Jill Blake has long been a pro-choice advocate and has contributed money to Planned Parenthood and other groups that support women’s reproductive rights. But when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that it wouldn’t block a Texas law prohibiting abortions after “cardiac activity” is detected — around the sixth week of pregnancy — Blake took her support to another level.
Not only did the Atlanta-based freelance writer and classic-film expert make a donation to yet another group, she also put together a social-media fundraiser, encouraging others to contribute to organizations behind the cause.
Blake said she fears the Supreme Court decision may not bode well for the pro-choice movement going forward. In turn, that has spurred her philanthropic push. “This was the ‘Oh crap’ moment,” she said.
But Blake is one of many who are opening their wallets and contributing to pro-choice groups following enactment of the Texas law. And the phenomenon of donating out of sudden anger or concern is itself becoming increasingly common — to the point that fundraising experts have adopted a term for it: rage giving.
In essence, it’s charity as a form of protest. And experts say it’s growing in popularity in an era when people’s passions and feelings, especially in connection with political or social issues, can be supercharged by social media. In turn, nonprofit groups are using social media as a way to quickly raise money when the news may prompt such giving.
Certainly, since news of the Texas law, many pro-choice and reproductive rights organizations have been directing would-be donors and volunteers as to how they can help. Among them: the Texas Equal Access Fund, which provides financial support to low-income Texans who are seeking an abortion and cannot afford it.
Maleeha Aziz, a community organizer with the Texas organization, said the group raised at least $200,000 in the roughly 36 hours after the Supreme Court ruling was announced. Just as important, she said: It has received 66 calls from those wanting to volunteer their time for the organization. On a typical day, she said, it receives only three to five such calls.
Planned Parenthood, perhaps the most prominent national organization advocating for women’s reproductive rights, said it couldn’t immediately provide any fundraising information. But it said that its affiliates in Texas are seeing higher call volume.
Pro-life groups may also be able to leverage the Supreme Court ruling to boost support. But at least one major organization, the National Right to Life Committee, said it didn’t anticipate a sudden, sizable uptick in its fundraising. “The majority of our contributions come from faithful small donors,” the group said in a statement.
The idea of giving to charity in response to a news event isn’t necessarily a recent development. Nick Black, cofounder of GoodUnited, a social fundraising platform, notes that disaster-relief and humanitarian groups have been shaped by such an approach for decades.
“They’re the godfathers of this,” he said.
But the idea of charity spurred by outrage is considered a more contemporary phenomenon. Many cite the 2016 presidential election as a defining moment in that regard: Left-leaning Americans, especially women, responded to Donald Trump’s rise by contributing to progressive groups they felt would counter any actions he might take.
A nonprofit group is usually happy to receive a contribution. Still, rage giving has its drawbacks.
Those who study philanthropy warn that a first-time donor who makes a gift in response to something in the news may only be a one-time contributor — that is, they’re not necessarily engaged beyond that moment. Traditionally, nonprofit organizations rely on donors who give on a regular basis, says Melanie Sidwell, who works with the Philanthropic Informatics Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Rage giving “is disrupting the traditional fundraising model and we’re trying to figure it out,” she said.