Grassroots fundraising and email lists are the primary source of fundraising for nonprofit civil rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). These organizations have made the progress in LGBT Equality, Racial Civil Rights, and Personal Security possible in our country and have impact internationally.
Examining the financial statements for Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in 2013, $28 million was raised from an investment of $3 million in canvassers, email outreach, and phone fundraising. Many organizations prefer grassroots fundraising because it engages people at a personal level; the goal is to inform and provide outreach in addition to fundraising. The intent is to intent is to change minds in addition to changing laws. Legislation alone does not change minds and voting power.
Many people question the persistence of street canvassers or email updates sent by the organizations. These updates do ask for donations but are usually attached to important information about critical issues that the organization is lobbying to address. A person can look at this as constant appeals for money or updates on issues that they can change. These organizations are working overtime to create that essential change that brings equality and justice to every American, in every state, and every municipality.
In 2013, Human Rights Campaign spent over $9 million to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through the United States Senate. The amount of money it takes to pay attorneys, court fees, gain support, and lobby is significant. No person can end any type of discrimination; including LGBT discrimination. It takes community, outreach, and involvement.
Email allows these organization to reach their entire membership database at a very low cost; without postage, paper, envelopes. Street Fundraisers (Canvassers) are much less expensive than multi-media advertising campaigns and engage people at the grassroots, individual letter. These people are often educated, concerned, and have experienced the discrimination first hand.
It is important to remember that the proposed legislation is often at opposition of majority votes and existing state, federal, and municipal laws. Making a difference; even when it is clearly in honor of the basic tenets of the Constitution, takes commitment, determination, and funding.
In addition, right-wing conservative groups are often more funded. One reason is they are connected to churches and religious movements. Many people involved in organized churches are already committed to tithing or other forms of regular donations and do not question the important of monetary involvement to support their causes. The amount of funding that came from the Mormon church to pass Proposition 8 in California in 2008 to ban gay marriage is now historic. Another reason, the number of national groups opposed to marriage equality is higher; The American Family Association, Focus on the Family, National Organization for Marriage, etc., and many more.