Tag Archives: political

Trump wants to eliminate national service

On February 12, 2018, the President of the USA, Donald Trump, sent his official Fiscal Year 2019 Budget request to Congress. This budget proposes the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service in FY 2019, and provides funding for an “orderly shutdown.” Here is an official statement about this budget proposal from CNCS.

This budget cut will mean the elimination of AmeriCorps, VISTA, Conservation Corps (the modern-day CCC) and Senior Corps.

I have seen, first hand, the impact that these national service members have had on nonprofit and public institutions, and those they serve, across this nation. These programs are a part of what make my country great – great right now. Members of these services provide CRITICAL services that benefit millions of people in our country. Members go on to an intense awareness about community issues that make them better citizens, more educated votes, and more productive members of society. The first President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, the second President George Bush, and President Barack Obama all supported these national service programs. If these national service programs are eliminated, millions will suffer, and yet another great thing about these United States will go away.

I am being entirely politically slanted with this blog and begging every person in the USA to write their US Senators and US Congressional representatives to stand firm in support of national service programs and to pressure their colleagues to do the same. We cannot let these programs be cut.

I warned you of this a year ago: AmeriCorps, VISTA, other CNCS programs could soon be gone

In the meantime, I guess it’s time to scramble volunteers to preserve the research and resources CNCS has compiled on its web site before the government deletes it.

Also see:

Did Facebook hurt the Syrian Revolution?

Why is it that social media can help win an election in one country and cannot stop a month-long massacre in another?

Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the School of International Studies at the University of Denver, has argued that social media is helping dictators, while giving the masses an illusion of empowerment and political worthiness.

At a recent lecture at Columbia University, when asked for an example where social media played a negative role in a social movement, Chenoweth paused a little to finally say, “what comes to my mind now is Syria.”

Indeed, social media hurt the Syrian uprising. It gave the Syrian people the hope that the old dictatorship can be toppled just by uploading videos of protests and publishing critical posts. Many were convinced that if social media helped Egyptians get rid of Hosni Mubarak, it would help them overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

It created the false illusion that toppling him would be easy and doable.

The above quote is from Ian interesting article by Al Jazeera.

There can’t be any argument that digital activism can have a massive impact, sometimes even more than volunteer engagement, as shown by the 2016 USA election, but it can also be slackervism/slacktivism, when virtual activism stays virtual.

Is social media, Facebook in particular, hurting activism in the USA as well?

Also see:

Volunteers are more important than social media in Presidential elections

Please see the end of this blog for an update nine months later.

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersLast night, the public radio show Marketplace here in the USA did an excellent story about the vital role volunteers play in a successful Presidential campaign. Social media is great, but the reality is that it’s old-fashioned volunteer engagement – people calling neighbors to get out the vote, driving neighbors to the polls, etc. – that wins elections. The story is available for free online, and if you are outside the USA and can’t access it, just download Hotspot Shield – you’ll be able to using that.

My favorite points from the article:

“It takes $670,000 dollars in ad buys in a general election to get the same number of estimated votes as you would by opening a field office which is about $21,000 dollars to maintain throughout an election season.” — Joshua Darr, assistant professor of political communication at Louisiana State University, quoted in the article.

“Donald Trump’s performance in Iowa has widely been blamed on his lack of volunteer organizing. ”

“Networks of lawn-trodding volunteers aren’t something you can just whip up overnight, and the people who build these networks are not a dime a dozen.”

I’m THRILLED with this story. It touches on so many things I promote in my work: that highly-skilled managers of volunteers, fully supported and funded, are required for effective volunteer engagement, that volunteers are not free, and that, sometimes, volunteers are the BEST people to do a task.

For the record, I knew President Obama was going to win re-election, despite what the polls were saying, because his campaign was getting new volunteers, and keeping volunteers, all over the country, right up to election day, while Romney’s campaign was closing offices many weeks before. And when I volunteer for political campaigns, I always rewrite the script I’m given, so that the first thing I always say is, “Hi, I’m Jayne Cravens, and I’m a volunteer with the such-and-such campaign,” because I know the person on the other end is much more likely to listen to me knowing I’m a volunteer, not a paid staffer.

