Black Lives Matter Foundation has $42M In Assets
The foundation started by organizers of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is still worth tens of millions of dollars after spending more than $37 million on grants, real estate, consultants, and other expenses, tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) showed, Aaron Morrison reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The tax filing suggests the organization is still finding its footing: It currently has no executive director or in-house staff.
In a new, 63-page Form 990 shared exclusively with AP, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. reports that it invested $32 million in stocks from the $90 million it received as donations amid racial justice protests in 2020.
That investment is expected to become an endowment to ensure the foundation’s work continues in the future, organizers say. It ended its last fiscal year – from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021 – with nearly $42 million in net assets.
The foundation had an operating budget of about $4 million, according to a board member. The tax filing shows that nearly $6 million was spent on a Los Angeles-area compound.
The Studio City property, which includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage, and office space, was intended as a campus for a Black artists fellowship and is currently used for that purpose, the board member said.
This is the BLM foundation’s first public accounting of its finances since incorporating in 2017. As a fledgling nonprofit, it had been under the fiscal sponsorship of a well-established charity and wasn’t required to publicly disclose its financials until it became an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit in December 2020.
The tax filing suggests the organization is still finding its footing: It currently has no executive director or in-house staff. Nonprofit experts tell the AP that the BLM foundation seems to be operating like a scrappy organization with far fewer resources, although some say Black-led charities face unfair scrutiny in an overwhelmingly white and wealthy philanthropic landscape.
Still, its governance structure makes it difficult to disprove allegations of impropriety, financial mismanagement, and deviation from a mission that has dogged the BLM foundation for years, one expert said.
“It comes across as an early startup nonprofit, without substantial governance structure in place, that got a huge windfall,” said Brian Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at Ohio State University who focuses on nonprofit organizations and their financial statements.
“People are going to be quick to assume that mismatch reflects intent,” he added. “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.”