The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. ended its last fiscal year on June 30, 2021, with almost $42 million in net assets, The Associated Press reports.
BLM’s foundation invested $32 million in stocks from the $90 million in donations it received stemming from the 2020 George Floyd protests, which it expects to become an endowment to fund future endeavors, the AP reports, citing IRS tax documents the organization shared. Funds were also spent on grants, real estate, consultants and other expenses.
Board members told the AP that the foundation has an operating budget of about $4 million. This marks the foundation’s first public financial accounting since its 2017 incorporation. It was listed as a 501(c)(3) in 2020. It is incorporated and functions as a charity.
Conservative news outlets have accused Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder and executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, of misusing the organization’s funds and personally profiting from donations. Cullors has denied the allegations.
The foundation’s governance structure opens it to allegations of impropriety and financial mismanagement, the AP reports, pointing to the views of experts who note that the foundation does not have an executive director or in-house staff, operating like an organization that has far fewer resources.
“It comes across as an early startup nonprofit, without substantial governance structure in place, that got a huge windfall,” Ohio State University accounting professor Brian Mittendorf told the AP.
“People are going to be quick to assume that mismatch reflects intent. Whether there’s anything improper here, that is another question. But whether they set themselves up for being criticized, I think that certainly is the case because they didn’t plug a bunch of those gaps.”
BLM’s foundation is under investigation in at least two states, Ohio and Indiana, over its finances, the AP reports, adding that the board members say they are cooperating with authorities in those states.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a lawsuit in April against the foundation stemming from a probe into BLM’s use of funds donated by Indiana residents, according to WEVV.
Racial discrimination in the nonprofit sector often opens Black-led progressive organizations to greater scrutiny, with less room for errors, Isabelle Leighton, interim executive director of the Donors of Color Network, told the AP.
“It’s tapping into a deep narrative that people of color do not deserve to have the same resources that those who have already made it get,” Leighton said. “It’s intended for people to start to doubt and create their own new echo chamber of criticizing who deserves to receive resources.”
The AP said the foundation’s tax filing indicates “its stewards haven’t squandered donations” and has “granted tens of millions of dollars to BLM chapters, Black-led grassroots organizations and families of police brutality victims.”