And note: volunteer engagement might be cheaper than national news spots, but it still costs money. I know a lot of managers of volunteers that would love $21,000 for their volunteer engagement… and with that said, be sure to sign this petition at Change.org that calls on Congress to provide funding for the effective management of the volunteers it is requiring public lands, including National Forests, to involve.

vvbooklittleSuch a shame people managing presidential campaigns, senate campaigns, congressional campaigns, grassroots campaigns – whatever the campaign – aren’t buying The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook in bulk! Tools come and go, but certain community engagement principles never change, and our book can be used with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference.

— end original blog —

November 28, 2016 update:

I was wrong. This election was not won by volunteers nor by volunteer management. As my November 28 blog details, social media DID win this election. It proved an ideal vehicle for promoting misinformation. As I noted in my last blog, BuzzFeed reported that fake news stories about the USA Presidential election this year generated more engagement on Facebook than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets COMBINED – that included major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC News, and on and on. And the majority of these fake news stories did NOT come from any campaign operatives; rather, they came from a man in Los Angeles who originally built fake news sites to as a way to expose the extreme right, a plan that most certainly did NOT work. And these fake stories, most of which promoted Trump as a candidate, were shared by millions of people via social media – people who believed them, and most of whom never signed up to be an official Trump campaign volunteer. See my November 28 blog for more details. A blog in December offers even more details on how volunteers were engaged, officially and unofficially, in this campaign, and how a well-managed, vast army of volunteers did NOT win this election.

Why I’m not outraged at the IRS

Each year, the IRS reviews as many as 60,000 applications from groups that want to be classified as tax-exempt.

501(c)(4) tax-exempt status is a different nonprofit category than organizations like homeless shelters, arts groups, animal groups, etc. The (c)(4) status allows advocacy groups to avoid federal taxes, just like 501(c)(3) orgs, but the status doesn’t render donations to the groups tax deductible. The primary focus of their efforts must be promoting social welfare – and that can include lobbying and advocating for issues and legislation, but not outright political-campaign activity. Also, these groups do not have to disclose the identities of their donors unless they are under investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 “Citizens United” ruling lead to a torrent of new 501(c)4 groups: the number of applications sent to the IRS by those seeking 501(c)4 status rose to 3,400 in 2012 from 1,500 in 2010. MOST of these applications were from conservative groups. And many of these organizations flout the law in terms of not being involved in political-campaign activity – if you saw the whole process where Stephen Colbert oh-so-easily formed his own 501(c)(4) organization, you know what I mean.

So what was the “extra scrutiny” by the IRS? Good luck trying to find out specifics beyond the phrase “extra scrutiny” again and again. It took me an hour on Internet searches to find out enough to make this list of what the “extra scrutiny” was:

  • more details on what “social welfare” activities the organizations were undertaking
  • speakers they had hosted in meetings
  • fliers to promote events
  • list of volunteers
  • roles/works of volunteers
  • lists of members
  • list of donors
  • positions on political issues the organization was advocating

Some groups have claimed they were asked who was commenting on the group’s Facebook page, but I can’t find any confirmation of this claim.

Of course, this “extra scrutiny” is a fraction of what many of these same people outraged at the IRS were demanding regarding the now defunct nonprofit group ACORN. It’s the same scrutiny these conservatives were screaming about wanting for arts organizations back in the 1990s, in their attempt to eliminate all government funding for arts organizations. And probably most importantly: no organization was prevented from engaging in the activities it wanted to, not even those with pending status. None. Zilch.

This scrutiny is not only what I have been asked for in every nonprofit and government-related job I have held in the last 15 years (yes, I have been asked by a government agency to provide a list of paid staff and volunteers – they wanted to see if our arts organization was involving “enough” volunteers”); these are details I have long encouraged nonprofits to provide on their web sites, to show transparency and credibility.

So, I’ll be by usual blunt self: any nonprofit organization, no matter what their designation, that can’t easily provide details on its programs – who, what, where, when – as well as information the number and role of volunteers and information on any activities that might be considered political advocacy, shouldn’t be a nonprofit. And if that organization is a political group, it should have to provide a public list of all financial donors. Period.

