The Moment When You Realize You Don’t Know What the Organizations You’ve Been Funding Actually Do

Photo credit: Bill McChesney, CC BY 2.0.

So here’s how I decided where to make my donation, in response to the Charlottesville white nationalist rally:

  1. I could have donated to one of the GoFundMes, but even though I knew they were probably legitimate, I didn’t have time to research them thoroughly.
  2. I saw a lot of people suggesting that we all donate to the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP, and that was my initial instinct—but then I wondered if, instead of supporting just the NAACP, I should make a bunch of small donations to a lot of different organizations to cover, like, the breadth of Nazi hatred.
  3. That’s when I got the bright idea to donate to the ACLU Foundation of Virginia, because the ACLU helps everybody.

Which is how I ended up donating to the organization that sued the city of Charlottesville to ensure that this weekend’s rally was allowed to happen:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia and Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute issued a joint letter Tuesday, August 8, demanding that the city let white activist Jason Kessler hold his Unite the Right rally at Emancipation Park on August 12.

Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones announced Monday, August 7, that the city would only allow Kessler to hold the rally at McIntire Park. Officials have expressed concerns over logistics and safety as their reasons to move the event away from downtown Charlottesville.

Because the ACLU helps everybody.

I understand, on an intellectual level, the importance of ensuring free speech for all. But, on an emotional level, I am not ready to get behind this particular free speech activity.

And it made me think about how I have no idea what these organizations to which I’ve been donating actually do.

Even though I did come back and make a donation to the NAACP, for example, I don’t know what they do beyond the mission statement on their website. I don’t really know what the Southern Poverty Law Center does. I do know what Planned Parenthood does, and I don’t know if that’s because they provide a list of services that are easy to quantify or if it’s because I interact with more people who have used those services.

It’s clear that I need to do a little more work before my next donation. Even if the ACLU of Virginia hadn’t sued to allow the rally to happen as planned—a rally which they have since publicly condemned—they still wouldn’t have been the right organization to support as a response to white nationalism. (“I would like to publicly state that I am against Nazis, so I’m going to stand up for… free speech and First Amendment rights.”)

I feel more than a little embarrassed that I didn’t think this all the way through before shoving my credit card number at the internet.

But I can do better next time.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.