Educational Institutions

Procon Org

  • Santa Monica, CA
  • www.procon.org

Mission Statement

"Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format."

ProCon.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity. Our free, innovative website surpassed the 23,000,000 annual user mark in 2015. We meet vital needs of our democracy that are not being met by politicians, the news media and our educational system. These are the needs for informed citizenship, nonpartisan information, and the development of critical thinking skills that enable people to question information, evaluate opposing views, and debate them in a respectful way.

Of our 23+ million annual readers, roughly 40% are teachers are students. Our educational resources have been used by educators in all 50 states and more than 85 countries. The remaining 60% are people from all over the world (90% USA) who want to understand important issues without bias and without taking much of their precious time. They want what we all want - to educate ourselves on today's hot topics and to really understand each side so we can develop our own informed opinions and make better sense of our world. Given the state of our politics today, the need for understanding and informed perspective that ProCon.org provides has never been greater.

Main Programs

  1. Unbiased Exploration of Controversial Issues
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

Since our inception in 2004, over 80 million people have visited ProCon.org to learn the pros and cons of numerous issues. In 2014, we had over 20 million unique visitors. The free educational resources at ProCon.org have been used by teachers, librarians, and administrators in over 6,000 schools (K-12 and college/university) in all 50 states. Our wealth of nonpartisan information is used to help our millions of readers better understand important social issues and become more informed citizens.

ruling year

2007

CEO since 2014

Self-reported

Mr. Jay Rakow

President & Managing Editor since 2004

Self-reported

Mr. Kambiz Akhavan

Keywords

Self-reported

critical thinking, education, citizenship, controversial issues, debate, california, students, nonpartisan, unbiased, media, pros, cons

Notes from the Nonprofit

Our programs work. By providing an unbiased source of information on the issues that divide our nation, we give our readers the tools to ask questions, think critically, make up their own minds, and gain respect for those who have different views.

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Also Known As

ProCon.org

EIN

57-1210185

 Number

2460694662

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (B05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (W05)

Citizen Participation (W24)

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?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

Our impact continues to grow as measured by the number of unique visitors (23.3 million in 2015; 100 million total), schools using ProCon.org (1,268 new schools in 2015; 7,026 total), books referencing ProCon.org (131 in 2015; 502 total), media mentions (510 in 2015; 2,061 total), government agencies using ProCon.org (11 new in 2015; 79 total), email subscribers (17,729 new in 2015; 138,500 total), and our scores of social media followers. All of those trends have continued and accelerated so far in 2016.

For every one dollar spent by ProCon.org, over 26 people get a free education on our website.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

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

Program 1

Unbiased Exploration of Controversial Issues

Topics explored by ProCon.org websites include (in alphabetical order): 2008 Election, 2012 Election, 2016 Election, Abortion, ACLU, Alternative Energy, Animal Testing, Big Three Auto, Born Gay?, Cell Phones, Churches and Taxes, Climate Change, Bill Clinton, College Football Playoffs, College Education, Concealed Guns, Corporate Tax Rate & Jobs, Cuba Embargo, D.A.R.E., Death Penalty, Drinking Age, Drones, Euthanasia, Felon Voting, Gay Marriage, Gold Standard, Golf, Health Care Laws / Obamacare, Illegal Immigration, Insider Trading by Congress, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Medical Marijuana, Milk, Minimum Wage, Nuclear Power, Prescription Drug Ads, Prostitution, Ronald Reagan, Right to Health Care, School Uniforms, Social Networking, Social Security, Sports and Drugs, Standardized Tests, Textbooks vs. Tablets, Teacher Tenure, "Under God" in the Pledge, US-Iraq War, Vaccines for Kids, Video Games and Violence, Voting Machines, and WTC Muslim Center. These sites are used primarily by students and the general public. They are also used by legislators, media, attorneys, scientists, physicians, and judges.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Males, all ages or age unspecified

Budget

Results

Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

1. Number of unique website visitors

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
Users (aka unique visitors) are measured primarily using Google Analytics and corroborated with Quantcast, Alexa, SimilarWeb, AW Stats, and JAW Stats.

2. Number of teachers recruited

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
This number reflects the number of schools where at least one educator has used ProCon.org in their teaching and reference materials. Some schools may have many teachers using ProCon.org.

3. Number of media citations of advocate research or products

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
ProCon.org has become the go-to nonpartisan source for reporters seeking timely information about controversial topics. Our research has been referenced by CNN, BBC, NBC, NPR, CBS, AP, and many more.

