The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
It’s time to liberate activists from the nonprofit industrial complex
image by istockphoto.com
This article is part of a package on rethinking charity in the economic crisis. For more, read Giving When It Hurts; Ladling Soup, Raising Hell: Nonprofit Insider Robert Egger Is Out to Reform Charities from Within; and Tips for Practical Giving: Where to Give, What to Ask, and the Lowdown on Emerging Philanthropic Trends.
The nonprofit system has tamed a generation of activists. They’ve traded in grand visions of social change for salaries and stationery; given up recruiting people to the cause in favor of writing grant proposals and wooing foundations; and ceded control of their movements to business executives in boardrooms.
This argument—that reformers have morphed into cogs in the nonprofit industrial complex—is explained and explored in the fiery anthology The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, edited by the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence collective (South End, 2007).
One piece of the puzzle: “Foundations provide tax shelters for wealthy families and thereby take away tax income that could be used for social programs and entitlements,” Andrea J. Ritchie, an INCITE! member, told Make/shift. “And then [the foundations] dole out little bits of money for nonprofits to replace the services that the government no longer funds.”
The book brings together 21 experienced radical activists to explore the shortcomings of nonprofits as movement makers; here are excerpts from three chapters. —The Editors
Adjoa Florência Jones de Almeida
Sista II Sista Collective, Brooklyn, New York
What has happened to the great civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s and 1970s? Where are the mass movements of today within this country? The short answer: They got funded. Social justice groups and organizations have become limited as they’ve been incorporated into the nonprofit model. We as activists are no longer accountable to our constituents or members because we don’t depend on them for our existence. Instead, we’ve become primarily accountable to public and private foundations as we try to prove to them that we are still relevant and efficient and thus worthy of continued funding.
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