Make Organizing Financially Accessible, Sustainable, and Joyful

I think it’s very important to pay/financially support YPC organizers! If we are to be led by those most impacted by inequity, our organizers of these backgrounds need to be compensated in order to have the ability to organize with YPC.

Track actual implementation at Implement Paid / Compensated Roles / People.

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot, and what follows is a starting place for what I was thinking at the time I wrote this, but that will obviously evolve.


When people join YPC as a working member, they are given the following options:

  • I accept the following stipend amount to do the work of youth-led collective impact
    • $1000
    • $750
    • $500
    • $250
    • $0

Then they are asked what amount they want to contribute to YPC

  • I contribute the following to fund the work of youth-led collective impact
    • $10
    • $25
    • $50
    • $100
    • $200
    • $500
    • $750
    • $1000
    • Choose my own amount

NOTE: The exact mechanics of donating will likely be different, depending on our donation platform, and not sure if the team member should be donating monthly or per member survey they fill out. The amount of money, too.

This allows people to self-select how much they need to be equipped to thrive and how much they’d like to contribute to bring joy.

The way we have accountability and transparency for who is paid and who gives is to ask monthly (quarterly?) survey questions that include the same questions above +

  • What roles do you hold in the YPC team?

  • What are you most proud of accomplishing this month?

  • What impact has your accomplishment made to youth-led collective impact? (This could be completely repetitive, but I’m writing it down now in an effort to remember that we need to be able to communicate outcomes).

  • What are your goals for the next month?

  • To what extent are you thriving as a happy, healthy, and impactful citizen of the world?

  • If you’re thriving, what impact are making, and what supports have made the biggest difference? If you need to be equipped with additional skills, resources, and/or community support, what are you needing?

  • To what extent have you benefitted from the following? (Wording needs work, for sure, but general idea is to match these questions with our aims. This may also need to be more granular to really figure out what 20% of what we do is most helpful. See The Real Value of Surveys for an example.)

    • Mobilizing with community
    • Sharing and receiving valuable information
    • Developing as a leader
    • Generating and receiving resources
    • Creating and using avenues to scale
  • To what extent are we living out our values of

    • Lead with love
    • Build in public
    • Own our impact
    • Embrace emergence
    • Act on principle
  • How likely are you to recommend Youth Power Coalition to others? (NPS)

  • (Optional) What shoutouts would you like to give to any specific individuals or circles?

  • (Optional) What feedback would you like for any specific individuals or circles to hear and act on?

  • (Optional) Any additional questions or comments?

All the answers to the questions above will be made public to the entire team so we can all have transparency into information that can make us better collectively. Then there’s a final question:

(When I get the chance, I’ll say more about the Community Care Circle that I argue we’ll need to create next).

This monthly survey doubles as each team member’s invoice, which goes to the Business team to disperse.

We’ll also need a way to give everyone the dynamic budget so they can decide for themselves in relationship with others what stipends are possible and what additional money needs to be raised.

The survey is also now really long so maybe we cover vision, mission, and aims in different surveys or make a different one required in each survey.

Leadership Development

All members who receive a stipend will need to know how to

  • Open a bank account
  • Pay taxes
  • Handle liability (volunteers who receive more than $500/year are no longer covered by a volunteer law)
  • Balance their accounts
  • Save and invest
  • Advocate for YPC’s business philosophy
  • Be generous themselves

All members who give will need to know

  • How to look into their own relationship with money to make sure they’re aligned with the 7Cs. For example, if someone’s the owner of a company that makes them exceedingly wealthy but that has been extracted based on not paying people equitably, then they need to fix that before giving to YPC.
  • How to organize their people and get them to fund equitably.
  • How to distribute power.

Managing Money Coalition Wide

We’ll need to make it a joy for every member to generate resources in their own way so we always have abundant capital to resource our organizers. We’ll also need to have transparent tracking of what each circle is contributing to our financial resources and what each circle is needing. Finally, we’ll need to create a circle treasurer role so that each circle has the capacity to manage their own budget in alignment with the whole coalition.

