The outpouring of support for the ACLU since the election has been tremendous. Both in Montana and nationally, membership numbers are way up. But don’t let that lull you into a sense of complacency. Here in Montana, we still need every supporter!
Q: Don’t you have enough money now?
A: No! We are the David to the Trump Administration’s Goliath.
The ACLU is nowhere close to matching the resources of the federal government. To give you an idea of what we are up against, consider these numbers. We have 300 litigators spread out among our national headquarters and each of the fifty states. The federal government’s legal firepower is vastly greater: the Department of Justice has 11,169 lawyers, including 223 at the FBI; the Department of Homeland Security has 2,197 lawyers; and the Departments of Education, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Labor have 5,539 lawyers among them. In total, these six federal executive departments have nearly 19,000 lawyers at their disposal to fight our 300-person team’s relentless work to secure justice and accountability. Not to mention the federal intelligence agencies such as the CIA, which do not disclose the size of their legal teams.
To be clear, not all these government lawyers will be our opponents, but when folks believe the ACLU is “big enough,” they have to understand that the biggest litigation and advocacy group in America is still small when compared to the power of the federal government. If we are to have any hope of curtailing the worst abuses of the Trump administration, the biggest and most powerful organizations need to up their game. The ability to scale up is especially critical considering the Trump Administration’s aggressive and, in some cases, unprecedented attacks on civil liberties. Our depth and breadth on issues we tackle uniquely prepare us to confront these challenges, and we have the experience to grow in a smart way. The grid is built, but we need the continued support of people like you to provide the voltage.
Q: Is the ACLU of Montana getting some of that $24 million I heard about in the news?
A: That's nuanced.
The ACLU has a complex algorithm for sharing money so that all affiliates are supported and can do their important work, even if they are in a small state. Montana is one such small state, so we get a chunk of money called “Guaranteed Minimum Income” (GMI) from the National ACLU each year. This source of funding currently represents one quarter of our annual budget. The trade-off is that the National ACLU keeps all of our membership dues, which is where the overwhelming majority of our growth post-election is coming from. Since the GMI funding is much larger than the amount we would ever get from membership dues, this system works in Montana's favor.
In general, you should think of the ACLU as one organization. Any gift you make - whether you send it to Helena or NYC - is a helpful contribution to support our critical work in Montana and nationwide.
Q: I have a lot more questions, like where exactly does my donation go and what's the best way to give?
A: Awesome! We love supporters who are engaged.
Check out my article, Follow the Money, to see more details about how different types of donations are distributed through the organization. You can also read up on the work we are currently doing by clicking through the "Our Work" menu at the top of the page.