Non-Profit Crises: Often Avoidable Tragedies

January 24, 2012
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It’s almost hard to tell the difference between Food Not Bombs & Peaceful Uprising. Both are committed to non violent direct action to stop environmental destruction, militarism, and oppression by the ruling class. Both have members who have made great sacrifices for causes they believe in.

Then why is Food Not Bombs as strong as its ever been, while the relatively new Peaceful Uprising is, according to the collective itself, on the verge of collapse? Because, amongst the myriad pitfalls that NGO’s & non-profits have in their way, they often rely on large donations and funding that have the potential to destroy them. See Peaceful Uprising’s latest on how its funds along with many other non-profits have been wiped out by their abusive fiscal sponsor.

As countless Food Not Bombs agents will tell you, and to very loosely paraphrase the Joker…our methods are very cheap. We just don’t need all that much money. Food Not Bombs will never be at risk of collapse because of not being able to pay rent or staff, because we don’t need either to accomplish our goals. What little equipment and funding we do utilize is, by and large, easily replaceable.

Burning Money

Many in Food Not Bombs have closely followed Peaceful Uprising’s co-founder Tim DeChristopher’s kangaroo court trial this summer and subsequent imprisonment even as many of us were facing similarly Orwellian police state tactics, and know that the group has the potential to make a difference…but this agent at least suggests removing money from the equation as much as possible if they want to achieve their aims. Hang in there!

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4 Responses to Non-Profit Crises: Often Avoidable Tragedies

  1. Rabble Rouser on January 29, 2012 at 3:20 am

    Hi Keith,

    Please know that I love you a bunch, and have deep respect for the work you have done in guiding Food Not Bombs all these years. Thanks for the suggestions for my friends at Peaceful Uprising.

    I was witness to the trial and sentencing, and was arrested along with 25 others after Tim’s sentencing. I am about as connected to PeaceUp as any outsider could be, so I am very well aware of what it has done over its short existence. It arose in response to the actions of the court and BLM after Tim took justified direct action against the illicit auction.

    Few people know that by the end of the business day that Tim made about $1.8 million in bids, he needed over $43,000. His friend Michael came up with it, and attempted to deliver it to the BLM office. They refused it. Peaceful Uprising was formed when it became obvious that Tim was up against some powerful forces with no financial support except a few church friends.

    Until Tim’s trial, PeaceUp did not need a structure. Looking at ten years in jail and nearly a million dollars in fines, the legal team made clear they could not work without a structure. Maybe other aid could have been found, but not in time to respond. The speed that the prosecution aimed to railroad Tim into jail required an immediate organization, not something that could grow slowly. Quickly, it became a national force.

    I have to ask how PeaceUp could have been the financial organization responsible for supporting the Tar Sands Action? It moved thousands of dollars of donations from people who would not have given to a PO box through to other organizations to pay room rents, gas receipts, etc. This national event lasted 10 days, bringing sometimes very unprepared young (and old) people together in DC, getting 100 people a day through the courts, and making it a successful action that got the attention of the nation.

    Non-organization would be a great suggestion if Peaceful Uprising were a virtual group with no property to store, or not having to funnel tens of thousands of dollars around with transparency, etc. It is not so easy as Peaceful Uprising is a very different organization than Food Not Bombs, although its mission might seem simliar.

    That all said, I love Food Not Bombs level and its de-centralized collective organization. Its existence for over 30 years has proven its model to work better than any other organization at feeding the poor and fighting to end the conditions that create hunger and poverty. However, Peaceful Uprising had to create a large organization responsible for a lot of other peoples’ money quickly in response to Tim’s plight. At the time, the people behind it could not have been done as well any other way. Others might have done differently.

    Now that the times and needs have changed, I agree that Peaceful Uprising might now look into alternative ways to grow in its future. Its temporary relationship with Living Rivers is rock-solid. John Weisheit has written for Earth First! Journal (http://www.earthfirstjournal.org/article.php?id=135)and been a trusted friend of many in Utah for years. Have no fear, regardless of its financial outcome, Peaceful Uprising will not collapse, not as long as its work is undone. It will go on, in joy and resolve…

    • patches on January 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      RR, I appreciate what you’ve done with your group with your format so far. Of course I have heard of a few Food Not Bombs chapters who do something very similar to what you do with your group and some have even headed even further into non-profit & NGO territory. Of course when faced with such a situation as Mr DeChristopher it’s a whole different battle to fight.
      I do have a follow up question for you; do you think that the best way to fight for sustainable energy is to do the “everyone go to DC” campaign rather than to focus locally? In Florida, we have an awful time organizing around environmental causes almost everyone that fights for the environment seems to think the fight is up north somewhere rather than in the Everglades.

  2. Keith McHenry on January 30, 2012 at 12:51 am

    This article is a really wonderful statement on this very issue. Harriet Barlow really knows what she is talking about. This is why Food Not Bombs does not seek funding from foundations, pay staff people and rent offices. We have been able to avoid all these crisis caused by having connections to the that world as much as we can.

    Don’t Let Occupy Be Occupied: 6 Ways to Fight the Creep to Institutionalize
    Crucial movements of the past with clear and radical demands suffered a diminished voice when traditional organizational standards took hold. Hopefully not Occupy.

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/26-11

  3. Keith McHenry on February 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    This site is in wordpress I think that is what you are asking. Thanks Keith