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American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation

CharityWatch report issued
July 2018

Top-Rated Charity
CharityWatch Grade
Our independent grade based
on a number of factors.
Program Percentage
Amount spent on programs
relative to overhead.
Cost to Raise $100
Amount spent to raise
$100 of contributions.

Contact Information

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation
125 Broad St.
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Other Names

ACLU Foundation

Tax Status




Stated Mission

To maintain and advance civil liberties, including, without limitation, the freedoms of association, press, religion, and speech, and the rights to the franchise, to due process of law, and to equal protection of the laws for all people throughout the United States and its jurisdictions.

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Data based on Fiscal Year Ended 03/31/2017

Program Percentage: 90%

The percentage of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation's cash budget it spends on programs relative to overhead (fundraising, management, and general expenses).


Calculated Total Expenses



Cost to Raise $100: $7

How many dollars American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation spends on fundraising to raise each $100 of contributions.


Calculated Total Contributions


Government Funding

0% to 24%

Percentage of cash revenue
coming from government sources


Financial Documents

Entity Document Type Tax ID
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation IRS Form 990 13-6213516
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Audited Consolidated Financial Statements 13-6213516
Entity: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
Document Type: IRS Form 990
Tax ID: 13-6213516
Entity: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
Document Type: Audited Consolidated Financial Statements
Tax ID: 13-6213516

Governance & Transparency

CharityWatch evaluates certain criteria related to a charity's Governance and Transparency. Donors may want to consider a charity's willingness to be open and transparent with CharityWatch to be a good litmus test for determining its commitment to public accountability.
This charity is Top-Rated
What does it mean to be Top-Rated?
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation
meets governance benchmarks.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation
meets transparency benchmarks.
Provides Financial Information
Audit Accessibility
Governance: Policies
Reports regularly & consistently monitoring & enforcing compliance with a written Conflict of Interest Policy
Reports required, annual disclosure by officers, directors, and key staff of interests that could give rise to conflicts
Reports having a written Whistleblower Policy
Reports having a written Document Retention and Destruction Policy
Governance: Financials
Reports providing copy of tax form to all board members prior to filing it with IRS
Reports that financial statements were audited by an independent accountant
Governance: Board of Directors
Reports at least 5 voting board members
51% or more of voting board members reported as independent
Reports documenting minutes of board and board committee meetings
Privacy Policy
Privacy Policy

  Name Title Compensation
1 Steven Shapiro Legal Director $592,511
2 Dorothy M. Ehrlich Deputy Executive Director $556,747
3 Anthony D. Romero Executive Director/CEO $532,675
Name: Steven Shapiro
Title: Legal Director
Compensation: $592,511
Name: Dorothy M. Ehrlich
Title: Deputy Executive Director
Compensation: $556,747
Name: Anthony D. Romero
Title: Executive Director/CEO
Compensation: $532,675

CharityWatch Analysts perform an in-depth analysis of charities' audited financial statements and IRS tax filings, and often review other documents such as state filings, annual reports, and fundraising contracts during their evaluations. Below are select notes that CharityWatch believes may be of interest to donors.
CharityWatch's rating of the ACLU Foundation (ACLUF) is for the 501(c)(3) public charity (tax ID #13-6213516).

The rating does not include the financial activities of the local ACLU affiliates or of the related 501(c)(4) tax-exempt, social welfare organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (tax ID #13-3871360). CharityWatch issues a separate rating for the ACLU.

Whenever practicable, CharityWatch obtains audited consolidated financial statements that include all of the entities of a nonprofit. Such an audit eliminates transactions among related entities, and allows us to determine how efficiently an organization is operating on the whole. In the case of the ACLU, its local affiliates are separate legal entities whose financial activities are not included in its consolidated financial reporting.

According to the ACLUF consolidated audit of March 31, 2017 (Note 1, Organization):

"Both the ACLU Foundation and the Union [the ACLU] are affiliated with 50 nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations in every state in the United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All affiliates include reference to the 'American Civil Liberties Union' or some variation thereof in their names (the affiliates). The affiliates also operate through related Section 501(c)(3) and Section 501(c)(4) organizations. The affiliates share the same overall mission and purpose as the ACLU, but their programs focus more on local or regional issues, while the ACLU's program activities are focused on overarching civil liberties issues and initiatives. Although the ACLU plays no direct role in the governance of and, except in very limited instances, does not share employees with, the affiliates, the organizations jointly fundraise and work together on certain programs and the ACLU, through either the Union [the ACLU] or the ACLU Foundation, as appropriate, at its sole discretion provides targeted financial and other support to the affiliates."

CharityWatch issues separate ratings for 501(c)(3) & 501(c)(4) organizations, even when they are included together in a combined or consolidated audit, due to their different tax treatment by the IRS. For more information on this topic, please see our sections on Types of Non-Profits, Tax Status, and Treatment of Related Organizations, which can be found on the Our Process page.

For more information about things to consider when donating to organizations that have related public charity and social welfare entities, click on the "Articles & Alerts" tab (above), and read "Sorting Out Non-Profit Pairs."
According to the ACLU Foundation audited Consolidated Statement of Activities for the year ended March 31, 2017, the Foundation reports receiving in-kind donated legal services on which it placed a value of $2,202,732 in fiscal 2017.

[Note: CharityWatch generally excludes the value of in-kind (non-cash) donations of goods and services from its calculations of Program % and Cost to Raise $100. More information on how grades are calculated and the treatment of in-kind donations can be found on the Our Process page.]
According to the ACLU Foundation audit of March 31, 2017 (Note 2, Donor concentration):

"Approximately 9% of the total grants, contributions and bequests revenue for the year ended March 31, 2017 were provided by three donors..."
According to the ACLU Foundation tax filing for the fiscal year-ended March 31, 2017, the Foundation reports for Business Transactions Involving Interested Persons, a transaction in the amount of $241,380 paid to Gary D. Sowards, spouse of an officer/key employee, for legal services (IRS Form 990, Schedule L, Parts IV & V).

The transaction is further described as follows:

"During fiscal year 2017 Gary D. Sowards, the spouse of officer/key employee, Dorothy Ehrlich, provided legal services in connection with the ACLU Foundation's John Adams Project, which has arranged for the representation of an individual charged with a capital crime. A nationally known expert in capital punishment, Mr. Sowards was retained via a decision making process that did not involve the officer/key employee and at rates that are customary for the services provided" (IRS Form 990, Schedule L, Part V).

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