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A giant "BLACK LIVES MATTER" sign is painted in orange on Fulton Street on June 15, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP) A giant "BLACK LIVES MATTER" sign is painted in orange on Fulton Street on June 15, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP)

A giant "BLACK LIVES MATTER" sign is painted in orange on Fulton Street on June 15, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke June 17, 2020

How the Black Lives Matter Global Network is set up

If Your Time is short

  • Like many nonprofit organizations, Black Lives Matter Global Network is incorporated and operates as a charity.

  • The Black Lives Matter Global Network has a fiscal sponsorship with Thousand Currents, a nonprofit that works with grassroots groups and handles Black Lives Matter’s finances, including donations.

  • Nonprofit organizations often incorporate to reap tax benefits and legal protections. They enter into fiscal sponsorships when they are not yet recognized as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service.

As donations continue to flow into Black Lives Matter, some conservative commentators claim the civil rights organization behind the movement is not an actual charity.

"According to its website Black Lives Matter, Inc is NOT a charity. It is a full-fledged corporation that does NOT have any locations," said Candace Owens in a June 11 tweet. "Can anyone tell me then where the hundreds of millions BLM has raised goes?"

The tweet, which has also been shared as a screenshot on Instagram, has been retweeted more than 47,000 times.

The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook, which owns Instagram.) 

We previously fact-checked a false claim that donations to Black Lives Matter are funneled to ActBlue, a nonprofit technology company that helps Democratic campaigns and causes raise funds. So we wanted to look into this post, too.

(Screenshot from Twitter)

Owens is wrong. The Black Lives Matter Global Network is incorporated in Delaware, but it’s a charity that’s fiscally sponsored by another nonprofit called Thousand Currents. The Black Lives Matter Global Network has chapters around the country.

The Black Lives Matter movement is decentralized with no formal hierarchy. It was co-founded by three black community organizers in 2013, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Khan-Cullors, Garza and Tometi created Black Lives Matter Global Network as an outgrowth of that movement, with a stated mission to "build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes." The network was incorporated in Delaware in November 2016, according to the state’s corporations division.

But nowhere on its website does the Black Lives Matter Global Network describe itself primarily as a "corporation," as Owens claimed — and the organization still operates as a charity.

Incorporation is a common first step toward becoming a nonprofit organization because it offers tax advantages and legal protections. While nonprofits that incorporate are technically corporations, they are still considered nonprofits. Why? 

"Congress has created almost three dozen types of tax-exempt organizations in different sections of the tax code," says the National Council of Nonprofits. "The one common condition is not paying out profits" to owners or shareholders.

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For example, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns PolitiFact, is incorporated in Florida and uses its earnings to develop teaching programs and online content for journalists. The institute also has an incorporated foundation.

Similarly, the Black Lives Matter Global Network has a foundation that was incorporated in Delaware one year after the network. Since it’s a relatively new nonprofit, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has a partnership with a larger organization that oversees its finances.

In 2016, the Black Lives Matter Global Network approached Thousand Currents, a nonprofit organization that partners with grassroots groups and movements, to create a fiscal-sponsorship agreement. Fiscal sponsorships are set up when a charitable organization is "not yet recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)," according to the National Council of Nonprofits.

"In this capacity, we provide administrative and back-office support, including finance, accounting, grants management, insurance, human resources, legal and compliance," a spokesperson for Thousand Currents said in an email. "Donations to BLM are restricted donations to support the activities of BLM."

Since the Black Lives Matter Global Network is not yet its own 501(c)(3) organization, it does not have publicly available tax returns. Other nonprofits named after the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the "Black Lives Matter Foundation" in California, are not associated with the network, BuzzFeed News reported June 15.

However, some financial information about the Black Lives Matter Global Network is available on Thousand Currents’ most recent financial audit.

RELATED: ‘Defund the police’ movement: What do activists mean by that?

That document indicates that, as of June 2019, Thousand Currents held $3.35 million in assets representing restricted donations for the Black Lives Matter Global Network. The same audit shows that $1.8 million in restricted donations were released to Black Lives Matter in the year ended June 30, 2019.

Referred to simply as the "fiscal project" on Thousand Currents’ audit, Black Lives Matter spent much of that money on salaries, consultants and travel. We look at Thousand Currents’ most recent tax returns to get a clearer picture, but they do not report separate expenditures for the Black Lives Matter Global Network or a "fiscal project."

In a June 11 statement, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation announced the creation of a $6.5 million fund for grassroots organizing efforts. The fund is available to all chapters affiliated with the network and will give unrestricted grants of up to $500,000.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network has active chapters in 16 cities in Canada and the United States, according to its website. Most chapters have a website and corresponding social media profiles, many of which are verified.

We reached out to the Black Lives Matter Global Network repeatedly for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.

Regardless, Owens’ tweet is inaccurate. We rate it False.

Our Sources

The Balance, "Should Your Charity Incorporate? The Pros and Cons," Aug. 16, 2019

Black Lives Matter Global Network, "Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Announces $6.5 Million Fund to Support Organizing Work," June 11, 2020

Black Lives Matter Global Network, Chapters, accessed June 15, 2020

Black Lives Matter Global Network, What We Believe, accessed June 15, 2020

BuzzFeed News, "‘The Black Lives Matter Foundation’ Raised Millions. It's Not Affiliated With The Black Lives Matter Movement." June 15, 2020

Chron, "The Difference Between a Nonprofit Corporation and a 501(c)(3)," accessed June 15, 2020

Delaware Department of State, Division of Corporations, accessed June 15, 2020

Email from Thousand Currents, June 15, 2020

Factcheck.org, "Donations to Black Lives Matter Group Don’t Go to DNC," June 12, 2020

Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations, accessed June 15, 2020

Fortune, "Founders of #BlackLivesMatter: Getting credit for your work matters," July 19, 2015

Instagram post from Candace Owens, June 11, 2020

Internal Revenue Service, Tax Exempt Organization Search, accessed June 16, 2020

Los Angeles Times, "Why the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ can be so confusing," Oct. 20, 2015

National Council of Nonprofits, "Fiscal Sponsorship for Nonprofits," accessed June 15, 2020

National Council of Nonprofits, "What is a ‘Nonprofit’?" accessed June 15, 2020

The New York Times, "Racial Justice Groups Flooded With Millions in Donations in Wake of Floyd Death," June 14, 2020

PolitiFact, "Conservative pundits share false claim about Black Lives Matter, ActBlue," June 12, 2020

Thousand Currents, Black Lives Matter, accessed June 15, 2020

Thousand Currents, Consolidated Financial Statements, June 30, 2019

Thousand Currents, Full text of "Full Filing" for fiscal year ending June 2017

Thousand Currents, Full text of "Full Filing" for fiscal year ending June 2018

Tweet from Candace Owens, June 11, 2020

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How the Black Lives Matter Global Network is set up

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