What has BLMUK done with the money?

In 2020, BLMUK raised over £1 million, what have they done with the money?

How we got here

BLMUK started in 2016 as a loose network of activists who wanted to respond to escalating racist violence from the British state. 

Our first action, #Shutdown took place on Friday 5th August 2016 to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the murder of Mark Duggan. Dozens of activists in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Nottingham organised shutdowns of transport hubs, including Birmingham and Heathrow Airports to sound the alarm on racist state violence in the UK. 

Image showing a Black Lives Matter protest in the background with placards. In the foreground is the following text: 5th August @UKBLM #SHUTDOWN #BLACKLIVESMATTER LDN.MCR.BHM.NOTSS

Since then we have continued to organise for Black liberation. We have worked with other collectives such as Wretched of the Earth to focus on climate justice for the global majority and the successful Against Borders for Children campaign which stopped the UK government’s efforts to create a children migrant database. As volunteers, we donate our time doing administration, community organising, communications and whatever else is needed, which includes raising some funds to support our work. Until 2020, our previous efforts raised around £8000, so when we launched our UKBLM fund in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, we were overwhelmed with the incredible support we received across the UK and beyond. From birthday gift donations to school groups running events, it was inspiring and encouraging to see so many from all backgrounds work for Black lives in the UK.

Our principles and goals

We believe that working class Black communities are full of joy, creativity and hope. But far too many Black people in the UK and beyond are forced to endure needless poverty, deprivation and premature death. Despite the UK government’s report stating otherwise, we believe the UK is not innocent, it is structurally racist. This must be resisted and overcome. 

The funds and support BLMUK has received are vital for us to continue this fight. As anti-capitalists, we do not seek profit for ourselves but freedom for all. We see ourselves as custodians and not owners of the resources and trust that has been generously given to us. Our freedom from poverty and violence will not be given but is for us to take and win. Our hopes are not realised in a modest reduction of state violence or achieving equal levels of suffering, instead we believe in abolition. In other words – no-one is free until we are all free. 

Group of 5 young black people holding a home-made banner which says "#BLACKLIVESMATTER", they are joined by a large crowd in a high street in Central London
Photo credit: Lorenzo Garrido

This is why we decided from the start that all of the money raised needed to be put to fund work in communities and organisations struggling for social justice. We broke it down in the following way:

  • First, we committed to distribute at least 50% of the funds received (£600,000) to Black-led grassroots groups that wouldn’t typically receive funding.
  • We set aside a maximum of 5% of the funds (£60,000) to be used to cover the cost of administering the second wave participatory grant programme.
  • Finally we planned to use the remaining funds to create the sustainable infrastructure and resources we needed to further our own campaign work, and to support others working in liberation movements.

Our legal form and first redistributive wave

We rightly faced a lot of scrutiny early on and so we took advice from many sectors on how to properly organise ourselves and the funds. This led to BLMUK moving from a loose network into a formal and legally constituted Community Benefit Society by October 2020. We remained a primarily volunteer-based organisation, but our legal status allowed us to manage the funds in a more appropriate and accountable way.

We were keen to get some funds out to communities and organisations in dire need of support quickly, although we always intended to distribute funds in an equitable way. So in February 2021, BLMUK deliberated and agreed internally on a list of organisations that would receive no more than 15% of the funds raised. Those groups were chosen based on our activists’ understanding of some UK and international organisations that had a strong record of work in liberation and activism affecting Black communities. We were proud that those funded included organisations like Sistah Space, Northern Police Monitoring Project and United Families and Friends Campaign. However we resolved that the majority of the funds for redistribution would be decided in a more participatory and an open way.  

The Second Redistribution Wave

Reflecting on our previous experience we decided to take a participatory approach to this round of grant-making that included consultation and collaboration with activists across the UK working on our thematic areas of focus. We created space to listen and learn more about the challenges faced when trying to access funding, the opportunities to resource groups differently and how to collectively sustain our work in an increasingly challenging environment.

We were keen to redistribute funds to support groups to grow and build in a way that enabled them to achieve their ambitions and provide the best support to the community. We were intentional in thinking about how a diverse range of groups could be funded. We also recognised how challenging it can be for early stage organisations to access funds, but also the critical importance of funding those organisations that have been supporting the Black community for years, often with little resource. We also reflected on the need to resource organisations working at the intersection of multiple levels of oppression experienced by the Black community in the UK. As a result we built a fund with 2 streams of funding for groups at different stages in their journey.

Decision-making for the fund was equally a participatory process, with all the final decisions on grants made by two decision making panels, which included four BLMUK members and ten organisers and activists who are rooted in Black liberation work. We reached out to folk who had track records of working across our thematic areas, and who were also skilled in collective decision-making processes, and most importantly who deeply believed in and practiced the work of Black liberation.

Photo of a busy street with tens of black people holding up placards in support of Black Lives Matter
Photo by Lorenzo Garrido

The decision-making process included online discussions where we shared thoughts on all the incredible applications received.  We paid careful attention to how closely each group’s work related to our thematic areas, what their access to other funds were and how they worked across intersections of identity and experience. It was also important to us that resources were shared across the UK.

Due to the amount of work needed to get this done right, we hired two grant-making specialists who coordinated the structure and administration of the process. BLMUK members who also volunteered time to shape the work, and other organisers and activists in other network who shared their knowledge and experience. This redistribution of funds truly took a village, and it was only with the support of each of these people that we were able to make the final grant decisions. We also give gratitude to all those who spent time engaging with the process as applicants, sharing their dreams and hard work with us. The final list of grantees shows only a fraction of the valuable work happening in service of Black liberation.

Money spent so far (October 2020 – February 2023)

All our official accounts can be found on the Financial Conduct Authority website

Grants and donations
£169,733 – First Wave – February 2021
£40,000 – United Family and Friends Campaign Second Donation – May 2021
£350,000 – Second Wave – February 2023
£10,000 – Urgent Deaths In Custody Campaign Donations
Total: £569,733

Staff, Legal and Administration Costs
£38,689 – October 2020 – May 2021
£28,614 – June 2021 – May 2022
£63,484 – June 2022 – February 2023
Total: £130,787

Grand total expenditure: £700,520

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