Folks feeling anxious after the most divisive presidential election in recent memory appear to be taking some feel-good countermeasures — and nonprofits are reaping the rewards.
Some local nonprofits, especially those with social justice missions, are reporting a sudden surge in inquiries about volunteer opportunities and ways to donate.
Carol Stoddart with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota called the spike “unprecedented.”
“It’s been really striking, and our hearts are warmed by it,” Stoddart said. “We have had an increased number of people going online and joining the ACLU, wanting to become a card-carrying member.
“We are already seeing an increased response to Give to the Max Day [on Thursday]. People are saying, ‘I want to do something after the election.’ ”
At the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, donations began pouring in via the website in the days following the election. Many were first-time donors, said John Keller, the center’s executive director.
“It’s moving to me to see donations anywhere from $5 to $500 from people who want to do something,” Keller said. “Today my inbox is overflowing with requests to volunteer from the offices of private lawyers, law firms, churches and individuals.”
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota usually handles five volunteer inquiries a week. The week after the election, the nonprofit was inundated with 500 inquiries.
“We have for sure seen an incredible uptick in volunteering. … It’s been very heartwarming,” said Planned Parenthood President and CEO Sarah Stoesz. “Our happiest challenge is figuring out how to best use their time.”
The Twin Cities already ranks No. 1 for volunteering among large cities nationwide, and Minnesota ranks second among the states. Researchers crunching U.S. Census data found that 37 percent of Twin Cities residents volunteered for 88.4 million hours last year.
Zoe Leonard-Monrad, volunteer and recruitment coordinator at Rise Inc. in Spring Lake Park, said she’s not convinced there’s a postelection blip for her organization, which helps people with disabilities. Many people regularly look for volunteer opportunities as the holidays approach, she said.
“It’s hard to tell, but people are really interested in getting out and feeling connected and learning about different populations of people,” she said.
Other nonprofit leaders theorize that the election may well be inspiring more people to do good, whether or not they have a political agenda.
“Your first instinct is to feel disillusioned and see the differences. We all have to understand each other’s stories,” said Katie Ladas, Greater Twin Cities United Way’s director of volunteerism. “This just feels good. … This is another way of feeling at peace. It’s doing something.”
United Way this summer launched its Community Kindness Projects, which emphasize volunteering to improve the lives of people struggling in their own communities. “Website traffic is up. And conversations around volunteerism are certainly top of mind,” Ladas said.
“We did literally have one volunteer … that talked about how it felt really good to do something positive and make a difference after the election.”
At Minneapolis-based Avenues for Homeless Youth, Craig Freeman said that there has been a brisk increase in inquiries since the election. “It’s too early to tell yet if it will lead to more volunteers, but people are at least thinking about it more,” he said.
Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP), a Bloomington-based nonprofit that offers a food shelf and emergency financial assistance, saw a doubling of volunteer applications in the week after the election, compared with the same period in previous years. The additional help is welcome because VEAP relies on 2,500 volunteers a year, said advancement director Patty Schulz.
“We’ve had a pretty big uptick in applications. We don’t really know why,” she said.