Published by BlackCommentator.com, April 13, 2023
Almost twenty years ago, INCITE! held a national conference with the theme, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond The Non-Profit Industrial Complex. INCITE! is a network of radical feminists fighting against systemic violence against women. It went on to publish a groundbreaking movement anthology of the same name. It wasn’t the first time such prophetic warnings were sounded about the threat of the NPIC. Nor will it be the last.
Ella Baker, one of my sheroes, expressed concern in 1963 about “this ‘Foundation Complex,’” observing that “we’re getting praise from places that worry me.” More recently, we saw outrage about the $90 million donated by corporations to the Black Lives Matter Global Foundation with little accountability and even less transparency.
According to sources who track the U.S. nonprofit sector, it is a $1.5 trillion industry, reportedly hiring over 18 million people. If it were a country, the sector would be seventh largest economy in the world. With over 1.5 million nonprofits allegedly doing public good, what’s all the fuss about?
When INCITE! raised its criticism about the NPIC, it wasn’t talking about the American Red Cross or The Boys and Girls Clubs. It was referring to the social justice organizations which have been sucked into the vortex of the NPIC, often compromising their radical vision, lofty values and political agenda to keep the greenbacks coming. For social justice groups, it’s supposed to be more than just doing good work, they should be about organizing the masses of our people for political power and economic justice. We should be advocating for a democratic system of governance free of oppression and exploitation.
Neoliberalism and white supremacy are ideologies that are shaping world economies, especially the U.S. economy. This government is destroying traditional safety nets and pushing that responsibility onto communities. This puts the burden on nonprofits to shoulder. This is honorable but somebody has to be calling out these actions and organizing the hungry and the unhoused to understand why they’re in a bad situation in the first place.
The blatant racism of the GOP and its allies are making the lives of Black and Brown people more miserable by the day. They have made it clear that we are undeserving of food, shelter, healthcare, public transportation, education, voting and other rights afforded to citizens. It’s understandable that nonprofits will take up the slack as best they can under these circumstances.
This is also why the role of social justice groups and revolutionary organizations are so important and why they are needed more than ever. Strong. Bold. Strategic.
How will we rise to expectation if our power is blunted and controlled by the funding we receive? That’s why any concessions to or co-optation by funders, corporations, the Democratic Party, zionists or anybody else is a blow to the transformational work we believe is imperative. I added the zionists in there because most people don’t know that there’s a clause in some funding agreements that demand you disavow any support for Palestinian Liberation in order to get the money.
U.S. social movements are in more than a quandary in 2024. It is pretty clear that if we’re committed to fighting the systems of governmental and capitalist oppression, those systems are not going to pay us to bring them down. An environmental nonprofit whose major funder is ExxonMobil is not likely to make much headway in the quest for environmental justice.
The sphere of social justice organizations is small, and we talk a lot about the internal dynamics of our political homes. Horror stories are shared about the dysfunction of our organizations as they use the master’s tools to operate under the guise of progressive leadership or a progressive agenda or both.
The LRS Study Group is sponsoring an upcoming webinar so that organizers can tackle head-on the funding issues crippling our movements. “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Exploring the Role of Nonprofits in our Movement” is seeking to take the discussion to a higher level of understanding, new levels of organizing and creative ways of funding.
The NPIC is designed to suppress our outrage, control our political victories, redirect our energies, usurp our power, and snatch our grassroots organizers. This makes our impact limited. By design.
The specter of authoritarianism is creeping towards us. Our challenge is to determine how our movement relates to the NPIC, how we uphold our revolutionary vision and radical organizing values. We have to make the lines of demarcation clear, then hold each other accountable. The hearts and minds of our nation cannot be up for sale to the highest bidder or to the best-funded organization.
To register for the LRS Study Group webinar, go to http://bit.ly/NPICnRevolution.