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Part II: The Revolution Not Yet Funded

It has been 10 weeks since the death of George Floyd and 21 weeks since the death of Breonna Taylor. Since their deaths, we have seen a wave of protests across the country with Black people at the forefront calling for justice in the deaths of Floyd and Taylor as well as countless others at the hands of the police. Yet, as of today, there has been little police accountability and the escalating police force against protesters has created even more violence.

This movement comes at a time when we have the highest unemployment rate ever in the U.S. and people have sheltered at home for months. We also learned that COVID-19 is disproportionately killing Black people in the U.S. - who are nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from COVID than a white person. As the pandemic takes more lives, the economic crisis is ramping up with communities of color bearing a heavier burden. This added burden is due to the fact that people of color are more likely to work in frontline jobs that require public interface or they were laid off from their jobs.

Fist in air with clear medical glove and Black Lives Matter sign in background
Black Lives Matter Protests, London, 2020 by Joao Pereira

While philanthropic organizations were quick to respond to the pandemic, the impact of systemic racism on our health, economy, and society can no longer be ignored. There has been a justifiable call to philanthropists to take more racially specific approaches to their giving and make a serious effort toward transformative social change. In future blogs, we will take a look at recent research around race and equity in the nonprofit sector as well as how nonprofits can work to put themselves out of a job.

As we move forward with our reading of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, consider what these articles mean for the Black Lives Matter movement and nonprofits that are working in the communities most impacted by police brutality and overreach.

The filth on philanthropy: Progressive philanthropy's agenda to misdirect social justice movements, Tiffany Lethabo King and Ewuare Osayande

  • If you were leading the progressive philanthropy movement in what areas would you focus reform or just redistribution?

    • For context, in recent years, the progressive philanthropy movement has focused on increasing private foundations' annual "payout" rate by one percentage point (from 5% to 6%) and preventing foundations from including administrative costs in their payouts to nonprofits.

  • The following questions discuss how white capital is circulated among white people to maintain systems of white supremacy.

    • White-led nonprofits accept "donations of white capital on behalf of oppressed people of color, [acting] as brokers between the capital and the oppressed people of color who were exploited to create [the monetary donation]." How can we break the cycle of oppression for the two oppressed communities? The first being exploited workers. The second being individuals served by the nonprofit and who may also fall within the original exploitation of workers.

    • "What are the implications for a social justice movement in which power and resources are transferred based on one's ability to develop a relationship with the right white people?"

    • How can we remove elitism from a system that prioritizes White-led organizations serving communities of color? (An example of elitism being discretionary funds that are given based on relationships rather than community need.)

  • Current progressive models like Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) and the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) encourage activists to cultivate relationships with individuals rather than foundations but to be successful, organizations must have significant access to wealthy people. Rather than ignoring capitalism, how can we transform progressive fundraising models to dismantle the systems that created the inequity of unearned wealth in the first place?

  • Spending down or "sunsetting" a foundation has been suggested as a way to have a greater impact on the issues that are important to a foundation. However, this solution has been criticized because the spend down still occurs on the terms of the foundation rather than dictated by the oppressed people of color. What suggestions do you have for handing over power in a spend-down or sunset situation to the oppressed people of color?

Between radical theory and community praxis: Reflections on organizing and the nonprofit industrial complex, Amara H. Perez, Sisters in Action for Power

The article discusses the transition of Sisters in Portland Impacting Real Issues Together (SPIRIT) from a project under the umbrella of another 501c3 to its existence as Sisters in Action for Power as an independent 501c3 nonprofit.

  • Learning about the difficulties that come with establishing an independent 501c3 and the business culture it imposes, how can activists maintain political integrity in their organizing work?

  • They found reflection and evaluation are integral to inform their tactics and strategies for change however funders do not see this as "the real work" unless there are elaborate agendas, mapped out outcomes, and outside facilitation. They prioritized this work, developing tools and practices, to inform their strategies for institutional change. How can this model be effectively used by other grassroots organizations? Are there any other models for revolutionary change that can be adopted by organizations?

  • The skills needed to run a nonprofit are very different from the organizing skills needed to strategize around a campaign. How can we build movements that deprioritize management and focus on movement-building or consciousness-raising?

Native organizing before the nonprofit industrial complex, Madonna Thunder Hawk

This article discusses Native organizing under the Red Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s before the creation of the current day nonprofit system.

  • Much like the present-day Black Lives Matter movement, Native American organizers used a loose-knit, decentralized leadership structure to avoid harassment from law enforcement. Using that model, they were able to proceed with what they thought was best. This helped them identify environmental racism in the Pine Ridge Reservation. What pros and cons do you identify with this organizing model?

  • Women of All Red Nations (WARN), an activism group during this time, originally operated on donations from speaking tours and relied on pro bono technical experience. If they traveled they would reach out to churches for money or supplies as well as a place to stay. What pros and cons do you see with this fundraising model?

  • The author states that when you start paying people to do activism, you start to attract people to work who are not primarily motivated by or dedicated to the struggle. People start to expect to be paid and do less unpaid work than we would have before. This way of organizing benefits the system because people start seeing organizing as a career rather than as involvement in a social movement that requires sacrifice. What do you think about this statement?

Fundraising is not a dirty word: Community based economic strategies for the long haul, Stephanie Guilloud and William Cordery, Project South

This article discusses the fundraising model used by Project South whose focus is on movement-building for racial and economic justice. They define organizing as building relationships and institutions to sustain community power, and it follows that fundraising is organizing.

  • The article states competition does not enhance movement-building work. Weeding out the weak to create three or four perfect organizations does not meed the many and complicated needs of diverse communities. Competing for resources creates a tendency toward turf wars and territorialism, which is particularly common in the U.S. South. Do you agree with this sentiment? Is it applicable to the nonprofits in your area?

  • Project South integrates fundraising goals and strategy with its overall efforts around base building. They do this by hiring from within affected communities (consultants, staff, caterers, performers, tech support, researchers) and creating a membership base that participates in the give and take of resources (financial, cultural, or relational). Alongside their sliding membership model, they incorporate income generation elements like registration fees for participation. What do you think about this model? What are the pros and cons?

The four remaining articles from section II will be included in an upcoming blog. In the meantime, please take a look at further readings and resources below.

Additional Readings and Resources

Readings from the articles' authors in Part 2:


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