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Black Lives Matter money: Where does all the fundraising go?

Black Lives Matter

What’s going on with Black Lives Matter and its fundraising? Why would a foundation with the admirable, necessary cause of supporting Black lives receive criticism from its supporters, and what does a woman by the name of Patrisse Cullors have to do with it all? For the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the questions all come back to the money.

The finances of the foundation have come into question especially after Co-founder and Executive Director Patrisse Cullors stepped down from her position. People are claiming that BLM has failed to be financially transparent. Here’s what you need to know. 

Follow the (Black Lives Matter) money

Elicited by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the growth in support for Black Lives Matter led to the foundation receiving their biggest donations yet.

As reported by AP News in February 2021, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation fundraised just over $90 million in 2020. This was the first time that BLM had shared a more detailed view of its finances since the foundation’s inception in 2013. 

They specified that they committed $21.7 million in grant funding to BLM chapters, both unofficial and official, and other Black-led organizations. Their remaining balance in 2020 was over $60 million.

And Black Lives Matter is still receiving fundraising, although the initial upsurge last June may have slowed down a bit. The foundation said that individual donations in 2020 averaged $30.76, and more than 10 percent are recurring donations. 

That’s a lot of BLM fundraising money. Where’s it all going?

BLM’s exclusive with AP news was perhaps an attempt at damage control, as BLM chapters were calling for financial transparency.

Ten of these chapters grouped together to create the #BLM10. This group claimed that most BLM chapters received minimal or no financial support from BLM since it was founded eight years ago.

In general, they argue that BLM is not equitable in its distribution of money. The co-founder and executive director of BLM at the time, Patrisse Cullors, challenged the claims of the #BLM10:

Because the BLM movement was larger than life — and it is larger than life — people made very huge assumptions about what our actual finances looked like. We were often scraping for money, and this year was the first year where we were resourced in the way we deserved to be.

Patrisse Cullors for APNews
Patrisse Cullors speaking in Tottenham, north London as part of the Furguson Solidarity Tour. 25th January 2015.
Patrisse Cullors speaking in Tottenham, North London as part of the Furguson Solidarity Tour. 25th January 2015.

Nonetheless, 17 chapters have now broken away from BLM according to The New York Times. It seems that Cullers’ words and BLM sharing some of their financial information was not enough to placate skeptics. The chapters continue to argue that if BLM can’t be honest and open with its members, they cannot be a dependable advocate for Black communities.

BLM exploiting the families of victims?

The family members of some of the victims have spoken out about feeling exploited by BLM. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been accused of using their loved ones’ names to pull in donations, but they are not supporting the families directly. 

Michael Brown Sr., whose son was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014, said,

I just feel like all these organizations that were made were made after someone had lost their loved one, and they see that these parents are coming up with organizations already. They should be able to get on board and support these families that’s going through this.

Michael Brown Sr. for NYT

Why aren’t funds being allocated to these families? To do so would seem to align with the goals of Black Lives Matter. And they seem to have a recent surplus of funds, so what’s going on?

As written in USA Today, Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing dollar amounts.”

Then why are families still complaining? Who is making these decisions

Co-founder Patrisse Cullors steps down

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder and executive director of BLM, announced less than a month ago that she would be stepping down from her position.

Having held her position for nearly six years, she was one of the people credited for BLM’s success, and she is also under fire for the financial controversy. She claims that the recent scrutiny BLM and its finances have been under had nothing to do with her decision. But perhaps Cullors’ words should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Cullors’ wealth has come to light amidst the controversy surrounding BLM finances. Some theorized that she takes a large salary from the donation after buying an expensive home in southern California. Of course, she denies these claims, but some continue to speculate that her retirement was strategically timed. 

The fears of where fundraising money goes is not unique to Black Lives Matter

The anxieties of donors and activists not knowing where their money is going has extended beyond BLM.

Shaun King, writer, activist, and a leading voice for Black Lives Matter, has been the subject of controversy with regards to fundraising before. People continue to question his identified race.

Some say he is a white man with two Caucasian parents who is claiming to be biracial for personal gain. Now, King is back under public scrutiny for asking for donations and not using the money as promised. 

These donations supposed to be for building studios and offices and hiring journalists for The North Star—a reboot of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist paper. However, no action has been taken for over a year. He has also asked for subscribers to pay for a podcast created by The North Star, which was an already-funded project. 

How can we be agents of change if we can’t trust where our money is going? 

Effecting meaningful change in a capitalist society

Is it a problem that a movement begging for safety for Black lives requires donations and money at all? Or, is this just a necessary effect of capitalism that any effort must be made into something financial? Regardless, we can do more than just open our wallets.

It’s easy to point fingers at a foundation and its leaders, claiming that they’re not doing enough. But we are agents in our own activism.

The truth is that Black Lives Matter successfully mobilized 26 million Americans to participate in demonstrations across the country. Should we hold BLM accountable for the millions of dollars they’re spending? Absolutely. But we also hold a responsibility as individuals. 

We should participate in active activism. Sharing your wealth can help support a cause, but it can be difficult to truly know where your money is going. Do research and make informed decisions.

There are also more ways you can support the importance of Black lives and the movement toward racial equality. Volunteer, protest, sign petitions, vote responsibly—whatever you can do. If you truly want to make a change, be proactive in your efforts.