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The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,798 ratings  ·  179 reviews
A $1.3 trillion industry, the US nonprofit sector is the world’s seventh largest economy. From art museums and university hospitals to think tanks and church charities, over 1.5 million organizations of staggering diversity share the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) designation, if little else. Many social justice organizations have joined this world, often blunting political goals to ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by South End Press (first published March 1st 2007)
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Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
An amazing set of essays about the nonprofit industrial complex and its shortcomings in regard to facilitating radical social justice. As someone who operates mostly on an individual change level through therapy and psychological research, I learned a lot about the origins of nonprofits, how their structure of funding often keeps power in the hands of the wealthy and out of the most marginalized, and how turning social justice work into a career may prevent people from creating the most radical ...more
First of all, I am a hard-bitten, cynical "development professional" who, for the past ten years has worked to raise money from foundations and individuals in support of hospices and, now, orgazations assisting people with developmental disabilities. Just about everything about this book is dead-on accurate. Funding for poor people is a rich people's game. Funding for the oppressed is the game of the oppressor. Some of them do it with a conscience. Some of them do it to see their name in lights. ...more
Paul Gordon
Aug 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-profit employees
Wow. I love books that completely change my way of looking at the world. This is the kind of book that you can't help bringing up in conversations for months after it's over.

This is great for anyone who is working for social change, and is still trying to figure out the best way to do that. Basically, this anthology discusses the ways in which the non-profit industry may actually be limiting our capacity to create real revolutionary change in the U.S. and abroad. Although non-profits are mostly
Nov 09, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: maybe people who haven't already thought of this stuff
At times I start getting really, really burnt out on radical leftist complaining. This is one of those times, probably because I've read too much of it recently for school.

I don't know. So far this book reminds me of that great cartoon from years ago of the artist who's painted a picture of a guy in glasses and a suit and underneath it the letters "FUCKING ASSHO" only apparently the artist has just run out of paint, because he's turning to the guy standing next to him -- the exact same suit-and-
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those trying to support themselves and dismantle the system
How do we know if we are being co-opted into contributing to a ruling-class agenda and just providing social service, or if we are truly helping people get together? We cannot know ourselves. We cannot know just from some people telling us that we are doing a good job or even telling us that we are making a difference. We cannot know by whether we feel good about what we do. Popularity, status, good feeling, positive feedback-- our institutions and communities provide these to many people engage ...more
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
I found this book really validating to read. Having worked in social services for the last couple of years I was really starting to feel like their was something wrong with the way things were being done, and I was constantly frustrated with the lack of accountability that the agency I work for has for its constituents.

Before having read this book I was planning on going to graduate school and getting an MSW even though I knew I didn't want to be a social service or state social worker. I still
Julia Deng
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm shook!! This book is, at times, jaw-droppingly good.

To those who think that it offers no practical advice for working in and around the nonprofit-industrial complex: you are wrong. Here is a list of practical suggestions straight from the text:

- Don't incorporate as a 501c3, and eschew the professionalization of The Work. Consider finding another way to pay for your life and become a purely volunteer-driven organization. This was the norm back in the '60s. Admittedly, it's much harder to do
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, native
I am just going to point everyone to Tinea's review which says everything I could think of and more, much better than I could say it. ...more
Aug 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty wonderful collection of essays, put together by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, covering the rise of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex and it's vampiric and co-opting effects on radical movements for social change. Some of the essays are more compelling than others, but I particularly found the historical background of the NPIC undercutting and distorting radical movements of the last 25 years revelatory. Plus the case-studies of groups that went for the 501(c)3 tax sta ...more
Polly Trout
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is great! It is a collection of essays and some of them are fabulous. My favorite was an essay by Paul Kivel called "Social Service or Social Change?" which you can read online here:

There is also a really exciting essay by Alisa Bierra of Seattle's own Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) called "Pursuing a Radical Antiviolence Agenda Inside/Outside a Non-Profit Structure" that advocates a peer based, grassroots, horizontal style of communit
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
one of my absolute favorites; i reference it often. pretty much everything Incite! does is magic.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for any social justice advocates working within the nonprofit sector in the US
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic
I really wish that I had read this 4-5 years ago--much, much earlier in my nonprofit "career." It's given me a lot to ponder in regards to my questions about what happened to the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and the current state of mass movements in the United States.

"It is critical that social justice organizations abandon any notion that foundations are not established for a donor's private gain...Unlike the government, which is accountable to the public through various ch
Michael Whitlow
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
So most of what I have to say is negative, but I do rate this as 2 stars, not 1, because there is some useful information and good points made. In particular I think several authors make excellent arguments about the ways in which non-profits serve elite interests (Sarah Kendzior's "View from Flyover Country" is also a great work in exploring this).

