Money money money in our movement

Organisations – especially the bigger ones – often get a lot of criticism from grassroots groups and individual activists, for all kinds of things. One of the accusations these organisations get thrown at them is that they are all about money/fundraising/donations. Organisations are being called corporations or businesses. Francione, for instance, lately seems to make it a sport to point out “big red donate buttons” on all the major organisations’ websites.

big is wonderful
Let me be clear. I believe that organisations should be as transparant as possible about where they get their money and how they spend it. From strategically stupid choices and bad management, to extravagant wages for certain functions or even downright corruption: these are risks in any movement, also in ours. Apart from intentional misconduct, sometimes organisations may become less dynamic after a while and just raise funds to keep existing and keep people on board. Organisations should constantly be aware of this risk, and can use their members and donors. to help them watch out for them.

Corruption and abuse of funds should be called out. Fundraising, however, obviously should not. There is no shame in looking for donations or fundraising. There is no shame in big budgets. There is no shame in being big. On the contrary: if small is beautiful, then in our movement, big is wonderful. 

In most organisations, the biggest part of their bugdet goes to staff costs (salaries). This is normal too. Yes, you can run volunteer-only organisations. But they usually won’t get as big or as impactful as organisations with paid staff (I’m sure some people will try to come up with counterexamples. Bring them on.)

Many people can invest volunteer hours, but once you need full time staff on the job, you pay them a wage. It’s simple. Often an organisation will need to find people with professional backgrounds and expertise. The battle against the ag-gag laws in the US, I assume, cannot be won with volunteers only.

Another criticism (again by our friend Francione) is that organisations will often choose (single issue) campaigns in order to raise funds. Apart from the fact that I’m sure these targets are chosen for other reasons (like strategic ones, or just to alleviate suffering), I think there’s nothing bad with choosing a target or campaign because we know it will raise some funds. If we can raise a lot of money on an antifur campaign (say), that can often provide money or other opportunities to also work on other topics.

What’s the insinuation here anyway? That organisations and their staff are interested in money for money’s sake only? That the people in organisations want big wages, or want to expand their organisations for their own ego? Give me a break. The industry of animal (ab)use has billions of dollars at its disposal. So I hope we’re not going to whine about the few hundred million that our movement has in total? 

It’s strange how suspicious people are of money when the context is the nonprofit sector. It seems that the world is allowed to make a lot of money selling laundry detergents or video games, making movies, but not by doing good. It’s an absurd idea, and it’s very much a pity, actually, that the hardest way of actually making a living is by doing good. Many people want to work the entire time for animals or some other good cause, but they can’t, because there are not enough paid jobs available and they have to make a living somehow. The more of these paid jobs there are, the better.

To those saying we can’t change things with money, I’d say: indeed. But we can change things with committed people able to give 100% of their time to the cause. We can change things with TV-commercials. We can change things through lobbying. We can change things by handing out hundreds of thousands of booklets. We can change things with undercover investigations… And for all these things, we need… money.

Fundraisers, do your work! Money is something in our movement that we should get as much of as possible, and do great things with. Let no one tell you any different.

11 thoughts on “Money money money in our movement

  1. A big bravo, Tobias! With the U.S. federal court ruling on August 3rd that Idaho’s ag-gag law is unconstitutional, this subject could not be more timely. This is a HUGE, HUGE win that was accomplished with hard work and cooperation by several groups, which just happen to have those “big red donate buttons” on their websites.

    Here is the announcement by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (1):

    “In a landmark victory for a broad-based public interest coalition of national nonprofits, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho, and Center for Food Safety (CFS), the court held that the Ag-Gag law, Idaho Code sec. 18-7042, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Today’s decision marks the first time a court has declared an Ag-Gag statute unconstitutional.”

    The last sentence is worth repeating: “Today’s decision marks the first time a court has declared an Ag-Gag statute unconstitutional.”

    From investigative journalist Will Potter’s website, “Green is the New Red”, we read (2):
    “A wide-range of organizations supported the lawsuit by filing amicus briefs. They represented food safety, environmental, labor, whistleblower, and journalism organizations.”

    The tremendous impact of this ruling cannot be overstated, not in Idaho, nor for what it now means for other states that have ag gag laws in place. This ruling no doubt has big ag shaking in their boots more than they ever have.

    As you wrote, we need to ensure that organizations are transparent and corruption-free, and this is a good resource for that if people are interested:
    Animal Charity Evaluators

    It’s worth noting that of the four organizations, only one (PETA), includes advocating a vegan diet as part of their mission. I find myself extremely saddened at the thought of those with a Francione mindset not supporting this truly landmark ruling due to this.

    Again, great job, Tobias! 🙂


  2. I think one has just as much reason to be suspicious of “non-profit” corporations vs for profit corporations. Non-profit status is just a tax matter, it really tells you little how the organization uses its money and how it may funnel money to its owners and/or employees. And in terms of non-profits, when your livelihood hinges on promoting the organizations values that is obviously going to provide a good deal of fuel for cognitive bias.

    1. of course, a non profit can be misguided by their need for money like everyone else. but i wouldn’t go as far as saying taht they are equal to for profit in meriting suspicion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *