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Queering Wealth: Examining Our Attachment to Nonprofits

The following piece is part of an ongoing series by Carolyn Collado and Laila R. Makled about money in the queer community.

With Black History Month beginning and two calls for general strikes over the past few months, many of us are considering what our relationship to money and collective liberation looks like. It is critical that we are having conversations within our communities about how we can build solidarity through money. How can we move away from a colonizer, savior mindset when it comes to supporting our community with money, and move into a more collective-centered mindset? How can we support each other in recovery? How do we support each other in having spaciousness to rest and heal and come back to our communities feeling well instead of living in survival?

We will not come to answers for any of these questions without examining how we got here and how money currently flows within the queer community, especially as it relates to nonprofits. First, let’s talk briefly about how colonization has shaped charity and direct services over time. Many institutions (colleges, banks, direct service organizations, health care organizations, governments, etc.) and individuals have built wealth from the extraction of Indigenous land, Indigenous genocide, and the exploitation of the labor and bodies of enslaved African people and their descendants. Despite this, we are often told this history has no bearing on access to money and other resources. This simply is not true.

Colonization’s resource stratification still impacts us today, especially as LGBTQIA2S+ folks. With Black, two-spirit, and Indigenous trans folks having the least access to resources, wealth, employment, food, housing, and just the right to live in general. Colonization has created the conditions where so many of us struggle to have our basic needs.

The most visible form of supporting people in our society is through nonprofits and charities. Often, when folks want to support their community with their money, they first think of sending money to organizations. We often think about the “good work” nonprofits do, so we look to them for jobs when we’re looking to “do good”, and for where we put our money when we want to “support” folks “most in need.”

In order to understand how we got to this point, we need to get clear on what exactly it means to be non-profit. “Non-profit” status describes the type of agreement an organization has with the government. If an organization has non-profit status, that means the government deemed they do the type of work that fits the criteria of 501(c)(3), (4) or (5) tax code, which comes with certain obligations and benefits. The type of work is usually under the bucket of charity, art, education, advocacy, direct services, etc. If an organization has non-profit status, it primarily means two things:

  1. It is eligible for certain tax breaks & other financial benefits
  2. Any “profit” (fundraising, donations, grants, etc.) they make goes back into the org for operating costs (as opposed to shareholders, for example)

“Non-profit” DOES NOT EQUAL no money. Often, this myth is used to justify not paying people well (or at all) who work for these organizations, or asking workers to work longer hours without additional compensation. It’s also used to justify restricting access to resources for those seeking help from these organizations.

This is not to say there aren’t nonprofits operating on very little to no money or doing really good work under this government agreement. There certainly are, and we aren’t asking you to stop giving these folks your money! There are many reasons why folks doing critical work may choose to operate under this government agreement (such as offering free or low-cost services to people who could not afford these resources otherwise).

Because the government is deciding who is deserving and undeserving of non-profit status, nonprofits can also restrict access to resources. Non-profit programs often determine who is worthy of access based on qualifications: like keeping sober from substances, requiring people attend training when they may not be able to attend or have to find childcare to be able to attend, or only giving resources on a temporary basis.

Additionally, due to the deserving vs. undeserving narrative the government and nonprofits have historically perpetrated, society discourages us from believing we deserve to be taken care of and be resourced, no matter who we are or how we navigate life.

Under the Ronald Reagan administration, Reagan promoted the myth of a “welfare queen”, spreading the image of Black single mothers buying fancy clothes and eating steak with American tax dollars. With this image, voters called for a decrease in spending for government “welfare” programs, even with the majority of people receiving these benefits at the time being working class white people.

America in response has a notion of needing to “get up by our bootstraps.” Because of this, many of us grew up internalizing that we could only depend on ourselves to be okay, that it’s shameful to receive help (what many people refer to as “handouts”), and that we better work to get our needs met, even when we know race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and size play a big role in who has access to resources.

We are looking to spread a different kind of message: One that says we aren’t going to get up without each other. One that says we deserve to live and experience joy, no matter our position in society. One that builds long-term intergenerational, interclass solidarity and wealth.

That being said, we know and understand that so many folks rely on and feel gratitude to these institutions for meeting their basic needs. We do not want to rip these institutions out from under folks, but rather help you reframe the way you think about giving money to them and turn more towards mutual aid as a type of money moving practice, which we’ll explore more in a future installment in this series. Because the reality is, too many nonprofits simply do not need your money, and they do not have values aligned with the kind of world we are trying to build:

“A trillion-dollar industry, the US non-profit sector is one of the world’s largest economies. 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,” according to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (This book is full of juicy information on the topics we’re talking about, check it out for more!)

Indeed, many non-profits operate under the same harmful structures as for-profit companies, which is something we see all too often in the queer community. There are countless queer organizations that refuse to take accountability for narratives that perpetuate literal death. For example, there are queer organizations that have weapons manufactures as sponsors and are endorsing a presidential candidate who is sending military weapons to kill the people of Palestine. This is just one modern day example, of far too many. It does not have to be this way.

Undoubtedly, without close examination of this and a strong commitment to relating to each other differently, we will never see what liberation looks like.

Better ways are possible, better ways are already here.

This is one of three parts in a series about queer relationships and money. If you’re looking to start moving your money in a different way today, here are some mutual aid pages on Instagram that are always posting calls for support:


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Laila/Laiq Makled

founder of out there communication, laila/laiq makled holds community-centered groups and people in navigating conflict, communication, and care. laila is a facilitator, writer, event producer, and educator. identities that ground laiq are being a gender expansive human; grandchild of lebanese immigrants, a palestinian refugee, & a scottish baptist settler; muslim-ish; lover of love; silly; sensory sensitive; soft & boundaried; 1992-born; anti-imperialist. you can learn more about Laila by visiting their instagram or website.

Laila/Laiq has written 2 articles for us.

Carolyn Collado

Carolyn Collado (they/them) is a coach, writer, decolonial dreamer, and founder of Recovery for the Revolution. They are a queer, non-binary, Afro-Taino, neurodivergent human in long-term recovery. Carolyn believes recovery from a decolonized, liberation-centered lens can point the collective towards liberation. They name how intergenerational, historical colonial trauma and the pressures of racial capitalism impact our relationship to self, each other, the planet, and the divine. They believe bringing to light what we have hidden in shame and fear can bring about transformative healing and community. You can learn more about Carolyn on Instagram, Tiktok, or their website.

Carolyn has written 1 article for us.


  1. so glad yall are talking about all of this and esp the nonprofit mess/scam.

    with queering, i have been thinking about how a false binary of “donation” and “investment” closes off worlds of possibility. if a donation is an investment with 0% return, and an investment is only “good” if it has a return over 100%, what about all the possibilities in between 0 and 100??? eg where i contribute some money and a portion of it will come back to me as money later, AND the rest will be converted into good things we need? like an investment with a 50% return? or 25% or 75% ? (a “profitable” investment is by definition taking more than i contributed in the first place.) if i know some money i contribute will come back to me in the future, especially as needed, i can contribute more than if the only option is one-way donation.

    also thanks to Autostraddle’s past article about Black Caribean sou-sou money sharing circles for helping me think about this!!!!

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