NEW YORK (AP) — A national Black Lives Matter nonprofit, whose philanthropic fortunes grew almost overnight during historic racial justice protests three years ago, raised just over $9 million in its last fiscal year, new IRS tax filings show.
That's significantly less than the $79 million in revenue reported in a previous tax filing of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. On Friday, the foundation said it expected that would be the case, given the unique factors surrounding the public response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
A 60-page filing, submitted by the organization earlier this month, shows the foundation spent more money than it earned in its last fiscal year, from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. It ended the year with roughly $30 million in assets, down from the $42 million in assets reported in its filing the previous year.
The BLM nonprofit had raised more than $90 million in the first year that it was a tax-exempt organization, coinciding with the wave of protests over police brutality in the summer of 2020. But with the racial justice fundraising environment quickly returning to norms, the new tax filings show the organization cut operating expenses by nearly 55%.
Cicley Gay, board chair for the foundation, said the belt-tightening was part of an effort to demonstrate that its stewards “have been responsible, proactive decision-makers of the people’s donations.”
“We are building an institution to fight white supremacy and reach Black liberation,” Gay said in a statement about the tax filings. “Every dollar we spend is in order to reach that goal.”
The foundation said it would post the new financial documents to a “transparency center” on its official website.
Last year, the nonprofit gave more than $4 million in grants to Black-led grassroots organizations, including organizations founded by the families of police brutality victims, whose names rally the larger movement. Nearly $26 million had gone to Black organizations and families during the foundation’s 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The tax documents also show the foundation continued its business relationship with security contractor Paul Cullors, the brother of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who resigned as foundation director in 2021. Although Patrisse has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the organization for two and a half years, she and, by extension, the organization continue to face accusations of misusing BLM donations from movement critics and in right-leaning media outlets. The allegations are unproven.
Shalomyah Bowers, another foundation board member, said an independent auditor hired by the foundation judged the nonprofit to be in good fiscal standing. The auditor found “that our financial outlook is healthy, there is no fraud or abuse within the organization,” said Bowers, whose outside firm received the lion’s share of the BLM foundation’s spending on consultants in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Last summer, a group of local chapters and activists known as BLM Grassroots filed a lawsuit in a California Superior Court against Bowers and the foundation. The suit alleges that he and his consulting firm broke an agreement to relinquish control of BLM’s digital presence and its finances to the grassroots organizers of BLM.
Bowers has called the allegations “frivolous” and untrue.
Both sides await a judge’s ruling on BLM Grassroots’ suit, on which arguments were heard early this spring.
Aaron Morrison is a New York-based national writer on the AP's Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.