Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc.

  • New York, NY
  • www.aclu.org

Mission Statement

Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit, multi-issue, 500,000+ member public interest organization devoted to protecting the basic civil liberties of all people in the United States. Recognized as the nation’s premier public interest law firm, the ACLU works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.   The ACLU Foundation is the 501 (c)(3) arm of the organization.

Main Programs

  1. Center for Liberty
  2. Center for Equality
  3. Center for Justice
  4. Center for Democracy

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

ruling year

1967

chief executive

Mr. Anthony Romero

Self-reported by organization

Keywords

aclu, civil liberties, civil rights, freedom of speech, national security, human rights, reproductive rights, immigrants rights, LGBT rights, voting rights, women's rights, racial justice, separation of church and state, first amendment, equal rights

Self-reported by organization

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EIN

13-6213516

Physical Address

125 Broad St. 18th Floor

New York, NY 10004

Also Known As

ACLU

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Impact statement

The ACLU pushes the envelope of freedom.  As individuals, groups and movements have struggled to gain rights, the ACLU has joined—and often led—these efforts, bringing our nonpartisan legal expertise to bear.  We led the legal battle against censorship, defending the teaching of evolution and helping to overturn restrictions on birth control information and James Joyce’s Ulysses.  We tackled racism, condemning lynching, documenting discrimination and helping to bring the series of cases that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that put an end to the segregationist doctrine of “separate but equal.”  And our advocacy and impact has extended far beyond the courtroom.  Over fifty years ago, the ACLU developed the first civilian review board for police misconduct—and followed up with the first “know your rights” brochure for people facing arrest.  We published the first documented report on illegal detentions by the police.  Combining our research and advocacy with litigation, we developed the arguments that established ground rules for police conduct in landmark decisions such as Miranda v. Arizona. 
 
While we started out as a room full of visionary activists, today the ACLU encompasses more than half a million members and supporters; almost 300 staff in our national organization (which includes our high-powered Washington Legislative Office and a media-savvy communications department); and staffed offices in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  The national organization and our affiliate network boast nearly 200 staff attorneys, who are supported by thousands of volunteer litigators, giving the ACLU unsurpassed influence and clout. 
 
Among U.S. social justice organizations, the ACLU is unique; we are the only national social justice organization with a state-by-state infrastructure of affiliates, autonomous nonprofit organizations supported by paid administrative and legal staff.  This means we can hit the ground running on virtually any good opportunity to move justice forward on a state-by-state basis.  It also means we have excellent “intelligence”—each of our affiliates is intimately familiar with its state’s political terrain, from the local electorate and key advocacy groups, to the executive, legislative and judicial branches.  Gathering and weighing this intelligence helps ensure our success over the long term, as so many advances in civil liberties occur first at the state level.

Programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Self-reported by organization

Program 1

Center for Liberty

The ACLU’s Center for Liberty leads the organization’s critical work on issues of personal freedom, including lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) rights; women’s and reproductive rights; and religious freedom.

Category

None

Budget

$8,671,000.00

Population Served

Gays/Lesbians

Females, all ages or age unspecified

General Public/Unspecified

Program 2

Center for Equality

The ACLU’s Center for Equality leads the organization’s innovative work on racial justice, immigrants’ rights and voting rights issues. Priorities include discriminatory school practices targeting poor students of color; racial profiling by law enforcement, including through anti-immigrant laws; the rise of debtors’ prisons; and enforcement of the Voting Rights Acts.

Category

None

Budget

$10,167,000.00

Population Served

Ethnic/Racial Minorities -- General

Immigrants/Newcomers/Refugees

Poor/Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent, General

Program 3

Center for Justice

The ACLU’s Center for Justice leads the organization’s pioneering work on issues of over-incarceration, capital punishment, prisoners’ rights and criminal law reform.

Category

None

Budget

$7,183,000.00

Population Served

Offenders/Ex-offenders

Poor/Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent, General

Ethnic/Racial Minorities -- General

Program 4

Center for Democracy

The ACLU’s Center for Democracy leads the organization’s pioneering work on national security, human rights, free speech, privacy and technology issues. Priorities include seeking accountability for government-sponsored torture and detention programs and illegal government spying. Our ongoing work includes numerous Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuits to release information that should be public.

Category

None

Budget

$7,600,000.00

Population Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Self-reported by organization

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Among our civil liberties goals, we seek to protect privacy rights, defend and expand Americans’ freedom to vote, win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, change the momentum on abortion, reduce over-incarceration, and confront abuses committed in the name of national security.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    The ACLU combines litigation with public education, media outreach, advocacy, and lobbying to effect change on the local, state, and national levels.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    The national ACLU and ACLU affiliates are involved in some 2,000 cases—lawsuits we pursue because of their importance to advancing or defending freedom. No other non-governmental organization participates in as many Supreme Court cases as the ACLU—typically 25 percent of the Court’s cases each term.

    We have a grassroots network of over a million members and activists, who engage in advocacy efforts. We routinely generate news and feature stories on complex issues that would otherwise be ignored or obscured by the media.
    Our 31 expert lobbyists, organizers, and communications professionals to help sway Congress, tackling literally hundreds of bills per year. We have extensive and deep practical experience with regard to negotiating the complexities of federal legislation and long-running relationships with policymakers. 13 policy strategists work directly with our 50 affiliates to monitor proposals in the state legislatures, block bad measures, and push for progressive legislation.

