From sea to shining sea, American corporations are standing in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter to correct racial inequities and end police violence. They have opened their checkbooks to support a protest movement that has galvanized the American public. A precious moment in our history that continues to claim the lives and livelihoods of Black Americans.
Bank of America has committed $1 billion. The Pohlad family, owners of the Minnesota Twins, has dedicated $25 million to racial justice. Even Michael Jordan, usually quiet on racial issues, has committed $100 million in the fight. Municipalities are volunteering resources for local nonprofits. Additionally, the campaign to "Defund the Police" calls for the re-distribution of funding to local initiatives such as community centers, mental health services, and housing.
Many of these life-changing funds will be dispersed to nonprofits for implementation.
The Inequality of Nonprofits
Nonprofits take on the nation's most excruciating social dilemmas, including advocating for the underserved and voiceless in society. Yet, the majority of its leaders work strategically to avoid acknowledging systemic racism in its own offices and boardrooms.
The needle has moved slowly since the 1970s when the nonprofit sector began its rise to where it is today. Nonprofits are now the third-largest employer after the government and retail.
According to Board Source:
A National Crisis is Big Business for Nonprofits
Nonprofits control $2 trillion a year in revenue without any major crisis. Of that amount, nonprofits receive $491 billion yearly from the federal government, according to the Nonprofit Quarterly, one of the industry's top publications.
In response to Hurricane Katrina, an event that forever changed Black lives in New Orleans, Catholic Charities raised $163 million. The American Red Cross collected $500 million after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010. As Black nonprofit professionals, we once again find ourselves outside looking in, while economic gains are made off of Black tragedies in America.
As the Money Flows
Just a few short weeks ago, the nonprofit sector was on high alert due to the loss, or delay, of financial contributions caused by COVID-19. Leaders were bracing for a fiscal crisis. There were massive layoffs, reduction in services and the worry for dollars was an agenda item for every Zoom call.
Today, many likely have a sense of relief as witnessed through the public statements from nonprofit leaders expressing their surprise and gratitude for the unplanned generosity the protests has created.
In response to Apple's CEO, Tim Cook pledging $100 million to fight racial injustice, journalist, Michael Tracey, who is White, tweeted, "The nonprofit industrial complex is absolutely loving this, a host of self-proclaimed anti-racism experts will be getting huge paydays to conduct various compulsory trainings."
Recently, Forbes ran a story on Steve Boland, a board member for the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF), founded three short years ago in 2017.
Boland shared the MFF raised $20 million in four days after the death of #GeorgeFloyd. As of this writing, the MFF has raised $35 million. That amount is $11 million more than contributions to George Floyd's family via their GoFundMe account.
What rarely gets connected with such large influxes of unrestricted donations to nonprofits is that they now have funds to pay salaries and provide other benefits to employees. Benefits such as healthcare, retirement accounts, etc. They can upgrade their office space or purchase buildings. They will be able to earn additional revenue through investments. They may also set up an endowment savings fund. Their governing By-Laws may detail how the funds are passed to another nonprofit should they go out of business. It is unlikely an average donor will not pull a nonprofit's 990 tax document next year to ascertain who benefited the most.
And so the cycle continues.
For any business, nonprofit, or otherwise, the MFF, and many predominately White-led organizations, no matter their humbleness, have survived a fiscal tsunami and hit the jackpot.
Meanwhile, Minnesota's Black unemployment rate is double that of Whites. Blacks, and other allies, continue to risk their lives daily by exposing themselves to a deadly disease to declare our freedom. We owe it to them to ask, how many jobs will be created for Blacks who live in Minneapolis, or across the nation from nonprofits? Providing services is no longer enough of an impact.
Blacks in the Nonprofit Sector
There are approximately 1.3 million nonprofit workers in America. The majority of Blacks who work in the sector oversee programs and are on the front lines. Blacks, and other racial minorities, are the ones who are most at risk of catching COVID-19. Blacks are the ones who distribute the food and provide outreach in Black and Brown communities. Many provide mental and wellness services, as well.
Non-Whites are also the data collectors who provide the instrumental "impact" and "outcomes" required to receive funding from the government and foundations. The blood, sweat, and tears of Black nonprofit workers likely give credence to the notion that nonprofit work is an underpaid profession.
In the past decade, Blacks have also been tapped for the human resources departments. They are the recruiters for direct service staff. They are also in charge of diversity efforts and work to thwart discrimination lawsuits.
There are a few Black executives. I have had the opportunity to reach that level due to a unique set of fundraising skills taught to me by a Jewish mentor who took me under her wing when I began in the sector over 20 years ago. Money talks.
Contrary to popular belief, many nonprofit CEOs earn six-figure salaries. They also may receive excellent benefits, including housing and vehicle allowances. Some national CEOs earn millions per year. These CEOs rarely visit the communities they serve, and if they do, it is usually with an entourage, a potential funder or to conduct a press conference for the media.
Collectively, if Black employees decided not to report to work, the nonprofit sector would collapse, and decades of comforts for many non-Blacks would be jeopardized.
No More Creeping
The future of the nation is at stake. We are at a turning point, and there should be no return to the status quo. No longer should we allow non-Black nonprofit leaders to quietly creep by. The time for change is now.
For years, White nonprofit leaders have proclaimed to work on providing more diversity, inclusion, and equity in nonprofits. The numbers tell us a different story. As Dr. Bernice King recently noted, "Let's invite more Black people to the table, implies ownership of the table and control of who is invited. Racism is about power.”
We do not need any further proof of racial discord in the nonprofit sector. When Colin Kaepernick was fired from the NFL, that decision was done by a nonprofit CEO. (From 1942 to 2015, the NFL was a tax-exempt nonprofit).
What True Equality and Solidarity in Nonprofits Looks Like
Funding and resource allocations to:
The real, long-lasting, sustainable solutions for the nonprofit sector must be led by Blacks, not by taking the hand of others to lead us or having us wait for crumbs to fall off the table.
#BlackLivesMatter even in the nonprofit world.
Simone Joye Eford is a national award-winning nonprofit veteran, author of Starting and Building an Awesome Nonprofit for A New Generation, and the Executive Director of the Howard University Medical Alumni Association. She is also a Founding Board Member of the National Association of Nonprofit Professionals (NANPP).