30pm


Whether or not Wyclef Jean and his foundation committed any acts of impropriety will not matter in terms of the effect on his charitable organization. Damage is done. His nonprofit has taken a major reputational hit, and people might stop making financial contributions to the Wyclef Jean Foundation, also known as Yele Haiti, for Haiti relief efforts.

Yele Haiti was criticized by the Better Business Bureau, based on their review of Jean's foundation's IRS filings that are available on the internet along with the filings of all nonprofits. Among the concerns raised by the media and others were that three years of filings were submitted at once, three out of the five board members are involved in Jean's personal and business dealings, and funds for the foundation seemed to be intertwined with Jean's business.

Although Jean has defended himself, and ultimately there may be no finding of impropriety, there has been harm to his foundation and to his efforts.

This story immediately brought to mind many boardroom discussions I have had with my nonprofit clients. The most important lesson for nonprofits and their boards is

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