Organizers Who Need More Than the Stipend

We have a financial coaching team that supports organizers who need more than the stipend based on each individual circumstance. For me, I think my financial sustainability will come from a stipend from another organization, my Patreon page, and independent consulting. We can coach other organizers to advocate for something similar. By helping organizers build their own sources of income and gain the skills necessary to reinvent their personal business, they learn invaluable skills that will serve them well for life.

On Trainings and Consulting

I don’t know what to do here, yet. On one hand training and consulting could be a place to pay not a volunteer stipend, but rather contracts or employment, but that’s really complicated and potentially discounts the labor of a whole host of folks who make the leadership development work possible but who are in support functions.

Or maybe the training and consulting money that we generate goes straight into the collective pot that drives the ability to stipend organizers.

Or maybe everyone is an independent consultant using YPC open-source materials and gifts money back to YPC when using the material and who take a well-capitalized pledge saying they will strive for not superstardom but always spreading the wealth.

Or actually, maybe we have it so that everyone (including YPC team members?) need to pay for training but have the opportunity to ask for scholarships. This way we build a self-correcting system of costs and benefits. SO many questions.


  • How do we track who’s completing these surveys and who are not? And who follows up?

Additional Open Questions

  • How is the process different for members who join Youth Power Coalition through partners?
  • How is the process different for members who join Youth Power Coalition through initiatives?
  • What are the legal implications?
  • What will we need to raise to make this possible?
  • What are the tax implications?
  • What are the movement implications? Mass movements have always depended on unpaid labor.
  • How do we partner with direct service and mutual aid orgs to transition folks from needing basic needs into organizing?
  • How does this payment work for people who are YPC Team members and compensated by partners?
  • How do we differentiate between YPC team members vs coalition members and what’s the connection in survey questions?

Feedback from Sierra: Like the idea as a system. Wonder how to address this from the cultural aspect: how we encourage buy-in and active participation especially as membership changes and what do we do to address cultural difference in a system like this.

Like that it allows for people to self-identify - it encourages self-awareness about our individual situations. I like that it incorporates not just time as a metric but the actual type of tasks and work that are being done. I like that it incorporates a variety of types of resources that people need in order to be supported - it’s not just about money but money is a part of it. What people report on when they fill out the questionnaire is not just their need for financial resources but their need for all sorts of supports. I do also like that it’s all public information so it makes it possible for everybody to know the full picture of how everybody is doing. I think that’s useful, broad diverse picture of data to be able to offer to everyone working together and that leads us to what do we do culture shift wise to ensure that people are engaging and actively engaging whether or not they are folx who feel they have needs.

This works when all individuals who are stakeholders look at this data, at everyone’s data and information on a regular basis, even when they don’t have needs of their own. Often things like this, culturally we are socialized in this country not to engage in systems like this unless we have a need. Think oh that’s not for me because I’m not one of the needy. Developing the culture of paying attention to it, engaging with it. It is mutual aid. It’s internal mutual aid and I think / wonder how people will engage with that or respond to that. In a lot of ways we’re oriented to external mutual aid. That orientation might carry out into rolling something out like this, so how will people engage with and will they be excited about and motivated about engaging with something like mutual aid internally.

Feedback from @zaps: Love new models! Get a lawyer. Believe that this is legally possible. Idea that for members who join via partners, partners pay those members. However, YPC can build some type of system for supporting partners that need it to participate (grants? shared fundraising? etc.)

I just spoke with Mica from MANYC about this. Insights:

The question about receiving or giving funding in order to fully participate in YPC is not just for people receiving money because some people NEED to give to be aligned to the mission of powering youth-led collective impact. One of our 7Cs is well-capitalized and for them, becoming a YPC member necessitates them to contribute money to act on principle.

MANYC is exploring the funding question, too, and a key question is "How can we make this sustainable? Do we have enough resources in Mutual Aid NYC to give enough money to be sustainable to organizers? That brought up the idea of doing an asset map where we figure out explicitly how much each person can give, how much they can put in a pot for people to borrow from, and how much each person needs to be sustainable. We could consider being as explicit when we do this project:

Now that I’m reflecting on our convo, I think we should actually reframe the question of “can we?” to “How might we?” make this sustainable.

