For a variety of reasons, many people who donate to charitable causes prefer to do so anonymously. But some politicians want to require nonprofits to turn over donor lists to the government. Politicians in California, New York, and New Jersey have been particularly aggressive in seeking such information.

How much do you know about your right to give anonymously to the charities of your choice?  Let’s play “Two Truths and a Lie” and find out. 

Can you identify which of the following statements is not true? 

A. Freedom to give anonymously encourages civic participation.
B. Donor disclosure laws are necessary to combat fraud.
C. The First Amendment protects the right to support causes anonymously.

Let’s take these statements one at a time:

A. TRUTH!   Many donors simply will not give unless they can keep their donations confidential. Some people choose to give anonymously for religious reasons. Others do so to avoid unwanted attention or additional solicitations. And some give anonymously out of fear that the causes they support will engender social or economic reprisal, or even physical threats and violence. The right to donate anonymously encourages broad-based civic participation by all Americans.

B. LIE!  State officials already possess the power to subpoena donor information in conjunction with specific investigations, making bulk collection unnecessary. The real reason that some politicians want to force non-profits to turn over their donor lists is so they can expose, or at least collect information on, people who support certain causes — call it, an informal enemy list. 

C. TRUTH!  Freedom of expression and freedom of association are meaningless if people are afraid to exercise those rights. The First Amendment, therefore, protects the right to publish anonymous political pamphlets as well as the right of civic organizations to keep their membership lists private. 

Bottom line: The fight for American independence, the abolitionist movement, the quest for women’s suffrage, and the American civil rights movement all benefited from the support of anonymous donations. American civic participation depends on the right to join and support causes anonymously. 

Read more about the threat to freedom of association from donor disclosure laws HERE.