But, no, I’m not going to provide a list of volunteers. Their roles and accomplishments, yes, but not a list of volunteers.

In fact, let’s get rid of (c)(4) nonprofits status altogether. You want to form an organization that engages in political activities? Form a PAC

My sources:






The Gutting of the USA

The Republican Study Committee, a bloc of more than 165 US Congressional Representatives, have unveiled a proposal that will end a range of federal programs that benefit charities and their clients. Among its proposals:

* Eliminate AmeriCorps and other national-service programs.

* Abolish the Agency for International Development.

* Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

* End Department of Energy grants to help low-income people weatherize their homes.

In short, it would cut every program I believe makes my country exceptional, that makes my country great — except for public education and the National Parks Service, both of which I guess they will be going after very soon. While these programs make up just a fraction of the US budget, they have had a profound, positive impact on the lives of millions and millions of people, often without those people even knowing it. I could not even begin to say how these programs have affected me.

Cutting these programs will rob the USA of a large chunk of its voice and its culture, as well as taking away programs that make the USA, and the World, a better place.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is the committee’s chairman.

A sad day.


Do online petitions work?

Online petitions got off to a very rough start when the Internet went mainstream back in the early 1990s. You may remember one of those early efforts, if you have been on the Internet as long as I have: it was the 1990s, and you got an email written by someone at Brandeis University who wanted to help the women in Afghanistan suffering under the warlords and the Taliban. That email accurately told you about the situation for women in Afghanistan. But the email was inaccurate in suggesting that signing your name to the bottom and forwarding it to all your friends would have any impact on those in power in Afghanistan. The petition’s author was totally unprepared for the consequences of her email petition, and hadn’t thought through how her efforts would pressure any change on a country that had no means to receive her petition, let alone take it seriously. It was one of the earliest forms of Slacktivism or Slackervism – all sorts of people signed it, and I’m sure most of them did nothing else, like giving money to an NGO that was actually trying to help in Afghanistan, because, hey, they signed a petition!

I’ve always wondered what happened to that woman…

Online petitions have evolved since then. While some remain ineffective — just unverifiable names on an online document no one who matters will read — some do generate impact. Online petitions that generate impact have this in common:

  • They are web-based. People sign them via the web, not email. That puts the petition in ONE place, and makes it easier to find online.
  • Signers are required to use a verifiable email address (one that actually works), and to submit full names and full mailing addresses.
  • Each time a supporter signs the petition, an email is automatically sent directly to the person or organization at the government or company being targeted, with the supporter’s full name, full mailing address and his or her message.
  • Signers receive tools and information to help them talk about the issue via their other online activities, as well as their face-to-face, offline activities with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Signers are encouraged to take offline action, and are given all the information they need to do this: to make phone calls, to hand write and mail letters through the post, and to contact their elected officials regarding the issue.
  • The petition has momentum in the media; there are stories in newspapers, on TV, on the radio and in blogs about the issue, and at least some mention the petition drive.

Change.org credits its online petitions with a number of public relations victories on many different issues, including:

Here is more about How Change.org petitions work.

I’m quite transparent about my petition activities.

More about Online Action Creating & Supporting Offline Action

New Congress Brings Stark Agenda for Nonprofits

The new Republican majority in USA Congress will have a big impact on programs that affect charities and the people they serve. The Chronicle of Philanthropy lists what the nonprofit world can expect from the new Congress. It’s must reading!

This is a followup to my earlier blog warning that the Fall 2010 election in the USA should have every nonprofit’s attention – and every NGO’s attention abroad that receives money from the USA in some way, directly or indirectly. It provides links to commentaries by other organizations as well as ways to address the proposed changes.

As I noted in that earlier blog, US government budgets have already been cut severely, and the cuts that are coming will become even more severe — and the irony is that the same local, state and national governments cutting nonprofit budgets are also asking nonprofits to maintain their services in the face of these cuts.

Also see these tips to use your web site to show your organization’s accountability and results.