Elizabeth McGuigan in Trusts & Estates: Donor Privacy in the Wake of Dobbs

In an article recently published in Trust & Estates entitled “Donor Privacy in the Wake of Dobbs,” Philanthropy Roundtable Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs Elizabeth McGuigan and Integer Vice President Sara Barba wrote that threats to donor privacy are rising and safeguarding the right to give anonymously is vitally important for the future of philanthropy. They highlighted the recent implications of the U.S Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case and the dangerous repercussions donors on either side of a controversial debate face if the right to give freely is jeopardized.

Below are excerpts from the article entitled “Donor Privacy in the Wake of Dobbs”:

“Since the drafting of the Constitution, American society has thrived under the right to associate freely. When social and political issues are at the forefront of the public discourse, Americans often respond with voluntary action and charitable giving, coming together to support their side of any given cause. This right to associate is a mechanism, separate from government, that allows Americans to express their views and advance their version of the public good. And often, whether because the cause is controversial or simply because the donor values anonymous giving, the ability to support causes anonymously as a donor or volunteer is critical to protecting the first amendment freedom to associate.

Donor privacy is a protected right for good reasons. Chief among these is the potential for donors to face threats, harassment and violence for their voluntary associations. These fears are what led to anonymous giving to support historical causes such as women’s suffrage and civil rights. In today’s highly divided society, dominated by cancel culture, ‘doxing’ (that is, posting an individual’s address and contact info online to incite harassment) and other efforts to shame those with unpopular views, forced donor disclosure presents serious risks to those who support either side of a controversial cause.

In the age of social media, a donation to Planned Parenthood in California could spark retaliation by anti-abortion advocates in other states, for example. Donor disclosure has implications far into the future as donors who’ve supported uncontroversial causes in one year may be at risk if the cause becomes unpopular in future years.

Donors have found that their jobs are at stake based on their voluntary giving or associations. This was the case in 2020, when a Virginia police lieutenant made a $25 donation to the legal defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse. While the donation was made anonymously, a group hacked into the giving platform and revealed some of the donors’ identities. The veteran police officer was placed on leave and later fired for his donation.”

Please continue reading “Donor Privacy in the Wake of Dobbs” at Trust & Estates.

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