Recently, we’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are wondering about where to donate in response to things like:

The volume and nature of requests seems comparable in many ways to what GiveWell generally sees in the wake of a natural disaster. (The relationship between GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project is described here.) GiveWell has generally tried to accommodate the latter by posting disaster relief recommendations that are less closely vetted than its traditional charity recommendations but represent rough suggestions for how to help. In that spirit, we’ve decided to put out some very tentative suggestions for donating to help immigrants and refugees at heightened risk and to maintain constitutional protections in the U.S.

We haven’t had time to explore the issues deeply; the situation is changing rapidly; and there seems to be heightened interest from many donors, making it harder to say where there are important funding gaps. For all of the below organizations, we have little sense of their current plans or the impact (or cost-effectiveness) of marginal dollars.

Focusing on refugees and immigrants. One of the Open Philanthropy Project’s grantees is the International Refugee Assistance Project. We think it is a strong organization that is smaller and less high-profile than some of the other organizations that are responding to the recent executive actions. IRAP is one of the plaintiffs, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center, and a Yale Law clinic, in a suit that got a temporary injunction against the recent Executive Order targeting green card holders. We believe that IRAP has a meaningful track record of policy impact on these issues, and appreciate its focus on refugees, who we think face a structural disadvantage in the U.S. policy process from not already being present.

Constitutional and civil rights litigation: the ACLU is an obvious choice and, in our view, a reasonable one. Since the ACLU is the best-known advocate for constitutional and civil rights, we think it is likely to be held “accountable” (to a greater degree than other nonprofits) in the sense of being assigned much of the credit/blame for how efforts at defensive litigation go overall. The ACLU has raised a lot of money recently, but it’s possible that more still would be productive.

Donors looking for a less well-funded organization might consider the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is “dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … by combining cutting-edge litigation, advocacy and strategic communications in work on a broad range of civil and human rights issues.” Chloe Cockburn, the Open Philanthropy Project’s Criminal Justice Reform Program Officer, who in her previous work was a civil rights litigator with the ACLU, recommends the Center as a strong and nimble litigation outfit, and it seems to us that its reputation is strong overall. Its annual spending is approximately 5% of the ACLU’s.

We are putting some work into finding giving opportunities we might be more confident in and consider higher-leverage, but those are our quick suggestions in the meantime.

Comments

Thanks.

I’m interested in anything you find that might slightly reduce the probability that the executive branch illegally disregards the legislative branch and shifts their balance of power. I would contribute against that catastrophic risk.

I hate to say this but probably the only organization that can save us at this point is the Democratic Party (with a total victory in 2 or at most 4 years). Though I wouldn’t normally think that promoting one party over another would be very effective on the grand scheme, the Republican Party seems to have decided to fall in line in the path Turkey and Russia took. I’d love to hear how I’m wrong here.

(Note: I apologize for the delay in responding. I wasn’t getting alerts for new comments, and believe this problem is now fixed.)

Eub, I think that litigation is the most logical response to most illegal actions the executive branch might take, and all of the organizations mentioned in the post engage in litigation.

Thanks for this article.

I just finished a breif review of the article on constitutional retrogression you link to early in your post (“democratic backsliding”). I would love further analysis on this topic and potential ideas for promoting effective democratic institutions in the short and intermediate timeframe.

It seems to me that the protection of democratic function/stability would be beneficial in its own right and nessesary for other intermediate and long term progress in other areas of focus that rely on litigation, effective economies, and research.

Will look into the organization’s that you brought up here. Best wishes.

Thanks for these suggestions.

An EA recently sent me a concept note on ‘Protect Democracy’ (https://unitedtoprotectdemocracy.org/). It’s a group of former White House lawyers explicitly focused on preventing democratic backsliding by the current executive office. One of them used to work for GiveDirectly.

He sent me a concept note with more information which I can send on if it’d be helpful. (I’m not sure whether they want it shared online).

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