Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., speaks with an ACLU legal observer during the protest at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty
By Megan Leonhardt
January 30, 2017

All fired up over President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries? You’re not alone. Over the weekend, the American Civil Liberties Union says it received almost $25 million in donationsan outpouring fueled, in part, by the ACLU’s defense of those individuals who were being threatened with deportation over the weekend.

This weekend’s level of support is six times the ACLU’s annual online donations, a spokesperson for the nonprofit told the Washington Post Monday morning. In addition to 356,306 individual online donations, the organization also received several major corporate donations, Fortune reported: $2 million from Google, with an additional $2 million match from employees, and $1 million from the co-founders of Lyft.

Yet if you’re looking to help out, there’s one important thing to keep in mind before you submit your online donation. Depending on how you donate, your gift may or may not be tax deductible.

While you may think of the ACLU as one giant nonprofit, the IRS does not. The ACLU actually has two arms, the lobbying organization and the foundation—and particularly if you itemize your taxes, it pays to be aware of the difference.

For your donation to be counted as tax-deductible, it must be submitted to what’s known as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In this case, that’s the ACLU Foundation, which supports the organization’s litigation and advocacy efforts. (If you’re confused, here’s the link to the 510(c)(3) donation page.) The main ACLU is a nonprofit known as a 501(c)(4), which has the ability to lobbying on behalf of its mission. Donations to this entity don’t count as tax deductible, but you do become a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

The ACLU’s dual structure is not unusual. In fact, several other high-profile organizations also function as a 501(c)(4) with an affiliated 501(c)(3)—including the Sierra Club, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the National Organization for Women.

Other Organizations

If you’re interested in donating elsewhere, there are several other organizations heavily involved in fighting President Trump’s executive order on immigration. The Council on American Islamic Relations, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the National Immigration Law Center are all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, so gifts to these groups will be tax deductible.

If you’re unfamiliar with these organizations or you’re looking to donate locally, be sure to research the nonprofit you’re considering before submitting any donations. Check out their mission and their recent activities, as well as their handling of previous funds.

There are some sites that can help. Charity Navigator has information and ratings on nearly 8,000 nonprofits, while Charity Watch rates over 600 charities. Although the latter charges $50 for an annual membership that gives you access to its full database, it provides a list of its top 100 charities for free.

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