Friday, June 19, 2020

BlackLivesMatter Is 'Reputable', On The Nature Of New Organizations

Just yesterday a friend posted on social media denouncing the "All Lives Matter" response to Black Lives Matter. Some commented on it: "I am fine with the sentiment and statement around Black lives. What I do NOT support is the organization." After some discourse, , they ended with this: "Follow the money and do some digging into their founders and funding." and finally " I could go on but I will let you research for yourself."

There are a few things going on here. I will delve into each, but the focus of this will be on the nature of 'non-profits' and start-up organizations. I can see how it is easy for manipulation to make it look questionable, but if you do what the person suggested and research for yourself, you will find no issues. I have direct experience with non-profits that have done exactly how Black Lives Matter operates as an organization and funding, so I can tell you it's on the up-and-up.

What you will see here, unlike comments like the ones above, as I lay out my understanding, are quotes and links that support my points.
Let's start at the end. "I could go on but..." In my experience, on social media, this usually means the person understands at some level that they actually don'y have anything to go on. Their statement is a repeat of a meme, or someone else's posting of some other statement that never had any back-up. From what I already knew, and doing some additional research, these are the two 

  • Payment processing - where another website processes payments for you, sometimes compared to PayPal but in this scenario more like GuFundMe
  • Fiscal Sponsorship - "refers to the practice of non-profit organizations offering their legal and tax-exempt status to groups—typically projects—engaged in activities related to the sponsoring organization's mission. It typically involves a fee-based contractual arrangement between a project and an established non-profit." - Wikipedia

Payment Processing

In this case, though they never said it, I can guess they are referring to the fact that when you donate to blacklivesmatter.com, you go to a different site at ActBlue, a site that by the name you can tell is a Democratic (blue) focused pay . That extra step has been exploited by, well those that aren't Dems, starting with an Instagram post that went viral. As FactCheck.Org puts it:

An Instagram page for the website WokeHub.com claimed, for example, that “donations made to Black Lives Matter website go directly to the DNC” and that BlackLivesMatter.com “appears to be an international money laundering program used by the Democratic National Committee.” A similar claim appeared on the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.com.

Furthermore,

Candace Owens, a Conservative personality with more than 1 million Instagram followers, posted this “BLACK LIVES MATTER FUNDING GOES DIRECTLY TO WHITE DEMOCRATS AND THEIR VARIOUS INITIATIVES TO GET DEMOCRATS INTO OFFICE.” 
(editorial comment: CAPS makes it true.)

Let's look into this further.

The claim was that if you go to ActBlue and make a donation, it goes to Democratic SuperPAC(s), or the DNC directly, that BLM isn't fundraising for themselves but for the DNC and funds never go to causes supported by BLM. It's simply not true. ActBlue (which has a GOP equivalent called WinRed), is simply a payment processing site. As I stated before it's like GoFundMe, but for specific organizations selected by ActBlue, not just any fundraiser. There is nothing nefarious here, and 'both sides' do it, the GOP has WinRed. Funds that are paid to the specific organization or campaign go to them (with a fee to the processor). Tampa Bay Times explains:

ActBlue told us in an email that it passes along contributions from its fundraising platform directly to the 501(c)(3) charities or 501(c)(4) nonprofits that asked for them. Its function is similar to PayPal or Stripe, which are conduits for online purchases.

So this process is common, ethical, and legal. In fact donating to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign redirects you to a page from WinRed, ActBlue's counterpart.

Let's move on.

Fiscal Sponsorship

Another way that people might try to discount BLM's reputation is that it is fiscally sponsored by another organization called Thousand Currents. Many people don't understand what that means, so posting it to the uninformed easily can convince them that this means they are doing something fishy.

Now here I have personal experience, twice, with operating a non-profit this way, at least for a limited time. Think of it like a Division of another company. The new, smaller organization gets to take advantage of the structure of the larger one that provides support. This often, as is the case with BLM, is for startup organizations that want to quickly be able to take in funds and do official business while waiting for their 501(c)(3) or other non-profit status. This can take a while so if you want to hit the ground running with people instantly supporting you, you can do this as an interim - or even permanent - scenario to be able to operate. The IRS has a document on how this works here go to page 15 starting at the bottom.

Here in Milwaukee, many of the Parks' friends groups operate this way. Rather than each having to go through all the effort to become their own non-profit, they operate under The Park People of Milwaukee County, I was part of this operation with a friends group for the dog parks. I also was part of this operation for 2 years with an educational organization underneath another one while waiting for our non-profit status to be approved by the IRS.

BLM is fiscally sponsored by Thousand Currents. Here is what they say about what they do:

Through our grantmaking program, Thousand Currents partners with grassroots groups and movements — led by women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples in the Global South — that are creating lasting solutions to our shared global challenges.

Our partners develop solutions that are innovative and impactful. They work to ensure their communities have access to healthy and locally grown food, are able to enjoy economic prosperity that generates wellbeing for all people, and live in a safe and healthy environment that supports abundant life.

Again, nothing questionable, odd, or illegal here. It is a common practice just not often heard of or understood. BLM definitely falls in line with what Thousand Currents is doing.

But...

The poster's comment started with "I am fine with...". Fine. Not "I support". And the next sentence may not have started with "but', but... it definitely was a 'but' statement: "What I do NOT support is the organization." It's like a backhanded compliment. It's definitely a deflection, trying to start with a very minor show of support. "I am fine with..."

And of course, pushing it back to another to support their own claim. The deflection is that 'you' should know and should do your own research, they shouldn't have to. But really, IMHO, they don't want to, they can't, because they at least deep down know their stance lacks actual.

This is no different than people who say "I have some black friends, I'm not racist." yet spew barely disguised racist statements. Or the good old "I'm not a racist, but..." and continue to say something derogatory.

Know Where It's Going

This person did have one good point: know who you are donating to. This applies to all donations, not just here. Everyone should indeed do some research before donating, just even one search to get a better understanding. This can be for BLM, or a COVID relief fund, or a friend's bills relief, even the largest organizations around. Take a look at the big health issue organizations and see what percentage goes to what.

In BLM's case, know they are primarily awareness and advocacy driven. They do not do much in the way of community support. That's not bad, or good, it is what it is. That is their current mission: "to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes." Other organizations exist that provide financial and other support directly to black communities and their people. Some organizations do one or the other, some try to do both, in my experience combining them makes for a lot of gray area and conflict so it is not unreasonable, in fact quite the opposite, for BLM to exist more on the side of awareness than direct financial support.

In the end, its your opinion and decision, but listening to people for or against can skew you improperly, take a few moments to make sure you know what you are donating to. Hopefully this will help you understand how some of the little ones operate and why it is not an issue to donate to them.

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