    Our more than half a million members and online activists and our nationwide network of affiliates mean that we can immediately respond to timely issues on the local, state, and national levels simultaneously—sending online action alerts to members of Congress, calling local representatives, and placing op-eds in key news outlets in order to influence targeted policymakers.

    The ACLU has clout with Washington. We regularly meet with officials from the Department of Justice and other federal agencies and have often been invited to closed-door, behind-the-scenes meetings at the White House. This administrative advocacy leads to real change; for example, we persuaded the Obama administration to reverse its position on the Defense of Marriage Act.

    We have years of experience conducting public opinion research and developing new messaging that shifts people’s perspectives; for example, we successfully brought phrases such as “Driving While Black” and “Keep America Safe and Free” into the public lexicon.

    We have a savvy Communications Department and a high-profile media presence; when the ACLU files a lawsuit, it is automatically news. We are in the major media literally every day, and the data and human interest stories that come out of ACLU lawsuits and reports lead to headline-worthy, often front-page content. Our media outreach also serves a critical public education purpose; for example, extensive earned media on the ACLU’s lawsuits challenging Arkansas’ and Florida’s anti-gay adoption bans helped impact public opinion on adoption in Florida and nationally.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    The ACLU’s strategic planning process comprises an annual overall evaluation of the program, its priorities, and its direction and includes an annual program retreat.

    We evaluate program components first by gauging progress toward the goals described above. In addition to policy changes, published reports, and legal victories, measures of success include the amount of electronic and print media coverage, blogs, and podcasts; invitations to contribute to legal journals and advocacy publications; invitations to speak at conferences and to participate in community organizations; the number of requests for consultations; the number of successful lawsuits and settlements that we litigate; and the use of positive rulings and settlements in future cases.

    We evaluate the success of our advocacy by reviewing our progress, including outside human rights advocates in our review process: Have we contributed to law and policy reform? What concrete wins have we achieved, and how can we and our allies make the most strategic use of our victories? Then we review our coalition building and public education work: How many new groups have we brought into the movements with which we work? What has been the response generated by our publications, including our pages on the ACLU website? How can we improve? How have our combined efforts revealed truth and achieved justice? These questions shape our continuously evolving agenda, promoting our effectiveness. Finally, we will also invest special effort to evaluate the components of our program that are rapidly evolving—such as our growing efforts to strengthen and build affiliates’ human rights capacities.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Privacy Rights: We have leveraged the Snowden revelations to challenge in court the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance. We also continue to expose and confront widespread law enforcement abuses, from automatic license plate scanners to cell phone location tracking to the use of domestic drones for surveillance.

    Voting Rights: In 2013 we lost our Supreme Court case defending Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Thus we are redoubling our efforts to use other laws to fight voter suppression while we press for Congress to revise Section 5. We also helped persuade California and New York to conduct voter registration through their new state health care exchanges to help the uninsured—potentially adding millions of new voters to the rolls.

    Freedom to Marry: We won a historic Supreme Court victory striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and launched a big campaign—first, to win marriage in the states, and second, to leverage state wins to secure a federal right to marry.

    Abortion: In Alabama and Wisconsin we blocked laws that would have closed all but two clinics in each state. We also blocked Georgia, Arizona, and Arkansas laws that severely restrict abortion, the latter allowing abortion only during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

    Reducing Over-Incarceration: Among our achievements, we released a report spotlighting the numbers of people, especially people of color, jailed for low-level marijuana offenses, spurring debate and proposals for reform. Our separately funded lobbying helped to generate laws to reduce incarceration rates in Kansas, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Oregon. And in our work to prevent incarceration, we succeeded in winning statewide reform in Michigan that will ensure poor people charged with crimes get the legal counsel to which they’re entitled.

    National Security: We’ve made significant progress, recently winning a promise from the president to narrow the “targeted killing” program, the use of unnamed drones for assassination. We have also made some progress with regard to plans to transfer detainees from Guantánamo, but we must keep the pressure on.

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

Blog

The organization's Blog

Social Media

@aclu.nationwide

@aclu

@acluvideos

Funding Needs

The ACLU Foundation relies on support from individuals and foundations in order to accomplish our work.

Accreditations

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance

Charity Navigator

External Reviews

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

AMERICAN CML LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION INC
Fiscal year: Apr 01-Mar 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc.

Leadership

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR FISCAL YEAR

Mr. Anthony Romero

BIO

Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just four days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Shortly afterward, the ACLU launched its national Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis. Under Romero's leadership, the ACLU gained court victories on the Patriot Act, filed landmark litigation on the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filed the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration's illegal NSA spying program.

Romero, an attorney with a history of public interest activism, has presided over the most successful membership growth in the ACLU's history and more than doubled national staff and tripled the budget of the organization since he began his tenure.  He is the ACLU's sixth executive director, and the first Latino and openly gay man to serve in that capacity. Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is a member of the New York Bar Association and has sat on numerous nonprofit boards.

STATEMENT FROM THE CEO

"The ACLU stands up for ordinary people, especially the vulnerable. Our reach is unique. We are in every corner of the country, seeking to protect basic rights: fighting on behalf of protesters denied permits to march and immigrants unfairly detained; supporting same sex couples who want to marry or adopt children and the abused woman whose pleas for help are ignored by the police; defending the rights of the prisoner whose repeated rape is ignored by guards and the women who need access to an abortion. Always, we seek to expose the truth of people's real-life experiences, the hidden horrors experienced by those with little or no access to power. That’s why when people’s rights have been violated, the standard response is, "call the ACLU.""

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Susan Herman

Brooklyn Law School

Term: Oct 2008 -

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

No

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?