The non-profit Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been plagued by criticism about its finances for a long time, and the heat has only turned up this week, as the latest tax returns reveal huge payments to a co-founder's close friends and family members as well as massive real investments.
The Associated Press revealed that in a newly released Form 990, which is 63 pages long and exclusively shared with the Associated Press, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. states that it has invested $32 million in stock from the $90 million it received in donations for protests against racial injustice in 2020. This investment is likely to become an endowment, which will keep the foundation's work going in the near future, the organizers claim. It concluded its last fiscal year–July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021–with a total of $42 million in net assets. The foundation's operating budget is $4 million, as per one of the board members.
Eyebrows will be raised after the revelations that the foundation made payments of nearly $970,000 to a firm established by the father of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors. They also revealed it paid more than $840,000 to a security firm owned by her father. The foundation also covered more than $73,000 worth of private-jet flights for Cullors; however, she's since paid back the money.
In total, the foundation invested more than $37 million from 2021 on in grants, consultants, and property ($12 million’s worth) as well as other expenses. However, the foundation has $42 million remaining.
Co-founder Patrisse Cullors quit this group at the end of 2021 after the controversy grew. However, she addressed the issue on Monday on an MSNBC podcast. In response to the flood of donations received by the group following the death of George Floyd, Cullors said that it was indeed an enormous surprise. There was also quite a bit of “Oh that's right I didn't think I saw the coming.” Contrary to what was stated, the majority of funds that were raised came from individuals. “This was a significant amount of White guilt money. There are a lot of White people saying, ‘We're just going to pay the bill.’”
She went on to claim that the group did not have the infrastructure to manage the huge influx, and the errors were “weaponized” against her.
The Associated Press, though, pointed out that there are some real problems. The tax returns suggest that the foundation is still trying to find its feet: It does not have an executive director or employees in-house. Experts from non-profit organizations have told the AP they believe that the BLM Foundation is operating as a scrappy entity with a small budget; however, some believe that black-led charities are subject to unfair scrutiny in an all-white and wealthy charitable landscape.
Where there's smoke, there's usually a fire. While the foundation might have been established with the best intentions, the ever-present revelations of questionable financial choices are sure to make some donors ask, “Where exactly was my money going?”