Posted on May 16, 2017
Want to fight Trump? Give progressive nonprofits unrestricted funds
The Trump administration’s dangerous and cruel actions have sparked a massive progressive resistance. His administration’s assault on civil liberties, social justice and human dignity has moved people to donate to progressive nonprofits in record numbers.
At CREDO, we have donated more than $83 million to progressive nonprofits since 1985. We want to share our experience at CREDO because we know that giving to nonprofits makes a difference and how you give especially matters.
What Unrestricted Donations Do
Most nonprofits depend on institutional and individual donors to fund their operations. By looking back at our own grant applications and follow-up surveys we issue to grantees, we find some interesting patterns.
First and foremost, donations empower people. Personnel costs are among the highest expenses for a nonprofit, but funding employee salaries and benefits is not appealing to many donors. Nonprofits need to maintain full-time staff, hire contractors, pay legal teams, train advocates, power watchdog operations and so much more. Their work would grind to a halt without investments in people.
Second, standing for a cause takes moral power, but publicizing it requires financial power. Facebook ads, email services, petitions, design, printing, photography and more are expensive. Without investments in communications, nonprofits cannot accomplish their goals. How can you be an effective political watchdog, for instance, if you cannot afford to publicize the abuses you have discovered? Talk is not cheap.
Third, nonprofits seek flexibility, and never more so than today. When Trump signs an executive order, progressives have a limited window in which to act. The 24/7 news cycle is fast and forgetful. When nonprofit funding is restricted, advocacy organizations can only spend the money on predetermined actions.
Why Unrestricted Funding Makes All the Difference
At CREDO, we donate a percentage of our revenues from mobile plans, credit cards and long distance to progressive nonprofits. Our members vote to determine the distribution of funds (currently more than $150,000 monthly) to three progressive nonprofit organizations. Because neither we nor the nonprofits can anticipate every new crisis or situation, we make all funds “unrestricted.”
We cannot overstate the importance of unrestricted, general operating funds – especially today. Here are some real examples of how our unrestricted giving made a difference for progressive causes.
In summer 2016, Social Security Works (SSW), an advocate for social and economic justice, applied for a CREDO grant. A grant of $50,000 could fund two years of their state reports, which detail how Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid serve each American state. The funding would enable SSW to make Spanish translations for all 50 states for the first time.
On November 8, 2016, SSW had to change direction. Their grant application presumed we’d have a Democratic president and a Congress willing to expand the social safety net. Instead, SSW allied with partners (including CREDO) to gather more than one million signatures against Medicare cuts. They held a press conference with Sens. Schumer and Sanders as well as House Leader Pelosi announcing the results and delivered the petition to Republican leaders. The unrestricted funding enabled SSW to pivot when investing in 50 state reports wouldn’t have been the best use of resources.
Flexibility is helpful even when nonprofits use grants as planned. OUR Walmart, an advocacy group for Walmart employees, requested a CREDO grant to finish building Work It, a digital platform where 1.4 million workers could organize for change and just treatment. The app launched as planned, and as of today, thousands of OUR Walmart members have used Work It to get advice when they are disrespected or treated unfairly.
Had OUR Walmart used the funds to handle an unexpected crisis, we would have backed their decision. Part of giving unrestricted donations is trusting nonprofit leaders to adapt their spending choices to the most urgent issues.
Harnessing the Power of Unrestricted Giving
Your donations and everyday purchases are moral actions. And CREDO customers harness the power of unrestricted giving every month by voting for one, two or three progressive nonprofits funded through their use of CREDO phones, mobile plans and other products.
Today, progressive organizations need flexibility, and unrestricted funds are the best method of giving to allow nonprofits to respond quickly.
So here’s the takeaway: If you donate directly to nonprofits, give unrestricted funds. If you spend your money with progressive companies – like CREDO – see that they too make unrestricted donations, or urge them to do so. As long as we have an unstable extremist in the White House, we need to help make sure progressive nonprofits have the flexibility they need to fight back.
CREDO members who use our products are the reason why we are able to make more than $150,000 in donations each month to progressive nonprofits. Learn more about CREDO Mobile, the carrier with a conscience.