This book serves as an important warning to young and well-intentioned activists and organizers. Beware! The Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) corrupts radical minds. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded was published the year my friends and I graduated from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law—a small, progressive law school designed to produced “lawyers in the service of human needs.” It was evident to us, even as young graduates, that the NPIC had co-opted many of our mentors and that it would soon deflate and paralyze many of our lively and passionate classmates. We wanted to resist the NPIC and its works and its empty promises.
Myself and two others from the Class of 2007 used The Revolution Will Not Be Funded as a guide to help us interpret and navigate the world of foundations and other 501(c)(3)s. We used this book to found our own organizations—Common Law, Inc. in 2007 and Organizing4Occupation in 2011.
The book, compiled by INCITE! and written by many organizers and activists about their experiences, examines the rise of the NPIC and provides concrete examples of how the NPIC damages participants. Contributors lay out in clear terms the unethical pursuit of a “career” in social justice. They show how chasing success as a 501(c)(3) organization—working for increased grant support, trying to constantly expand programming—often contrasts with our goals of transformative justice, community empowerment and relationship building.
Because the NPIC looks for “measureable” outcomes, the people we hope to serve and love become “clients”, “constituents”, “customers” and “contacts” rather than brother and sisters or neighbors. We begin to fetishize people. We pity them. We begin to believe that they need our unique service and that they have nothing of value to share with us. The more of “them” we see or help as a non-profit, the more funding we receive. This dichotomy—between “us” and “them”—is just one such disastrous and unintended consequence of the NPIC one important lesson learned from the contributors of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.
This book is a must-read in 2012 for those considering the various ways to effect change, reform, and revolution. With the rise of OccupyWallStreet, we must ask ourselves, why are we—those committed to social justice—begging for the resources of the 1% rather than challenging the structures that created such disparities in wealth?
Catholics will find Adjoa Florencia Jones de Almeida’s contribution “radical social change, searching for a New Foundation” particularly moving as she explains the importance of liberation theology to social movements. It is her bold proclamation that Love is our guide that reminds me to reject the non-profit structures that re-direct our work towards growing the non-profit entity rather than nourishing people involved in it.
Whether you are looking for work at a non-profit, interested in starting your own non-profit, considering innovative/alternative communities and structures (such as cooperatives or the Catholic Worker) or participating in activism and organizing efforts, please take the time to read and heed the lessons of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.