This is a beautiful turn of phrase from Mica: “Collective network of care.”

There are also complications around access to networks, especially if payment is directly from person to person. I haven’t said as much about that in this particular topic because I think it deserves it’s own, but here’s an example of what we mean by direct person to person giving: How might we make sure that within our network of care, the most resources don’t just go to people most adjacent to power but instead are truly distributed? How might we not recreate the inequities of the non-profit industrial complex? I have LOTs of thoughts here.

Finally, while yes, these are major questions, I also brought up that action is also needed NOW. What’s good enough for now, safe enough to try, because time is a luxury when we’re talking about funding for people’s livelihoods. See Solutions Privilege: How privilege shapes the expectations of solutions, and why it’s bad for our work addressing systemic injustice.

Thoughts from Saje: One reason funding is complicated is because there are multiple frameworks for approaching it, including

  • As compensation for labor (and I think additionally how do we define labor, expertise, contribution to outcomes)
  • By need
  • With reparations
  • Within the context of anti-capitalism, mutual aid, gift economy, etc.

From PENNELYS DROZ of NDN Collective

  1. Re-value and re-centralize our traditional practices. Harvest of our foods and materials, and the creation of products that come from our communities serve an economic and a culturally revitalizing purpose, connecting us to our ancestors and descendants, our teachings, and a creative ongoing relationship with our homelands.

  2. Re-centralize the practical needs of the people. What do we need to thrive? How can we provide for these needs in as local a manner as possible? What products do we have to trade for? Are there other Indigenous people we can trade with? Local, bioregional businesses or co-operatives we can trade with? The more people directly experience the impacts of economic decision-making, the less likely folks will make decisions that are harmful to the land or their neighbor.

  3. Look to our lands with loving and relational creativity. What abundance does the land offer? What can the land create/regenerate? What can we give back to the land to cultivate the regeneration of life? These questions should underpin new economic development ideas.

  4. Look to our people with loving and relational creativity. What creative visions and skills do we have? What can we create/regenerate? What reciprocal relationships can be encouraged in community to allow our people to be supported in their work? These questions should also underpin new economic development ideas.

  5. Understand the importance of boundaries and the falsity of “economic growth.”We all have traditional stories that encode the boundaries we need to live within in order to perpetuate life, and our traditional values of moderation. These are teachings to consider deeply.

  6. Explore ways of making your teachings and spiritual values the core guiding principles of any economic idea. Explore ways of re-integrating traditional resource distribution practices, as well as governance and community accountability mechanisms. Understand that re-integration of our practices will likely take some time, mistakes, and patience.

  7. And, above all, remember that although we have to engage with markets and capitalism to a certain extent, we can do so on our own terms, without buying into destructive mentalities. No one can do this work for us – we are the ones with the solutions to our challenges. We can also learn from and share ideas with other Indigenous peoples and Nations who are exploring ways of rebuilding our economies.

It is vital to remember that economic systems are only as good as the values, responsibilities, and community agreements that govern them.

From Mike H.

Current Status
Usually, you can have volunteers as a nonprofit, you can have employees who are paid minimum wage, and you can have people who are independent contractors
A model that Mike’s seen is moving all staff to a worker coop LLC that has a contract with the nonprofit to do work for them but that doesn’t seem to be a good fit for YPC.

Model of Everyone Volunteers with Needs-Based Stipends

  • One challenge is about minimum wage. Department of Labor will be sensitive to stipends being used to flout minimum wage. Let’s say minimum wage is raised to $15/hour and an organization decides well, we’ll just transition to stipends so that per hour the cost is not that high, that’s illegal
  • Another challenge is a requirement to have some rational basis for making decisions about where money goes to individuals within a 501©(3) context
  • Third challenge about conflict of interest. There’s making sure those who make decisions of who’s getting money doesn’t have ties to who’s getting the money

Model of Different People being Staff vs. Volunteer Even if Roles are Functionally the Same

