For years now, the BLM organization has been pressured to be more transparent. People have been curious about how and from whom the group gets donations and where that money is being spent. Finally, in an exclusive to the Associated Press, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has released the numbers – but not all the information requested. “This marks the first time in the movement’s nearly eight-year history that BLM leaders have revealed a detailed look at their finances,” the AP said.
After the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in May 2020, monetary donations started flooding into the organization – an amazing $90 million estimated for just last year. And the new financial report has some members scratching their heads and wondering even more where all the money has gone.
Pre-George Floyd Contributions and Spending
The Global Network spent millions on “consultants, travel and compensation for its staff from July 2017 through June 2019, according to audited financial statements from its fiscal sponsor, Thousand Currents.” Apparently, only about 6% of the organization’s spending during those years went to outside organizations, including its independent affiliated chapters.
Broken down even more, during the 2017, 2018, and 2019 fiscal years the national BLM organization spent:
- $899,000 on travel.
- $1.6 million on consulting.
- $2.1 million on personal costs.
- $328,000 in grants to outside organizations (which represents 6% of its total spending).
The AP said that tensions continued to rise within the organization as members tried to discover and understand how the fundraising money was being utilized. It caused “longstanding tensions to boil over between some of the movement’s grassroots organizers and national leaders,” the outlet reported. Some leaders, it continued, came forward with “grievances about financial transparency, decision-making and accountability.”
However, Kailee Scales, the managing director of the BLM Global Network, argued that the financial report doesn’t tell it all:
“The numbers you have for the prior years do not reflect, for example, the in kind support for chapters and fundraising directed to chapters and programmatic assistance to chapters, that would not show up as direct grants on the audited financials. That work was carried out by employees and consultants to BLM.”
Ashley Yates, a former activist for the BLM movement who met with President Barack Obama in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown, left the organization because of a lack of transparency around funding. “I had concerns since the donations started rolling in from day one and I asked each of the co-founders individually what happened to all the money several times,” she tweeted in January 2019. “Each time I got the run around, outright dismissed.”
Black Lives Matter Cincinnati (BLMC) changed its name in March 2018, claiming the national group had “perverted” the brand. “BLMC has never been a chapter of that organization or partisan of its politics because, even at the onset of us establishing our name as BLMC, we recognized that our idea of the type of movement necessary to win black liberation was at odds with the national body and it’s [sic] directive,” the group said in a statement at the time. The Cincinnati faction continued:
“BLM did not create or build this new grassroots movement against police brutality and racism; they capitalized off a nameless groundswell of resistance sweeping the nation, branded it as their own, and profited from the deaths of Black men and women around the country without seriously engaging, as a national formation, in getting justice for fighting families. All the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from high-end speaking engagements and donations from foundations that support the Black struggle.”
BLMC was changed to the Mass Action for Black Liberation.
Once again, Scales argued that the true numbers are not reflected in the report, saying:
“The numbers you cite from the annual information return form [sic] our fiscal sponsor reflect IRS-required reporting categories that bear no relationship to how our programs have actually been run. These are not numbers developed by BLM Global Network Foundation and we cannot speak to how they were calculated.”
Financial Report Released
According to the balance sheet for FY 2020, the foundation listed about $8.4 million in expenses, which included staffing, administration, and operating costs, as well as activity involvement such as civic engagement. It reportedly committed $21.7 million in grants to official as well as unofficial BLM chapters and 30 black-led organizations and ended the year with a balance of more than $60 million.
With a new year comes a new mission for transparency, according to the Network, which claims it is now “building infrastructure to catch up to the speed of its funding and plans to use its endowment to become known for more than protests after Black Americans die at the hands of police or vigilantes.” In an impact report shared with AP, the organization said, “We want to uplift Black joy and liberation, not just Black death. We want to see Black communities thriving, not just surviving.” Part of achieving that goal is the call for more “economic justice” particularly regarding the socioeconomic impact “of COVID-19 on Black communities.”
The organization refused to release names of donors, though, which did not sit well with some members who want to know who might be funding their cause. In June last year, a list was distributed by CNet and NBC detailing several businesses that have committed or promised to do so. Here are just a few that are either donating to the BLM Global Network itself or to organizations to help black awareness and communities:
- Amazon: up to $10 million.
- Coca-Cola: $2.5 million in grants from Coca-Cola foundation to the NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
- Facebook: $10 million.
- Home Depot: $1 million donation to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
- Levi’s: $200,000 to the movement; $100,000 to the ACLU and $100,000 in grants to Live Free USA.
- McDonalds: $1 million to the NAACP and the National Urban League.
- Nike: $40 million over four years.
- Target: $10 million.
- Uber: $1 million.
- YouTube: $1 million to the Center for Policing Equity.
- Walmart: $100 million over five years to create a new center for racial equity.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.