4 Things Nonprofits Must Do the Day after a Trump Victory


The first thing everyone reading this should notice is that the sun did indeed rise this morning and we rose with it. We are still here with the same commitments to justice and equity and—dare we say it?—peace.

Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election. With four states still too close to call, Trump is credited with 278 electoral votes (eight more than needed) and Clinton has 218. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Republican Party held onto its Senate majority in a year most pundits expected Democrats to win all or most of the closely contested seats. The GOP’s House majority has been slightly reduced, but estimates are that the net GOP loss of seats was only five when some thought a switch to Democratic control was possible only a couple of weeks ago. In addition, Republicans netted two additional state governorships, giving them 33, the most in a century.

The consequences that will unfold from this in many of the fields and communities in which we work are as yet unknown, but our imaginations, fed by our on-the-ground knowledge of the realities of our operating environments, already have many of us considering what we must do to protect and even advance the things we value. The truth is it is hard to see what parts of the rhetoric of the campaign will be brought forth, but we do have some control over how we will carry on.

Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede the election and will make a statement later today. President Obama also called in the wee hours and has invited Trump to the White House for a discussion on Thursday. President-elect Trump’s victory speech echoed other victory speeches, calling for unity and promising to be the president for all the people. Given the vitriolic campaign, and especially Trump’s library of speeches, quotes, tweets, and of course the Access Hollywood video, many are skeptical that the sharp-elbowed businessman and reality TV star can achieve the dignity and gravitas to make good on his election night pledges.

So what are nonprofits, especially nonprofits that feel threatened by the potential effects of the recent election, to do?

We have four general thoughts about what nonprofits should do sooner rather than later:

  • Work on your advocacy strategies and capacities. Is your organization able to participate in campaigns to advance ideas and initiatives? Can it protect marginalized people and communities…and its funding? Does the board understand the importance of advocacy even outside of the particular emphasis of your mission? That understanding is crucial to the next point.
  • Be ready to create fluid and active collaborations across identity groups, across causes and fields to protect and advance the health (writ large), prosperity, and voices of the communities we care about.
  • Engage more with your constituents to keep them informed and ready to mobilize. For this step to be effective, make sure that your communication goes both ways and all ways, so you know where you are with them when you get ready to make a move.
  • And, finally and most importantly, remember our work requires that we do more than turtle up in a protective mode. This, arguably, is a system adjustment, and part of our job is to maintain a vision of the communities, nation, and world we all want.

Our workloads will undoubtedly get heavier and our stress levels may skyrocket. Make sure that there is time for getting on the same page internally so that you are nimble and ready for all the threats and opportunities that happen to pass your way over the next four years. This is your job right now. Let’s not think small.

  • Denice Rothman Hinden

    Wise, mobilizing recommendations. Indeed, the bigger picture is so important to keep in our sights.

    • ruth


  • Amy Kincaid

    But first, offer your team a safe space to process together feelings and thinking today. No judgments. But support and listening in preparation for perhaps amended or tougher and deeper, maybe more humble or more inclusive, work starting tomorrow.

  • David M. Patt

    But be practical (we always should have been, but weren’t).

    Don’t advocate for good ideas because we think they are important. Advocate for good ideas because we think most people will share our feelings. Mobilize around concerns that intersect with those of others, even if we don’t think those are the most important issues. Don’t sermonize and don’t assume that we are morally superior to others.

    The new administration will not be ideologically driven. It will do its best not to let anybody know what it is thinking and may abruptly change course on a multitude of issues (perhaps more than once). It will try to keep its adversaries off balance and unable to fashion an effective advocacy strategy.

    We should strive to build a majority by appealing to people’s interests, not by telling them what those interests should be.

  • Raymond Sabb

    Rather than sit around and say nothing, motivate and do something.

  • Frank Monti

    Yes, we are all concerned about the wholesale reversal of Obama executive orders. However, as Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” It is soon going to be evident to all that Obama made a fundamental mistake when he chose to act with his pen and ignore the democratic foundation of this country and go around the law-making system. Obama should have used his position and influence to get laws passed. But he chose the easier avenue, which will eventually result in nothing gained.

    If the basis of President-elect Trump’s position is to restore the rule of law, then our sector’s advocacy must be to refresh our memories of how the government of the people, by the people and for the people actually works and advocate for the rule of law to be the foundation of the policies we believe are right and just. Our advocacy should be to our elected Congressional representatives.

    The Trump presidency may be a blessing in disguise. Only 8 years of executive actions will be overturned. It could have been 16 years of Obama/Clinton executive orders that would be purged some day in the future. Do not lament that this house built on sand is being washed away. Instead, commit yourself to build a house built on the solid foundation that is the law of the land and not merely the wish of a single individual.