Green groups see silver lining to Trump win: money and members | KUOW News and Information

Green groups see silver lining to Trump win: money and members

Jan 19, 2017

Environmental groups say the incoming Trump administration could quickly wipe out years of work to protect America's land, air and water. But for many green groups, there's been a silver lining: Money and volunteers have poured in since the November election.


Donald Trump's victory left many environmentalists afraid that the things they care about could get walloped over the next four years. Regulations that protect the climate, endangered species and wetlands, to name a few, could be on the chopping block very soon.

A couple weeks after the election, President-elect Trump released a video promising big changes during his first 100 days in the White House.

"I will formulate a rule which says for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. So important," Trump says in the video.

President-elect Donald Trump's Nov. 21, 2016, message on plans for his first 100 days.

After the unexpected defeat, environmentalists and other disappointed liberals licked their wounds and pointed fingers. The election also prodded some of them off the sidelines and into activism.

"It didn't sound very good for me to be sitting on the bench complaining if I'm not doing anything to change it," Brian Bates of Bellingham said. Shortly after the election, the bartender and backcountry skier called someone he knew at the Washington Environmental Council to ask what he could do.

"We need more people, myself included, to become involved at the local level," Bates said. Trump's "repeated history of denying climate change" spurred Bates to action, but he said the local level is where he thinks he has the best shot of making a difference.

Green groups in Washington state say they've seen a spike in volunteers since the election.

National environmental organizations and some local ones report a jump in donations since Trump's victory turned the political landscape upside down.

Donations are up 40 percent in Washington, according to EarthShare Washington, a clearinghouse for donors to 66 nonprofits.

"It does seem that people have been giving to us from across the state," said Jeff Whitton with EarthShare Washington. "There’s a lot of new donors that we didn’t have contact with before."

Forterra, a Seattle nonprofit focused on land-use in western Washington, reports a 57 percent increase in donations since Nov. 8, compared to the same period in 2015. Climate Solutions, Sightline Institute and Conservation Northwest declined to provide information on their donations.

Smaller, grassroots groups, including Got Green, which works on climate justice, and Toxic Free Future, the new name of the Washington Toxics Coalition, did not get a Trump bump.

"We did not see a giant jump in donations at the end of the year, not anywhere near what the national groups are getting," Ivy Sager-Rosenthal with Toxic Free Future said. "A lot of people went to the national groups thinking that’s where the money’s needed most, which we would respectfully disagree with."

Donations to the Washington Environmental Council did not surge, but the number of people seeking to volunteer has been unprecedented, spokesperson Nick Abraham said.

"We noticed how much people have been searching for a place to put their energies after the election," he said.

Other liberal groups, like the local branches of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, report jumps in donations as well.

Conservative nonprofits the Freedom Foundation, the Washington Policy Center and the Family Policy Institute of Washington all report they're doing fine financially, though they haven't seen a big spike in support after the election.

"It was right where we projected it to be at the beginning of the year," Jeff Rhodes with the Freedom Foundation said.

Back in Bellingham, Brian Bates hopes to get a day off from the microbrewery where he works. He wants to attend a training in Olympia on how to be an effective volunteer. 

John Ryan loves getting story tips. He can be reached at jryan@kuow.org or with the encrypted WhatsApp or Signal apps at 1-401-405-1206 (whistleblowers, never do so from a work device, account or location). Snail mail is also a secure way to reach him confidentially: KUOW, 4518 University Way NE #310, Seattle, WA 98105. Don't put your return address on the outside.