One local member of the NGO committee, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing risks of aid work in Syria, objected to Preemptive Love posting that “our teams are serving” in shelters. “It is not true they were feeding in the schools,” the committee member said. “They may have given some ready-made rations. They lied several other lies in their [blog] post.”
That sort of criticism is rare in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, where displaced populations have been forced to depend on outside help for years, and local coordinators are protective of every resource. It follows other reports on Preemptive Love work, including in Iraq, where overzealous publicity didn’t match actual aid work on the ground.
Several aid group coordinators, who asked not to be identified due to the ongoing risk to operations in Iraq and Syria, said Preemptive Love overrepresented its involvement delivering relief to western Mosul during the 2016-17 military campaign to free the city from ISIS, taking credit as the sole aid source.
Kurdistan Save the Children, based in Iraqi Kurdistan and founded in 1991, said it ended a partnership with Preemptive Love in 2009 after learning of irregularities. Noaman A. Ali, KSC program manager, said each group was to pay $2,500 toward heart surgery procedures to cover expenses per patient. Ali said his group learned Preemptive Love was charging the patients while also soliciting funds from donors to cover the procedures. “Sometimes they were abusing the patients for fundraising,” Ali said. Preemptive Love staffers took photos during surgery in violation of child protection policies, he said. “Therefore we stopped working with them.”
Aid work in the region is difficult and potentially life-threatening, and more aid groups have left Iraq and Syria than have remained. Courtney with his wife Jessica founded Preemptive Love in 2007 in Iraq and reportedly have lived there along with their two children since that time.
Over its years of operation, Preemptive Love has seen dramatic leaps in revenue brought by a savvy media presence and celebrity tie-ins—from $481,000 in 2011 to $3 million in 2015 and $12 million in 2017, the latest year of available tax documents.
The jumps have come with support from well-known Christian groups like Willow Creek Community Church and from author Ann Voskamp. Singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman announced this year she will donate proceeds from a new Christmas album to Preemptive Love.
Voskamp’s 2015 blog post about Preemptive Love work in Iraq, written at the height of the ISIS crisis there, raised more than $1 million in donations for the group in one week. But Voskamp ended her support two years later, citing concerns with actual work on the ground, and the blog post has been removed from Voskamp’s website.
Courtney is the group’s highest-paid salaried employee according to 2017 filings, at $148,000, with the second-highest salaried employee listed as director of digital Michael “Skip” Matheny at $132,000.