My problems with this book are as follows, in no particular order:

Although it is an anthology of chapters/papers by individual writers, I've still ne
Amy Layton
This was so intriguing.  I know that there's a lot I don't know about in this world, but I didn't realize just how little I knew about non-profit organizations.  As with any other grant-writing institutions, they must lay out exactly what they want to request, and why.  However, not many money-granting institutions are going to just give money away to the most radical and anti-establishment organizations.  So in that way--they must scale back, be more centrist in their activism.  Which...what do ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great, thought-provoking compendium of essays – some better than others. I appreciated how the authors were committed to giving an honest appraisal to the limits and challenges of foundation funding, while still offering nuance to the ways NGOs may relate to social justice movements now that they're here. I would have appreciated the inclusion of some broader political economic analysis i.e. the changing role of unions and work, because I was not totally satisfied with the conclusions of many of ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is great reading for anybody involved in social change! They ask so many hard questions about how our movements are prioritized and who decides. For folks who are running and working for nonprofits, seeing the limitations of our current theories of change helps us think outside of our organizations and the nonprofit industrial complex. This helps liberates us from the narrow constraints of our day-to-day work. We can dream bigger, and help even our funders and most ardent supporters conside ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
A nice collection of essays analyzing and critiquing the non-profit industry and their outsize role in left-wing social movements. The book is definitely targeted toward people who are activists and organizers and non-profit workers, and are generally in left-wing activist subcultures. While the arguments are all in the realm of radical politics and anti-capitalism, there are some interesting divergences; some essays argue for reforming the non-profit industry, while others argue for complete wi ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly thought provoking and a call to action. Very readable, even as it can feel like a personal attack (kidding, but not really) to those of us that work at a non profit. Complacency can not be our future.
Sara Starr
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly poignant and eye-opening book that I wish I had took upon myself to read earlier! Very important for anyone in or considering going into non-profit or movement based work, providing a critical lens through which to view the work, the processes to get to the work, and the ways in which funds and donors become inextricable from the work itself. Really valuable.
Mollie Meyer
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Insightful and convicting wisdom shared by local POC who actually give a shit about the world.
Emily Satifka
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Every single essay both affirmed and transformed my beliefs. I can’t help but bring this book up in conversations.

May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Phew! This book took me so long to read because I felt it was so important that I needed to give it my undivided attention... so it sat on my bedside table for about 5 months before I decided I just needed to get to it.

Anyway. It's definitely a book that has pushed me to think differently about non-profits and how they're funded. I will let the authors down by not quitting my job tomorrow to work as a volunteer for a radical collective, but, baby steps. I'm still not sure how to have a day job
Evelyn Woagh
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
There were some useful things to know from reading this book, including a clarity history on the purpose of foundations. But much of it was repetitive, overly-academic, and overcomplicated, which detracted from the effectiveness of suggestions on how to organize beyond the npic. The fact that the title states this is about being beyond the npic, I find some difficulty in giving it credit since only a couple essays toward the end actually mentioned in passing how to survive without foundations.

J.S. McLean
Mar 13, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was hard to take at times, and at others it was inspiring and insightful. Many different voices and experiences reflecting on the change and development in the world of non-profits, and the overwhelming chorus wasn't necessarily one I wanted to hear: currently there is little place for sustainable, innovative social activism within the non-profit community as it stands, due to the reluctance of funders to endorse "radical" agendas. This is a light-weight summation of some heavy discuss ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a person who has racked up years of professional experience in the nonprofit/NGO world, this book is essential reading for anyone with a critical eye in this field. A lot of what the essays discuss are issues that nonprofit workers experience on one level or another (the constant scarcity, the need for self-preservation above all else, the conflicts around grant and government rules, the professionalization of mutual aid and community building), but may have not had the opportunity to lay it ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it liked it
"Nonprofits were meant to provide alternative spaces for political organizing. But for generations who have known only the NPIC as a site of organizing, it’s not a place to put their politics to practice: it is their politics. Those wondering about how to organize in what Gilmore calls “the shadow of the shadow state” can only ask themselves: “Should I stay or should I go?”" Read more of my review here:
Joy Messinger
[4 stars] My second reading of this important collection of essays detailing the harm that philanthropy perpetuates in social movements. The new intro and foreword added much needed nuance and space to the previous edition, and complicated the nonprofit industrial complex within capitalism. Many of the essays are still uber academic, and starting with Dylan Rodriguez’ piece is a surefire way to discourage readers from getting any further if they can’t push through the dense writing. I recommend ...more
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
Everyone who works for a nonprofit or for any kind of social change org needs to read this. It reflects so many of my experiences and frustrations. And it puts the system together in a way that we all need to be conscious of.
Ming Wong
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ming by:
Changed the way I think about my work. Contextualizes everything.
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INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and their communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing.

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INCITE! is a national, activist organization of radical feminists of color that is mobilizing to end all forms o

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“landscape that makes political fodder of this liberationist legacy. With increasing frequency, we are party (or participant) to a white liberal and “multicultural”/“people of color” liberal imagination that venerates and even fetishizes the iconography and rhetoric of contemporary Black and Third World liberation movements, and then proceeds to incorporate these images and vernaculars into the public presentation of foundation-funded liberal or progressive organizations. I have also observed and experienced how these organizations, in order to protect their nonprofit status and marketability to liberal foundations, actively self-police against members’ deviations from their essentially reformist agendas, while continuing to appropriate the language and imagery of historical revolutionaries.” 1 likes
“a system of relationships between the State (or local and federal governments), the owning classes, foundations, and non-profit/NGO social service and social justice organizations.” 0 likes
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