Reactionary Giving

2016 was a hell of a year that many would prefer to forget.  It featured a contentious presidential race featuring two of the least liked candidates in modern history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as some smaller party candidates that got little attention from the media.  There were accusations of wrong doing by both major party candidates, releases of hacked embarrassing communications, and fake news stories released by both sides of the political aisle.   As everybody knows, Trump won the Electoral College and the election, while Clinton won the popular vote, much to the surprise and chagrin of Progressives.

Since the election, something interesting has happened, and it continues to happen as a result.  Giving to Progressive causes has increased at an amazing rate.  Progressive favorites, like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as many other nonprofits, large and small, saw year end support soar like never before.  In the six weeks following the election, Planned Parenthood received over 300,000 more donations than they normally received during that time period, and during that same time period, the ACLU received over $23,000,000 in just online donations alone.  Many of those donations came from first time donors. That’s amazing news for the employees and clients of those organizations.

More recently, since the Trump administration has announced its first budget which includes potential funding cuts, reactionary giving has done a great deal for another well known organization, Meals on Wheels, which brings meals to homebound seniors and other shut ins.  The new budget would cut or eliminate Federal grants to states which has been distributed to social service agencies since the Ford administration.  Since that announcement, Meals on Wheels America has received a healthy spurt of unsolicited online donations.

The inspiration of this surge in giving, in my opinion, seems to have little to do with actual philanthropy, but is more intended as a political poke in the eye of the current Trump administration.  Maria Godoy at NPR has referred to it as “Outrage Giving.”

While I don’t care what reason a person has to donate to the worthy cause of their choice, I do wonder some things about these reactionary donors.  Will these donors continue their gifts annually, or is this a one and done gift?  Will these donors increase their involvement with the organizations as volunteers for projects and events, or in the case of Meals on Wheels, will they spend time driving meals to seniors or prepare meals?  Will the donor only support the national umbrella groups, or will they act locally?

How will those organizations react to this situation?  Will the organizations take advantage of the opportunities and nurture these new donors for future gifts and support for their missions?  How will the organizations communicate with these new donors and what will be the tone of those communications?

I also wonder how the government will react to this burst of giving.  Will they see this new support for Meals on Wheels as a signal that they should rethink their cuts to the HHS grants, or will they think that so many people have stepped up to support the organization that they can leave the cuts in place?

The same thing can be asked about Planned Parenthood.  Congress has wanted to cut funding for that organization for years, and since Planned Parenthood has garnered a nice windfall, will Congress feel emboldened enough to cut its support for the women’s health provider?  I guess, time will tell.

Maybe President Trump will be good for the nonprofit sector.  A lot of organizations sure seem to be benefitting from his election, so far.  Any bets on which organization or cause will be the big winner and financially benefit from his next Twitter outburst? Only time will tell.




About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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3 Responses to Reactionary Giving

  1. Richard, thank you for sharing your perspective on the Trump Era. I always appreciate reading your take on things.

    In his book, “The Tragedy of American Compassion,” Marvin Olasky examines the history of philanthropy and volunteerism in the USA from the colonial period to the near-present. He makes a strong case regarding the relationship between government policy and philanthropy. He argues that when government becomes more active in providing social services, individuals diminish their philanthropy and volunteerism targeted at social needs. Conversely, when government pulls back, individuals have historically stepped forward to help fill the gap. While the private sector might not always be able to completely offset government spending, the private sector usually can deliver the same services far more efficiently than the government.

    Olasky also points out the cynical government motive behind at least some of its social needs spending. He asserts that government spending on social services is often designed to make people more dependent on government. That’s not exactly a healthy motivation in a republic.

    In recent decades, both Democrats and Republicans have attempted to make citizens more dependent on government for their own political advantage. Of course, their approaches to that are different. Now, we have a president who is not really a Republican or a Democrat. Trump might actually begin a process of scaling back government while Republicans have historically only paid lip-service to the idea and Democrats have shown zero interest. Considering the nation has a national debt of nearly $20 trillion and climbing, I’d suggest the time has come to set budgetary priorities and cut spending.

    Providing funding to Meals on Wheels is a nice idea. There are plenty of nice ideas. However, the nation does NOT have the money. We’re asking our children and grandchildren to pay for the programs we’re funding today. Is that fair to them? Listen, there are plenty of things I’d like to have. I’d like to take a 5-star cruise, buy a big screen television, get some antique collectibles, etc. But, I only buy what my personal budget allows. I don’t make purchases expecting someone else to pay the bill for me in the future. It’s about time government started living within its means.

    Thank you for indulging me in my lengthy comment.

  2. Mahalia says:

    An intgllieent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Will They Forgive or Forget | greatergoodfundraising

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