As Black Lives Matter supporters destroyed city blocks, looted businesses, and assaulted police officers throughout much of last year, the national organization collected tens of millions of dollars, according to a new detailed examination of the group’s finances.
According to a financial statement reviewed by The Associated Press, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which is viewed as the principal driver behind the grassroots BLM movement, raked in $90 million in 2020.
And now, with funds continuing to roll in, the global BLM network wants to build out its infrastructure in order to become known for more than just involvement in rioting and looting.
“We want to uplift Black joy and liberation, not just Black death. We want to see Black communities thriving, not just surviving,” said an impact report viewed by the AP.
The group’s influence grew substantially following the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police last May, but its meteoric rise also created some tension within the organization among grassroots organizers and BLM leaders.
The global foundation told the AP that $21.7 million was earmarked for grants to official and unofficial BLM chapters around the country, in addition to 30 black-led groups.
The foundation ended 2020 with more than $60 million, spending only about a quarter of its funds on grants and other charitable contributions.
While donations from individuals through the group’s primary platform averaged nearly $31 dollars with 10 percent of those recurring, foundation officials would not identify the group’s most prominent donors. Also, the financial report does not state specifically where the money went last year, though the foundation reportedly spent about $8.4 million on expenses in 2020 including administrative and operating costs.
Several major corporations have publicly announced that they have given money to BLM including DoorDash, Deckers, Amazon, Gatorade, Microsoft, 23andMe, AirBNB, Glossier, Unilever, Bungie, Nabisco, Dropbox, Fitbit, Tinder, and Cisco, among others.
Several chapters were formed in 2015 under the BLM Global Foundation Network following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a local neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida.
But as the foundation has grown, critics say it no longer focuses primarily on being an organizing center for black radicals and, instead, has shifted to political and philanthropic activities without the input from some of BLM’s earliest backers.
“One of our biggest goals this year is taking the dollars we were able to raise in 2020 and building out the institution we’ve been trying to build for the last seven and a half years,” co-founder Patrisse Cullors, now the global organization’s full-time executive director, told the AP.
Two other co-founders, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, are not directly involved with the global foundation but do continue making appearances as co-founders while being involved in other ventures full-time.
Last year the global foundation formed BLM Grassroots with its network of chapters and established a $12 million grant fund for which those chapters, as well as other black organizations, became eligible in July.
However, less than 12 groups utilizing “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” in their official names are currently seen as affiliates.
Moreover, most chapters have not taken advantage of the grant funding. In fact, a group of 10 chapters, known as #BLM10, has publicly chastised the global foundation and accused it of lacking transparency in its operations.
April Goggans, the Black Lives Matter DC organizer, told the AP that chapters only want a say in “this thing that our names are attached to, that they are doing in our names.”
Other chapters complained that they were not receiving adequate funding, especially given how much the global foundation has raised over the years.
Cullors, however, disagreed.
“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,” she told AP. “We were often scraping for money, and this year was the first year where we were resourced in the way we deserved to be.”
That said, #BLM10 chapters argue that there are distinct differences between what the co-founders have said and what is really going on.
BLM foundation leaders did admit to the AP that in recent years the organization has not been as open as it should be regarding its operations and finances in recent years, but that an effort is now being made to become more transparent.
In December, the foundation was given non-profit status by the IRS, which will allow it to receive tax-deductible donations. And soon, the organization will be required to file public information providing details about its organization, employee compensation, expenses, and operations.
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