Financial Oppression The Unchecked Discriminatory Practice in our Movement



Date of Publication
June, 2019

Within our non-profit world there is an underlying burden that we place on our teams as it relates to navigating financial controls in work-related spaces. Our structures almost always emulate, favor and support the structures and professionalism of white supremacy. This is severely problematic in that it does not encompass and champion everyone through an anti-oppressive lens. As a result the following issues often remain unchecked when financial operations are left solely to one individual to dictate and or operation within an agency:

  1. Severe wage disparities.
  2. A lack of clarity or checks and balances across the board.
  3. A heavy burden is placed on employees and they frequently feel mistrusted about their actual expenditures or discussions about fiscal management and budgets.
  4. Severe red tape and resistance from the fiscal person and often executive management who give reign to the financial officer.

These types of oppression are frequently woven through hiring practices that place Accountants/Fiscal persons in charge of: dictating the frequency of how staff get paid, to when reimbursement checks are issued, to how staff members are openly reprimanded regarding receipts and/or any expenditures. Unfortunately these are not the underlying themes or duties of an Accountant or fiscal person(s).

In actuality an Accountant is a financial storyteller; they serve to share snapshots and/or big pictures of how and where an agency is spending money.

It is critical that the Executive Leadership and Associate Directors devise best practices that call for transparency and inclusivity in all agency practices including financial management.

An agency should not and cannot allow the will (which comes with its own biases) of an accountant to decide how agency fiscal matters are best kept. These conversations should not be hostile, tumultuous and abusive in nature but rather should incorporate and consider the needs and insights of all.

Here are some of the ways financial oppression often goes unchecked:

  1. There are instances of mistrust around reimbursements and financial transactions from staff members.
  2. Paychecks are solely issued and stipulated around the financial person(s) convenience, as opposed to the entire team's best interest.
  3. Budgets are deemed secretive in nature, and a lot of gatekeeping is involved to ensure that staff members are often left in the dark about what their particular grant budget looks like. This makes room for many great assumptions to be made about what is deemed as a worthy expense within the allowable parameters of a grant.
  4. There is a "you should be grateful" attitude imposed on contractors and staff members who are issued any sort of checks for the services they have provided without thought to ensuring that time frames are suitable in terms of suitable financial remittances.

As we continue to evolve in our practices around ensuring that equity, and anti-oppression are the themes in which our agencies operate from, we have to be mindful of how our financial operations affect all in the workplace. When we place an unfair burden on staff members to tiptoe around financial controls, all for the sake of maintaining a steady paycheck, we are not functioning from an anti-oppression agency model.

To ensure that your agency is moving towards an equitable workplace model, consider practicing the following practices of open communication that are not oppressive in nature:

  1. Open communication with staff members around real time expenditures and/or long term budgetary goals for a given agency.
  2. Develop a policy and implement a procedure for regular reviews of liveable salary/wages that champion equity.
  3. Consider developing a survey to ask all staff what works best for them. Staff are an incredible resource and asset who can inform best practices.
  4. Revisit job descriptions and revise if necessary to ensure that the financial roles are clear and interact with appropriate oversight.
  5. Educate all staff of where funding sources come from and inform all staff about how the agency is working to be intentional about transparent budgetary checks and balances.

An agency must devote itself to steering clear of oppressive accounting and financial practices. An agency must evaluate and refine methods of financial practice and mitigate all forms of oppression. , We must all remain open to putting in the work that champions equity at all levels of agency practice. None of us is immune from socialization and therefor we frequently don't know what oppression looks like, our own or others'. This is exactly how oppression was designed to function in order to maintain power structures that are supremacist and imbalanced across all social categories. It is our hope that Management Tips like this one shine a light on things an agency didn't know that they didn't know. Together we can coalesce into equitable and anti-oppressive workplaces.