Security Threats? Donor Privacy Matters

A few weeks ago, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published my letter to the editor asking the publication to recognize that many right-of-center nonprofits have faced significant security threats over the years. I argued that as a sector, we should be concerned about all forms of threatened violence, regardless of whether it’s aimed at progressive nonprofits, conservative organizations, or anyone in between.

Since then, another example of why security isn’t just a one-sided issue has come to my attention. On October 30, one of my colleagues at the Roundtable circulated an article detailing the targeting of conservative groups in the Washington, D.C., area. The article starts off: “Shut Down D.C., a progressive group that says it uses ‘strategic direct action to advance justice and hold officials accountable,’ is targeting at least 27 conservative organizations in the Washington metro area as Election Day approaches.”

In addition to listing the names and addresses of these organizations, the group encouraged its activists to block the roads and generally attempt to intimidate people who work at these organizations. I know many gof them personally. We may have differences of opinion about how to improve the state of our country, but I do know they are sincere in their commitment to that goal.

Rather than vigorous debate about ideas and their merits, we’ve come to a point where nonprofits of all ideological stripes are concerned about their security and are appealing to their funders to help them keep their staff and offices safe. The Chronicle of Philanthropy article that prompted my initial commentary provides plenty of examples of this.

What are donors to do? Surely some of them will want to respond to these appeals for help with security. But given the tactics the threatening groups are using, including publishing names and addresses, will donors themselves also be put at risk while trying to help with this urgent need?

This is one of many reasons donor privacy is critical in the sector. Donors should be able to support causes that others may find controversial, and do so without the threat of intimidation and physical violence. There are many other reasons donors may want to protect their identity when making grants and gifts to organizations, but I can’t think of one more basic than protecting one’s own safety and that of one’s family.

The Roundtable will continue to fight to protect donor privacy. As we are seeing, this is important for anyone who wants to support any side of a controversial issue.

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