Someone else walked into the office of an organization advocating for immigrant rights and handed over a bag of cash he had just collected from members of his local community civics group.
From smaller local organizations to household names such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, nonprofit organizations across the US reported fundraising tallies many magnitudes higher than in previous years as they approached their end-of-year donation drives.
“This is always our big time of year, but this year it’s huge,” said Loretta Prescott, development director for the Immigration Legal Advocacy Project in Maine. “Instead of giving gifts, people are making donations to causes they believe in.”
Progressive causes in the US saw a spike in donations immediately after the election on 8 November from voters dismayed, outraged or even frightened by the outcome. In the weeks since, this wave of strategic giving has compounded.
Planned Parenthood has received more than 300,000 donations in the six weeks since the election, 40 times its normal rate. Around half the donors were millennials and 70% had never given to the family planning organization before, a spokesman told the Guardian.
Women’s reproductive rights are considered under threat on many fronts from an incoming Trump administration. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has such a reputation for being anti-abortion that since the election, 82,000 of Planned Parenthood’s donations have been from pro-choice supporters making gifts to them in his name.
The ACLU donations webpage crashed the day after the election as visitors increased by 7,000%, and in the next five days it raised more than $7m from 120,000 donors. Now it says it has raised almost $23m from more than 300,000 individual gifts in just online donations.
Advocacy consulting group 270 Strategies – created in 2013 by veterans of Barack Obama’s two presidential election campaigns and which specializes in advising progressive causes on grassroots organizing – said many of its hundreds of clients were reporting a surge in support.
“We work with gun safety groups, environmental groups, immigration and voting rights organizations, unions pushing for a higher minimum wage, supporters of public education and women’s reproductive rights, and many are seeing an extraordinary uptick in support both by way of donations and volunteers,” said Hari Sevugan, a director of 270 Strategies based in Chicago.
A new website encourages people to make donations to liberal causes not just in honor of Trump or Pence, but for some of their wildly controversial senior staff and cabinet picks.
The site, DonateBigly.com, is a wry take on one of Trump’s nonsensical sayings, where during the campaign he was being mocked for apparently inventing the word “bigly” as an adverb.
With tongue further in cheek, the website’s slogan is “small hands vs big hearts”, referring to the size of Trump’s hands, which became an election talking point.
It does not collect money but acts as a reference portal.
The page for making donations in the name of Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change denier Scott Pruitt, suggests donating to eco groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The listing for Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and the former editor of rightwing media website Breitbart News, is accompanied by a long list of causes for gay rights, anti-racism, free speech and women’s rights.
The website, started by two female New York lawyers, has had 20,000 visitors since its creation a few days after the election.
“I just donated, bigly, in honor of Jeff Sessions to the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said one contributor of Trump’s pick for attorney general, who has been accused of racist conduct.
While famous national organizations are seeing a surge, Carol Tracy, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Women’s Law Project advocacy group, urged people to seek out local causes too.
“State-based organizations are where all the action is. Everything is local in the end, and if it’s not working at that level then this election result is what we end up with,” she said.
Prescott of the Immigration Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) in Maine, which supports immigration cases including those of asylum seekers and refugees, said donations have leapt 200% since the election.
“We’re small and we serve the whole of Maine. The people we serve are fearful, asking us, ‘Is the new government able to do what the candidate said they would do ... mass deportations?’” she said.
Shortly after the election, a man walked into the ILAP office in Portland, Maine, with a bag of cash from a spontaneous collection effort at a community civics group. The gift was unsolicited and was left anonymously.
Prescott’s team has been reassuring immigrants that the government cannot “just bang on your door in the middle of the night, ask about your immigration status and extract you from your home”.
She added: “We have to tell people that, because it can happen in the places they have come from.”
Other locally based immigrant advocacy groups, such as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and Conexión Americas, both based in Nashville, also reported seeing an “unprecedented” upswing in financial and volunteer support.
Meanwhile, many dismayed about Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton have been donating to organizations that help women run for office.
“Five minutes ago we received a check for $5,000 from a woman in Minnesota whom we had never heard from before. That was on top of $10,000 from a man who said he was embarrassed that Trump won, and the offer of pro bono services from another man who wrote us saying ‘I can’t look the women in my office in the face’ after Clinton lost,” said Erin Vilardi, director of VoteRunLead, a nonprofit that trains women to stand in local, state and national elections.
And the issue of a free, rigorous and honest press is also on many people’s minds. Trump has all but been at war with the mainstream media since the race began. And the sudden widespread proliferation of fake news, distributed via nefarious websites for profit, propaganda or both, and often shared widely on social media as if accurate, infected and undermined the election.
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the organization had received more than 500 new, unsolicited donations between mid-November and mid-December, amounting to $75,000.
“That’s never happened before – it’s totally different this year,” he said.
The nonprofit assists journalists and media organizations “large and small” with such services as resisting subpoenas coercing reporters to reveal confidential sources, intimidation lawsuits aimed at silencing them, or the government trying to use anti-espionage laws against the press.
“From time to time we might write to a state attorney general or such to complain that reporters are being harassed by the authorities so they cannot do their jobs, such as we did during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri,” Brown said.
Brown urged people to “support your favorite newspaper and media outlets”, which were in need of funds to conduct thorough journalism.
“The laws in this country protecting press freedom are strong and we are ready to defend them. We have to be assertive and aggressive about this,” he said.
Author: Joanna Walters