4. Number of youth who demonstrate critical thinking skills (e.g., reasoning, analysis)

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
Annual survey of teachers and librarians to understand whether or not using ProCon.org improves their students' critical thinking skills. Numbers reflect the % who said YES.

5. Number of participants who would recommend program to others

Target Population
No target populations selected

Connected to a Program?
n/a
TOTALS BY YEAR
Context notes for this metric
Annual survey of teachers and librarians to understand whether or not they would recommend ProCon.org to others. Numbers reflect the % who said YES.

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

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

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    1. Traffic - Increase 2016 web traffic by at least 7.5% over 2015 level of 23.3 million unique visitors

    2. Schools - Expand number of schools where educators use ProCon.org from 7,026 at year end 2015 by at least 15% to exceed 8,000 by year end 2016.

    3. New Websites - Create two new pro/con websites by year end 2016 and significantly expand 2016 presidential election website. Topics for development include pros and cons of raising the minimum wage, and one more to be determined (marijuana legalization, GMOs, affirmative action, and others are on our short list).

    4. Financial Sustainability - Expand and diversify our Board and their fundraising functions; develop relationships with foundations, corporations, and individual donors in order to solicit funds; explore partnership opportunities that may help with fundraising.

    5. Expanding our Mission - Continue to keep our websites current, nonpartisan, and free so that we can better promote our mission of critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    1. Excellent research content - Continue to produce compelling and nonpartisan content so that our website always serves as a magnet for people interested in understanding multiple points of view on controversial issues so that they can make up their own minds and make more informed decisions.

    2. Work with teachers, librarians, and school administrators - Work with educator communities to better entrench ProCon.org into required learning. As Common Core standards become more prevalent in the many states where it has been adopted, we plan to illustrate how ProCon.org and our free resources can be used to teach those standards effectively and in a politically neutral manner. We also excel at finding those schools that use ProCon.org by offering a 2-minute educator survey, doing search engine searches, and regularly monitoring our back end traffic statistics for new schools.

    3. Media outreach - Work with media outlets and freelance journalists to help get our free content in front of more readers.

    4. Social media outreach - Increase our social media tools and outreach so readers can more easily and more frequently share the information they like on ProCon.org. ProCon.org currently has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Google+. We enable sharing to those social media from all of our webpages.

    5. Search engine optimization - Optimize all website content to make it especially appealing to search engines like Google, Bing, and others
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    1. Content Development - Our team of full-time in-house researchers has proven remarkably skilled at producing the best pro and con presentations on hotly contested issues. These accomplished professionals were educated at the country's best universities, served in high-level research projects throughout their careers, and care deeply about the unique and important mission of ProCon.org.

    2. Effective Outreach – We handle press releases, email marketing, social media campaigns, journalist contacts, donation campaigns, etc. in house with assistance from some of the most reputable PR and marketing organizations in the nation.

    3. Technically Savvy – Our search engine optimization techniques have garnered us top rankings for highly competitive keywords on Google. Our systems administration, programming, web development, and design personnel are top notch.

    4. Managed Well – Jay Rakow, serves as CEO of ProCon.org as well as sitting on its Board of Directors. Jay previously served as President of The Lincy Foundation, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Paramount Pictures, Senior Executive Vice President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at Cornell University Law School.

    Our Founder/Chairman, Steven C. Markoff, has had a successful career in business. His many affiliations include: the precious metals and numismatic business for 50 years (1954-2005); Chairman and CEO of A-Mark Financial Corporation, a Santa Monica-based financial services company he founded in 1965; the A-Mark Foundation, a private foundation he founded in 1997; A-Mark Entertainment from which he gained more than 10 producer credits; and part owner of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    Our President & Managing Editor, Kambiz “Kamy" Akhavan, came to ProCon.org after nearly 20 years of experience in making educational content entertaining and making companies operate efficiently. He has a B.A. (magna cum laude) and an M.A. in History from UCLA (summa cum laude). His work has been published across the US, and he's been interviewed by Reuters, Associated Press, Fox News, ABC, and radio affiliates of NPR, CNN, and CBS.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    1. Recognition for High Quality Content – We won the "Top 25 Free Reference Websites of 2011" award from a division of the American Library Association along with TED, Google, and Wikileaks. We were archived in 2012 and 2008 by the Library of Congress for having "materials of historical importance to the Congress and to the American people." We were honored in the US Congressional Record on July 6, 2011 by Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) who said our "unbiased and truthful presentation makes a tremendous contribution to the political system."