  • Maybe have volunteer agreement that clearly states consent to be a volunteer
  • Challenge around less flexibility to move around (roles aren’t always defined and impact won’t always be made “in YPC”)

Potential People to Contact

Big Shift in Thinking

After the conversation with Mike, I’m thinking this change in process could be better. Before, I was thinking we would need to do volunteer stipends in order to preserve our philosophy of mutual aid. However, perhaps having everyone be independent contractors would be better. Here’s how I imagine this could work

  • Every member, paid or unpaid, has a financial contract with YPC when they get to the point of taking on process or operational role based work (yay for reinforcing clear governance). This contract can set out an agreement for payment to someone, non payment, or expected donation + the expectation that everyone contributes to our aim of mobilizing resources. It also sets out when someone is being compensated by a partner or when they are getting education or pro bono credit.

  • These contracts have set term dates for circle review (yay again for reinforcing clear governance) so everyone can reassess, not just individual contracts, but the circle budget as a whole

  • That’s right, every mature circle has its own budget that is inclusive of any of its subcircles that are not themselves mature enough to be a full business unit, but the goal of the next broader circle is to foster circle independence should that need emerge.

  • I think this would work for everyone being independent contractors because these roles are defined, and applicable to many organizations. Even the role of executive director, because that’s really just lead of the general circle.

  • An added values aligned benefit to this would be that members being paid as independent contractors learn the skills necessary to continue growing themselves as business people, from how to pay taxes to how to negotiate. Meanwhile as part of individual business units they also grow as entrepreneurs.

  • What keeps things equitable is that all budgets and contracts are transparent. We’d also have guardrails on things like financial resilience (no circle should be relying on any one source of financial resources), coaching for how to mobilize resources, how to negotiate, how to recover from trauma, etc.

  • We also live out our value of well-capitalized. We are aiming for abundance, not cost savings.

  • What if one person’s membership in a circle includes that person’s financial contribution? How might we check an abuse of financial power? I think diversification, again, is a big part of making sure this doesn’t happen.

  • Another reason I like this is because it makes adults aware of how much time they’re spending too. See, time as a resource is power, and in a youth-led organization, young people aren’t going to have as much autonomous work time as adults. I’d like to play around with the idea that no one, adults included, will be “full-time” eventually.

  • Why independent consultant instead of employee? It comes down to flexibility. The flexibility forces continuous clarity as described above. It also allows us to ramp up experiments and ramp them down. The power stays with the independent consultant in this case as well. Especially if we work to diversify what each person’s sources of resources is as well, they won’t be dependent just on YPC.

  • Units like the support circle will need to be supported by the network. Perhaps 50% of funds raised by any circle goes into the support pot for things like research and development, transparent communciation, etc.

  • I keep on going back to Open Collective as the system to use to manage all of this. It allows for circle budgets, transparent spending, and people submitting invoices. The big hang up is that Open Collective has an age 18 minimum. Could we figure out a way for those 18 or over to manage Open Collective while sending people under 18 money?

UPDATE: Sociocracy for All uses this model. Sociocracy for All members, search “How to budget and how to hire” for example in budgeting circle.

Also, I think we should be advocating for universal basic income and for schools giving credit for activism work. That is another way to make organizing sustainable, and a systemic one.

Example of an organizer contract from Eric T.

Eric commits to meeting regularly (monthly) until July 2021 with YPC’s Governance Circle to make a plan on how to improve YPC’s sociocratic implementation, as well as to work outside of circle meetings to carry out the activities that make up the plan (eg prepare agendas and deliver training).

The time commitment is budgeted for approximately 2 hours a week (keep track with Toggl), and if it gets exceeded considerably we can have a conversation about it.

Eric proposes to give his work to YPC on a Gift Economy basis: as I value this process as an enriching learning journey for me, and I very much value what YPC does as an organization, dedicating my time to improve your sociocratic implementation is rewarding enough on its own. If, on that same basis, YPC ever finds itself with the desire and capacity to give back, they’re always welcome to make a gift to Eric and/or SoFA, whether that’s in the form of currency or any other type of value.

