American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc

We the People Dare to Create a More Perfect Union

aka ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation   |   Milwaukee, WI   |


The mission of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is to protect and promote the civil liberties and civil rights of all the people of Wisconsin in a non-partisan manner.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Dr. Melinda Q Brennan

Main address

207 E Buffalo St Ste 325

Milwaukee, WI 53202 USA

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Formerly known as

Wisconsin Civil Liberties Union



NTEE code info

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

IRS filing requirement

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

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is the educational wing of the state ACLU and includes our litigation and community education efforts. Over the decades, the work we have taken on includes free speech and expression, LGBT rights, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, reproductive freedom, racial justice, and criminal justice reform.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

Legal Observers

ACLU Legal Observers are trained to serve as neutral witnesses to protest activities and police conduct.

Population(s) Served

The Youth Social Justice Forum is a key part of the ACLU's public education program. It impacts the community by teaching and inspiring youth to be active, positive leaders in their communities. In addition to learning "cool" art projects, they are taught skills like conflict resolution, circle process for meetings, creating agendas, and prioritizing workplans.

The sessions are created annually to focus on the most current issues of the day, and to meet young people where they are - emotionally and physically. Issues and art forms are relevant, accessible, and replicable in their own homes and neighborhoods.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth

The ACLU's Public Art Student Alliance (PASA) conducts regular workshops, in-school programs, and after-school and summer programs in neighborhoods where poverty, joblessness, and instances of violence are high; where there are disproportionately high rates of contact between police and members of racial and ethnic minorities; and where students have been specifically identified as being at great risk of academic failure.

We show teens and young adults how they can
have a more positive future through interaction with other youth, community leaders, elected officials, and adult mentors, and by expressing themselves in positive ways through art.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Affiliate/Chapter of National Organization (i.e. Girl Scouts of the USA, American Red Cross, etc.) - Affiliate/chapter 1930

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

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

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation (ACLU) promotes and defends the civil liberties and civil rights of all Wisconsinites in a nonpartisan manner. While we address the waterfront of social justice issues, our current goals include: cutting Wisconsin’s prison and jail populations by half and eliminating racial disparities within the criminal justice system through our Smart Justice campaign; and working to expand access to the polls through our voting rights work.

Through education and litigation, the foundation works for change using workshops, campaigns, trainings, social-networking and community activism.

At any given time, the ACLU of Wisconsin has thirty to forty active matters on its litigation docket. From municipalities infringing on individuals' free speech rights, to schools not taking race-based bullying seriously, to broader statewide issues. While we are best known for our lawsuits, our legal department also engages in the vetting of workshop curricula and educational materials, Election Protection efforts, and the assessment of thousands of requests for legal help we get every year.

In addition, we work to change policy as well as hearts and minds. The defense of America’s core liberties cannot rely on the courts alone, politics and public opinion matter too. That is why our grassroots organizing team is out in the community, day after day, building the strength, support and influence we need to advance our work throughout the state.

Examples of these efforts include:

• Our Smart Justice campaign, which is an unprecedented, multi-year effort to reduce Wisconsin's jail and prison populations by 50 percent and to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Over the last year, we traveled the state sounding the alarm about the dangers of crimeless revocation – which is when someone is sent back to prison for violating a technical rule of probation rather than for committing a new crime. This campaign’s effort to mobilize the masses and build statewide support continues to yield amazing results;

• The ACLU Youth Programs, some of which have been around for more than 20 years, use a combination of both art and civic engagement to empower students to speak out against the injustices facing their community using art as a platform to express their feelings and amplify their messages. Our programs are designed to reach students in neighborhoods where participation in extracurricular activities is restricted due to barriers such as high rates of violence, poverty, police contact and increased risk of academic failure; and

• Legal Observer training, which teaches individuals committed to defending free speech how to act as legal witnesses to political demonstrations and document the events of public protests, including any incidents of police misconduct or violations of the rights of protesters. Their objective documentation can be used as evidence if police misconduct or obstructions to constitutionally protected free speech are challenged in court.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    We center our criminal legal reforms efforts on the people impacted by the system. Our direct action team is comprised of formerly-incarcerated people who are in coalition with activist groups and individuals of that community. Likewise, we apply a racial justice lens to all our work, actively working to include the people most-impacted by white supremacy.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    SMS text surveys, Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Case management notes, Community meetings/Town halls, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We're currently undergoing some deep cultural shifting to make our organization more inclusive to our team members. This intentional DEI work stems from the recognition that we can do better anti-oppression work in our program areas when we've done that work internally.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    Our intention is always to center and lift up the voices and experiences of the people who are most affected by inequity and injustice. Where we can, we elevate our coalition partners' voices and follow their lead. We are always asking ourselves and others "what is our lane"? How is our mission served most effectively?

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,


American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc

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


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

William Sulton

Nichole Yunk Todd

Angela Lang

Christine Munson

Brian Thompson

Leslie Fillingham

Alonzo Kelly

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and 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 ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and 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? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/25/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 04/23/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.