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Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is Donors Trust and who runs it?


Donors Trust is a non-profit organization that collects funds from donors and redistributes those funds to other non-profit organizations that fit a set of right-wing ideological criteria. On their website, Donors Trust describes themselves as a solution to the problem of philanthropic capital straying from the original donor's wishes and, "the free market principles that made their philanthropy possible in the first place."

"As an antidote to this drift, Donors Trust was established as a 501(c)(3) public charity to ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise."
Donors Trust is a tax deductible organization that allows donors to donate money anonymously and receive a tax credit. Under their FAQ section, Donors Trust promises that donors can keep their charitable giving private, especially for gifts, "funding sensitive or controversial issues."
In total, Donors Trust has received $313 million and granted over $263 million to nearly 1,000 "liberty minded charities." In order to receive funding from Donors Trust, an organization must "abide by the Donors Trust free market ideology."
Over the past decade, the amount of money moving through Donors Trust has soared. According to a recent investigative article by Mother Jones, Donors Trust brought in $1.4 million and gave out $1.2 million in 2002. By 2010, those numbers ballooned to $44 million coming in and $63 million flowing out.  For those that appreciate statistics, that is nearly a 32-fold increase in money raised and a 53-fold increase in money dispersed.

Who Operates Donors Trust?

Donors Trust and its partner organization, Donors Capital Fund, are operated by Whitney Ball, formerly the Director of Fundraising for the Cato Institute, which was founded by the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974. Charles and his brother David Koch are well known for the massive amounts of money they have donated over the years to right-wing, free enterprise organizations that attack the scientific findings on climate change.

Donors Trust Funds Climate Denial Groups

According to IRS tax returns, between 2002 and 2010, Donors Trust provided over $90 million in funding ($90,989,710 to be exact) to 84 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change. Between 2004 and 2010, the partner group Donors Capital Fund, provided more than $28 million in funding ($28,490,862) to 75 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change.

Recent Articles About Donors Trust

A secretive funding organization in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate "counter movement" to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.
A British newspaper claims to have discovered the convoluted way oil billionaires in the United States can funnel huge amounts of cash toward climate change-denial campaigns, while reaping tremendous tax advantages in the process.
Millions of dollars are being secretly funneled to the climate change “counter movement” by groups connected to the Koch family, UK newspaper the Independent reported on Friday.
You haven't heard of Donors Trust, but it's bankrolled the right's fights against unions, public schools, climate scientists, and more.


VigiliusH said...


Thank you very much for this blog. I read on climate daily and you somehow manage to consistently find material I would never stumble on otherwise. As for this particular post, I have to say that I don't have the bucks to fund a comparable program on the other side of this issue. OTOH, maybe participating in OFA is helpful? Not sure, they are not exclusively focused on climate. I was happy to see the Sierra Club stop its prohibition on demonstrating, though. Okay, I am rambling now. My wife and I would be happy to take you for a dinner and drink if you are ever in New Orleans, drop me a note on

Tenney Naumer said...

Thank you for your comment. I'd love some New Orleans cuisine one of these days. I don't get around much, but if I get to New Orleans one of these days (maybe next winter), I'll be glad to make your (and your wife's) acquaintance.