The projected outcome is for YPC to consent to a revised version of their Circle Structure with updated Vision, Aims and Domains before the term is over (July 2021). This would also be the deadline for delivering the training that is part of the implementation plan. Another projected outcome is a plan to follow-up on sociocratic implementation after Eric’s consultant term is finalized.

When this is finished, Eric will ask for a performance review as a consultant from YPC’s governance circle, and will also ask for written feedback from 2 YPC members who collaborated in the process. For acquiring the “implementation” badge in SoFA’s academy, Eric will do a written self-assessment of this process.

As learning governance is an ongoing process, and Eric can only accompany YPC for a limited time, the other members of the governance circle commit to continuing the learning and training process in the organization after the circle’s term. Lastly, Eric will meet once more with YPC’s mission circle at the end of 2021 to follow up on YPC’s sociocratic implementation.

Idea from Mica: Contact Sustainable Economies Law Center Legal Cafe

On consultants:
An idea would be for us to pay a percentage of the billable rate to consultants and as always, keep that transparent. An organization I know has a minimum percentage of 28% but then as people log more hours, that billable rate increased to 35% then 40%.

More recently for a contract that Far and I did, we decided that 20% would go to YPC’s general operating and 80% would be split between us based on time.

Super interesting.

Run by volunteers. Get $200/month stipend and free housing and that’s it.

On mutual aid.

I think we ultimately need to be mutual aid. If we want to be 10,000 organizers strong, we’ve got to be supported by community, not centrally. All mass movements have been volunteer.

I love this example from Sunrise Movement, which has a Principle 6: “We ask for help and we give what we can”.

One way the Sunrise Movement puts this principle into action is through the Volunteer Financial Support Program policy that includes up to $800/month in support for poor and working-class backgrounds.


Sunrise Movement is committed to putting financial support in place to ensure volunteer leaders from poor & working class backgrounds are not limited in their ability to hold leadership positions within the movement.

In working to achieve this commitment, we are holding the following truths:

  • All solutions we put on the table are to comply fully with US labor law, electoral law and tax law. This is essential for preserving and protecting the organizational infrastructure that supports our movement more broadly and protecting workers/volunteers.
  • Sunrise’s organizational budget has limited financial resources that fluctuate from year-to-year. Given these resource constraints, we will not be able to reach every volunteer leader’s full financial support needs at scale. We will need to make hard choices about the scope, scale and guiding policy surrounding programs and solutions designed to support poor and working class Sunrisers. These solutions will be imperfect. We will only be able to fully address these needs when we win a government that centers human dignity and invests in scaled structural programs to achieve class equity.
  • Financial support is only one way in which Sunrise needs to evolve to better support poor and working class leaders. Financial solutions need to be paired with cultural and structural changes within Sunrise that focus on inclusivity/accessibility and elevating poor/working class leaders power and leadership.
  • All social movements have been driven by volunteer power, many of which have been led by and composed of poor and working class leaders. We recognize the need to support poor/working class volunteer leaders to the greatest extent we can, while remaining a volunteer-driven movement.

This policy document defines Sunrise’s “Principle 6 Offering” of financial support for volunteer movement leaders from poor and working class backgrounds. Sunrise believes in a model of needs-based compensation (rather than market-based compensation), where movement members follow Sunrise Principle 6: “We ask for help and give what we can.” This approach of needs-based compensation also guides our staff compensation policy, which you can review here. If you are interested in learning more about Sunrise’s philosophy around compensation, we invite you to read the rationale provided in the intro sections of the staff compensation policy here.

Sunrise Movement also follows needs-based compensation for staff members.

At Sunrise, we compensate based on needs rather than market-based pay scales.

Our goal with compensation is to provide movement members in critical or long-term roles with the basic resources they need to sustain themselves to do the work necessary to drive our movement strategy forward.

We recognize that “there will never be enough money to pay all of the organizers that the revolution needs” (Rules for Revolutionaries), so we’ve designed our movement to be driven by volunteer power. Everyone in our movement lives by Principle 6, so that we are able to achieve the scale necessary to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.

