Normally November is a slow fundraising month for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free legal services to low-income immigrants.
Not this year. The election of Donald Trump, who promised during his campaign to deport asylum seekers and sharply restrict immigration from certain countries, has sparked an unprecedented outpouring of support.
Donations to the organization spiked almost 2,000 percent, from $1,800 last November to about $35,000 this November – including a single anonymous donation of $10,000.
“It’s just been incredible,” said Loretta Prescott, the nonprofit’s development director. “It’s wonderful to see people care that much. The feeling in the community is that they understand what’s ahead.”
Across the nation, organizations that advocate for women, gay rights, immigrants, the environment and civil liberties are reporting a huge increase in donations, out of fear that Trump and many of his Cabinet nominees might try to curtail abortion rights, immigration and LGBT rights.
Sociologist Amy Blackstone said the impulse to donate after the tumultuous presidential campaign and election is understandable.
“They have a legitimate concern about the impact the incoming administration could have on any number of issues: on people of color, LGBT, women, (and) the environment,” said Blackstone, a professor at University of Maine in Orono. “It does feel different this time.”
It’s also a way to feel proactive, particularly for people who were highly energized around a campaign, but lost, she said.
“It’s a way of feeling like you have a voice,” Blackstone said. “A way of reclaiming your voice after feeling you haven’t been heard.”
The same story played out nationally the week after the election. The American Civil Liberties Union reported 120,000 donations totaling more than $7.2 million, Planned Parenthood saw 128,000 people making donations, and the Sierra Club said it registered 9,000 new monthly donors – more than it had registered in the first 10 months of the year. Other groups reporting major increases in support included the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, and major LGBT-rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal.
Since the election, the national ACLU reported receiving more than $15 million from 241,480 donors in November, half of it in the five days after Nov. 8. By comparison, the organization received $27,806 in that same period after the 2012 presidential election.
Most nonprofit organizations that have benefited said the usual push for donations comes after Thanksgiving, but many reported that huge numbers of donations came in the days right after the election.
“We’ve seen a surge in support from our members who want to fight back,” Sam Parry, membership director with the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an email last week. “Without any special prompting from us, people are energized about protecting the progress we’ve made on climate change. Apparently the sixth stage of grief is activism.”
‘PROFOUND SENSE OF COMMUNITY’
In Maine, more than 300 people called in that first week after the election to volunteer at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, according to Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy. And a recent training session was swamped with an overflow crowd, she said.
“We ran out of chairs,” said Clegg. “We expected 50, and more than 100 people showed up. They were sitting on the floor and lining up against the walls.”
The outpouring prompted “this profound sense of community,” Clegg said.
The idea of bolstering the coffers of groups dedicated to concrete causes is also behind a big jump in membership to the local ACLU, which costs $35 a year.
“There’s a renewed sense of urgency around protecting civil liberties,” said Rachel Healy, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.
The ACLU of Maine has signed up 1,005 new first-time supporters since the election, and 353 members have renewed in the same period – almost one-third of the group’s entire 3,574 membership.
“It’s really significant,” Healy said of the post-election surge, adding that no one at the organization can recall similar jumps in membership after any previous election.
“We absolutely feel that whatever battles lie ahead, we will be facing them as a stronger organization than ever before,” she said.
‘ALREADY LIFE-AND-DEATH STAKES’
At the Immigration Legal Advocacy Project, or ILAP, the stakes for its clients feel higher under a Trump presidency than under previous Republican administrations, Prescott said.
“The immigrants we serve, it’s already life-and-death stakes for them,” she said. “These people have been through things you and I can’t even imagine.”
Prescott said the unexpected donations will be used to provide more legal aid and help more people. Asylum seekers in immigration court without an attorney have an 88 percent chance of not getting asylum, she said. ILAP, which reviews cases and refuses some, has a 97 percent success rate in clients being granted asylum.
ILAP, which has an annual budget of about $750,000, has four in-house attorneys, three paralegals and 140 pro bono lawyers working on immigration cases, serving about 2,000 clients a year.
EqualityMaine, which champions rights for the LGBT community, has also seen an increase in unsolicited donations since the election, said Executive Director Matt Moonen.
“Many in our community are feeling fear and anxiety about the new administration, and the long anti-LGBT records of the Cabinet nominees that have been announced have confirmed those fears,” said Moonen, who could not provide specific figures on donations. “Donating is an immediate way to make an impact on a cause that’s important to you.”
CONSERVATIVE CAUSES ALSO SEE BOOST
Some advocacy groups on the conservative side of the political spectrum also reported a post-election boost in support.
Californians for Population Stabilization, which seeks to curtail immigration, said online donations have increased fourfold since Trump’s victory.
The group’s executive director, Jo Wideman, said in an email that supporters “are very excited that someone finally gets the implications of over-immigration’s effects on population growth.”
The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group that organized door-to-door canvassing on Trump’s behalf, reported a similar response.
The New York Times has also seen an increase in subscriptions, and donations increased to ProPublica, a nonprofit independent news organization that focuses on investigative journalism, since the election, officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.