Past Event

Can the Revolution Be Funded by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex?

Both right- and left-leaning non-profit foundations exert tremendous influence on policy, public discourse, and our larger political context.

Critics of the foundation world contend that it has used its power both to protect its immediate financial interests and to shield itself from public scrutiny, government regulation, and perhaps especially political opposition. With In These Times recently reporting that “foundation dollars provide 70 to 90 percent of funding support for most social movements,” one might well wonder how the agendas for those movements are being set.

A major source of funding is also from corporations, who benefit from the tax breaks and the good PR. They argue that doing good and turning a profit can go hand in hand. But a larger question looms, as is demonstrated in the book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex : What if turning a profit is possible only when the underlying causes of the social ills targeted by philanthropy remain intact?

A growing number of activists and scholars have begun to refer to this structure as the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC)—a system of relationships that deploys tools of state and owning-class control with the surveillance, derailment, and everyday management of political movements. Of central concern is the emerging dominance of the 501(c)(3) non-profit, a model which some argue threatens to permanently eclipse autonomous grassroots-movement building in the arena of social justice. What is the ultimate impact of the non-profit structure on the practice and imagination of social justice organizers? Has this system allowed the state to co-opt social justice struggles?

Is there space for grantees and grassroots organizations to have an open dialogue about these critical questions with funders? Do foundations need to be reformed? Does the inherent reliance of the non-profit structure on capitalism, inequity, and maintenance of the status quo force social justice activists to seek completely alternative funding strategies?

What has been the cost of the proliferation of the non-profit structure and the move from volunteer-based activism to staff-driven advocacy work? How has the arena of social change become so professionalized that one often needs multiple college degrees just to qualify for a job?

Join us this week as we examine the non-profit model and its impact on social change.

Suggested Readings :

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

The New Funding Heresies

Reforming the United StatesPhilanthropic Sector

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex–Is there such a thing as too much civil society?

Social Service or Social Change? (Read Pages 1-3)

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.