    2. Educators Embracing Our Work – We recently received wonderful high-level support from education officials. Here are just two examples.

    California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, said: "As someone who uses procon.org personally, I see the great value it can bring to California's students, teachers, and librarians. This free educational resource helps students develop vital 21st century skills such as critical thinking and civics education. It also helps them learn about important issues, and is consistent with Common Core and the findings of my Education Technology Task Force." (June 11, 2013)

    The Executive Director of the National Council for the Social Studies, Susan Griffin, said:
    "I found myself going from issue to issue, so intrigued by what I was learning and how my assumptions were challenged by what I read. I was struck by the integrity of sources, the Pro and Con arguments, and the unbiased presentation of facts. ProCon.org prompts so much deep critical thinking. This is an amazing resource for the classroom, and I think it has much to offer anyone who is examining public policy issues." (Apr. 24, 2015)

    See more testimonials at http://www.procon.org/view.background-resource.php?resourceID=5031.

    3. ProCon.org in Books - ProCon.org has been cited in more than 500 books, that we know of, by authors such as Glenn Beck, Mark Bittman, Newt Gingrich, Stefan Halper, Dick Morris, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Schmoker, Tavis Smiley, and Joseph Stiglitz.

    4. ProCon.org in the Media - ProCon.org has been referenced over 2,000 times in major media outlets and journals including the New York Times, BBC, 60 Minutes, New England Journal of Medicine, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Slate, Houston Chronicle, several radio stations, and more

    5. ProCon.org in Government – ProCon.org has been cited by 24 international governments including Australia, European Union, Israel, South Africa, and United Kingdom, as well as 34 US state governments.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    1. Traffic – ProCon.org users from 01/01/16 - 04/30/16 are up 6.2% from the same period in 2015. Given our traffic to date and our historic trends, we expect to achieve and exceed our goal of 25 million users in 2014.

    2. Schools – As of May 18, 2015, we had educators in 500 more schools than we had at Dec. 31, 2014, using ProCon.org, thus getting to over 7,500 schools and about 500 schools short of our goal. Given our ongoing outreach efforts, our current acquisition pace of 2-3 new schools per day, and our upcoming plans to increase contact with educators via conference participation and even more direct outreach, we believe that we should meet and exceed our goal of 8,000 schools by year end 2016.

    3. New Websites – Each ProCon.org “micro" website typically requires 300-400 hours of research and development time. We completed and launched the minimum wage website on March 31, 2016. We are publishing new weekly research for our 2016 presidential election as planned. We will be starting development of our next website later in the year, and we should thus meet our goal of completing at least two new websites before year end.

    4. Financial sustainability – We have already brought on new and energetic Board members, acquired several major grants (including a six-figure grant from the Annenberg Foundation), and have open grant proposals with several more foundations. We are also hosting a series of fundraising salons, and we are co-developing programs and related grant proposals with other nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations.

    5. Expanding our Mission – As our traffic increases, as more educators discover ProCon.org and use it in their instruction, as more journalists reference ProCon.org in their articles, as more policymakers cite ProCon.org in their reports and legislation, as more published authors use ProCon.org in their books, as more of the public turns to ProCon.org for nonpartisan information on controversial topics, our mission continues to expand and we continue to promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship to millions of people.
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

Since our inception in 2004, over 80 million people have visited ProCon.org to learn the pros and cons of numerous issues. In 2014, we had over 20 million unique visitors. The free educational resources at ProCon.org have been used by teachers, librarians, and administrators in over 6,000 schools (K-12 and college/university) in all 50 states. Our wealth of nonpartisan information is used to help our millions of readers better understand important social issues and become more informed citizens.

Social Media

Blog

External Reviews

Source: greatnonprofits.org

The review section is powered by Great Nonprofits

Financials

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

PROCONORG LISTED AS PROCON ORG IN IRS RECORDS
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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  • Board Chair and Board Members
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Operations

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

Procon Org

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2015 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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CEO

Mr. Jay Rakow

President & Managing Editor

Mr. Kambiz Akhavan

BIO

Jay Rakow joined ProCon.org as Chief Executive Officer on September 15, 2014, after a distinguished career spanning the business, legal and non-profit sectors He also sits on the organization's Board of Directors. Jay previously served as President of The Lincy Foundation, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Paramount Pictures, Senior Executive Vice President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at Cornell University Law School.

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. Steven C. Markoff

Founder

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?

No

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?