Star Tribune: Trump’s presidency has become cash cow for Twin Cities social activist groups

(February 5, 2017 – Star Tribune – David Chanen)

President Donald Trump’s election and his first two weeks in office have become both cash cow and membership catalyst for social activism groups across the Twin Cities.

No matter what side of an issue the group promotes, leaders say each Trump executive order or threat to a segment of the population brings huge donations, a spike in membership and volunteers and greater attendance at events and rallies.

For some organizations, the numbers have reached historic levels. Since November, the membership of Minnesota’s American Civil Liberties Union has nearly tripled from 5,760 to 15,960. A man who has donated more than $20,000 to the ACLU said in jest that Trump was going to make him broke because “he will probably do something next month to make me give more money.”

“It’s boggling my mind,” said Chuck Samuelson, who has been the state ACLU’s executive director for 21 years. “People are walking into the office and giving money, which has never happened before. It’s crazy in a good way, but the amount of work we have to do is staggering.”

Last weekend alone, the national ACLU received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people. Big names in Hollywood and the music world made large donations to the ACLU and publicly pleaded for people to give. Even ride-sharing company Lyft pledged $1 million.

Groups that don’t solicit donations have experienced renewed interest in their agendas. The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is hosting an event at the State Capitol next month to allow people an opportunity and venue to engage in issues in a positive, proactive way.

“This is instead of feeling like they are powerless and that other forces beyond their control are shaping the discussion,” said Jason Adkins, the conference’s executive director. “People want an entry point to participate in a principled, not partisan, way and we are providing that.”

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