We do not differentiate compensation based on position, rank or perceived responsibility, recognizing the vital contribution made by each team member and the inherent dignity and support that we believe all people should be afforded universally. We recognize that people’s basic needs look different based on structural and personal circumstances.

As such for full time roles, we allow people to assess their needs and determine their own salary between $48,000/year and $80,000/year. Some states, cities, or municipalities have a minimum required salary and Sunrise will comply with those local salary laws. We allow people to request a higher salary of up to $55,000/year and up to $65,000 for those financially supporting family members, if that is what they need.

There are also roles in the organization which are part time or require an hourly wage. For these positions, we allow folks to pick a wage that is in between the minimum wage required by law in your city, and state, and $27/hr for a maximum. If a staff member has family members that depend on this income, we allow staff to request up to $32/hour for part time and hourly work. All hourly staff members are also eligible for overtime pay in accordance with federal and local state or municipal laws.

@Valli and I met with Sunrise Movement folks to get details on how to administer the Volunteer Stipend program, so check out the Sunrise partner notes to get details (private to YPC organizers).

Solidarity, Full Cost, and Redistribution Rates

If you are registering as an individual



  1. At least one of the following describes me:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

  1. I have not inherited wealth or property and do not expect to inherit in future.

  2. I do not have savings and am unable to make payments on debts.

  3. I have not had access to higher education (e.g. college, graduate school).

  4. I struggle to meet my basic living expense needs.

  5. My income supports people other than myself.

  6. I have had difficulty accessing healthcare for myself and/or family.

If your answers are:

All Yes - Level 1 Free: $0

More Yes than No - Level 2 Solidarity: $50

More No than Yes - Level 3 Full Cost: $125

All No - Level 4 Redistribution: $275

If your organization is paying for your participation

Redistribution Level 4: $450 for organizations with an annual budget of $1.5M and above

Full Cost Level 3: $350 for organizations with an annual budget of $500,000-1.5M

Solidarity Level 2: $250

Annual budget $200-500,000

Majority owned and/or governed by people who are at least one of the following:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

Organization fits one of the following descriptions:

· Focus on solidarity economy work

· Focus on collective liberation work; including but not limited to:

· practice values of equity, solidarity, and cooperation

· community-based: leaders/members are a part of the communities in which they work

· work to defend people from the harms of systems of oppression

· work to transform oppressive systems

Solidarity Level 1: $150

Annual budget below $200,000

Majority owned and/or governed by people who are at least one of the following:

· people of color

· immigrants

· people with disabilities


· working class

· poor

Organization fits one of the following descriptions:

· Focus on solidarity economy work

· Focus on collective liberation work; including but not limited to:

· practice values of equity, solidarity, and cooperation

· community-based: leaders/members are a part of the communities in which they work

· work to defend people from the harms of systems of oppression

· work to transform oppressive systems

Setting​ ​Pay​ ​in​ ​a​ ​Worker​ ​Self-Directed Nonprofit

I had the opportunity to think more on this, and I’m more and more convinced that supporting money in following the people and not the project is the way to go.


  • Enables self-determination
  • About sustained relationship
  • Gives access to not just money but a network of people with the means to support folks financially
  • Transformative for the entire ecosystem because now organizers can be generous with their time across organizations and efforts
  • Allows for emergent decision making — people can end and start new projects based on new information without fear of not meeting externally imposed restrictions

Potential Agreements Needed


  • Commit to doing money work
    • Healing
    • Budgeting
    • Redistribution (of money but of relationships, too!)
  • Commit to enoughness (ballpark 2x living wage as upper limit)
  • Commit to keeping money moving (for example, reducing any one person’s contribution and encouraging them to split or move their resources to the next person)
  • Commit to relationship


  • Commit to minimum term of giving
  • Commit to not committing financial abuse (paired with giving no more than 2% of any one person’s living wage)
  • Commit to being in relationship

Potential Next Steps

  • Share this idea
  • Do participatory budgeting around who to promote in this effort and set upper limit via this particular network (want people to be able to draw from multiple networks / communities)

Mindset Shift
What if our question was “How might we make organizing with YPC financially joyful?”