Protecting donor privacy is a key part of protecting philanthropic freedom. Without the right to give anonymously if so desired, donors are less likely to support the causes and communities they care about. At the Philanthropy Roundtable, we are often asked why donor privacy really matters in a specific state or to a specific cause. We seek to answer this question in a new report entitled “Unheralded Generosity: A 50 State Look at Anonymous Giving.”
This report, which features 50 case studies (one for each state), demonstrates the importance of the right to privacy, anonymity and civic association – all of which rely on freedom from unwanted and unnecessary disclosure. Our research highlights stories about donors who have faced serious, potentially dangerous ramifications from being publicly associated with certain controversial causes. It is clear to all why they may wish to remain private in their giving. However, this report also profiles givers to all sorts of non-controversial causes such as higher education, hospitals and pandemic relief funds. This includes generous gifts to a food bank in Idaho and a homeless shelter in Georgia, and grants to support small businesses struggling with COVID-19 shutdowns in New Jersey.
Our civil society is built upon individuals helping others, sometimes with the desire to remain anonymous. Whether this preference for privacy comes from fear of retaliation, religious tradition, humility or to avoid further solicitations, the unheralded generosity of charitable givers should not be rejected by those who seek mandatory disclosure rules. The broad diversity of private gifts covered in this report illustrates why we must protect the right for all givers to donate anonymously, for any reason.
While last year’s Supreme Court decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta was a crucial victory for donor privacy, this report further underscores the necessity of protecting this right from future threats.