Over the last few weeks friends have asked me to name organizations they should financially support to deliver the biggest bang for their buck in fighting the Trump administration.
This is my list based on a decade of work as an advocate and 17 years in and outside government in Washington, D.C. Caveats at the bottom.
→ Demand Progress (c3 and c4) — donate
→ Free Press (c3 and c4) — donate
→ Color of Change (c4) — donate
The Truth Tellers
→ GovTrack (LLC)— donate
→Project on Government Oversight (c3) — donate
→ ProPublica (c3) — donate + Center for Public Integrity (c3) — donate
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Demand Progress is where I work as policy director. Our purpose is to build a modern democracy, and our issues include civil liberties, open government, open internet, and money and politics. We are on the vanguard of fighting for democracy and we punch way above our weight. We played a key role on the debate on mass surveillance, on SOPA/PIPA (net neutrality), shaping the ongoing Trump nomination fights, and protecting the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Demand Progress has 2 million members and fewer than 10 staff. We run a number of projects including Rootstrikers, the Congressional Data Coalition, and help support the Fourth Amendment Advisory Committee. Co-founded by David Segal and Aaron Swartz, Demand Progress is both a c(3) and c(4) organization, which means we can do just about everything. Donate online or drop me a line. (We accept c(3) and c(4) donations.)
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Free Press. I’ve long been impressed by the quality of work from Free Press, and especially their lobbyists. They describe their work as fighting for your right to connect and communicate, and they are tenacious in those efforts, bringing in slightly under a million activists and a highly capable lobbying team. From civil liberties to an open internet, they are at the forefront of the resistance.
Free Press has around 25 staff. They accept both c(3) and c(4) donations.
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Color of Change accurately describes themselves as “a high-impact, collaborative team of activists committed to making justice real for Black people.” They work on all the important issues that affect black people and are phenomenally good at their work. They are fighting back.
Color of Change has around 35 staff. Donation information here.
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The Truth Tellers
Just a word about the Truth Tellers. These organizations are not partisans in the fight against Trumpism. Rather, they work to make our political space more vibrant and get information out to people. (Some of the Fighters also do this.)
The Project on Government Oversight is a well-lead, smartly staffed advocacy and research organization that champions good government issues including whistleblower protection. They describe their goals of achieving a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. They are one of the few organizations left standing in this space as foundation funding for open government largely has evaporated. They have around 25 staff.
POGO is a non-partisan c(3) organization, so they do not do campaign-related work and there are some limits to how much they can lobby. Donate here.
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GovTrack is a website that provides more than 800,000 people each month basic information about the inner workings of Congress. Built and run by just one person, GovTrack empowers advocates, journalists, and regular citizens to make our democracy better. GovTrack also makes the data it gathers available to everyone for free, and that empowers a whole ecosystem of information-sharing organizations and tools. It is organized as a small business (and LLC), but is run like a charity. Donate.
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ProPublica and Center for Public Integrity are a public-interest journalism outfit that has doubled-down on investigative journalism. Their stories change the world and they invest in the kind of deep reporting that helps push back the truthiness and alt-facts that are so rapidly encroaching.
ProPublica says they are dedicated to “producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.” Center for Public Integrity says they “serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism.”
They are c(3) organizations; Pro Publica has more than 50 journalists; CPI has around 35. Donate here to ProPublica and donate here to CPI.
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While I regularly lobby Congress on civil liberties, open government, open internet, and money in politics issues, and have done so for a decade, my impressions are idiosyncratic. I like organizations that find points of leverage and use a variety of tactics to meet their goals. I also like the issues I work on.
- My list is heavily biased towards small organizations that are on the vanguard — and where a small infusion of cash will make a significant difference in what they can do. I am focused on organizations with fewer than 50 staff, and ideally under 20. So slightly larger but eminently worthy organizations, like EFF, did not make the list.
- This list reflects my personal opinions.
- There are many other good organizations in the world that do amazing work that provides a high return on donations, including those focused on resistance to Trump. If an organization is comparatively well funded, or fairly large, or fairly established, or has a more diffuse mission, that weighed against inclusion here. Similarly, international organizations were not included.
- There are also worthwhile organizations to donate to separate from the Trump issue — such as our local hospice, local shelter, local food pantry, and Planned Parenthood — but this list is specifically focused around the political events shaping our world.
About your donation
You may have noticed that I indicated whether an organization is a c(3) or a c(4). (GovTrack is neither, it’s a private corporation, a LLC.)
What this means for the donor (i.e. you). What this means for you is that c(3) donations are tax deductible, but c(4) donations are not. That is, when it comes to file your taxes — depending on how you do it — you can write off your donation. BUT: c(4) donations are better for the organization.
What this means for the recipient. There is a big difference between donations to c(3) and c(4) organizations.
- 501(c)(3) organization, known as charitable organizations, do not pay taxes and can receive donations without the donors paying taxes. But, they must not participate in political campaigns and must strictly limit the amount of lobbying they do to a tiny amount of their budgets.
- 501(c)(4) organizations, known as social welfare organizations, must operate primarily for the public good. Donations to them are not tax exempt. But they can engage in a lot more activities, including lobbying and intervening in political campaigns (but cannot coordinate with candidates on those campaigns). So they can do a lot more with the money.
— Written by Daniel Schuman