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What is ACLU Nebraska?

ACLU Nebraska, founded in 1966 as the Nebraska Civil Liberties Union, is a nonprofit, non-partisan, privately funded organization devoted exclusively to the defense and promotion of the individual rights secured by the U.S. and Nebraska constitutions.  ACLU Nebraska has been a consistent voice for constitutional rights for over 35 years; we are non-profit and entirely supported by membership donations.

ACLU Nebraska is a state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been America's foremost advocate of individual rights, from the "red scare" that led to its creation in 1920, through the book bannings of the 30s, the internment of Japanese Americans in the 40s, the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, to the ongoing struggle to protect a woman's right to choose.

The ACLU is nonpartisan. It believes that the only way to protect freedom is to stand fast for the idea that everyone, no matter how unpopular, has the same rights -- that liberty is preserved only if principle stays ahead of the politics of the moment.  The ACLU has 54 affiliates across the country. In many states, the ACLU is the only organized voice for civil liberties.

What does ACLU Nebraska do?

ACLU Nebraska carries out its mission through litigation, negotiation, lobbying, and education.  We promote laws and policies that will help achieve equality and fairness for all people. We also educate the public, legislators, policy makers and opinion leaders through books, position papers, articles, lectures, and media campaigns.

  • ACLU Nebraska’s Legal Program depends on a dedicated team of volunteer attorneys that meet regularly to review complaints raising civil liberties concerns.  ACLU Nebraska clients have included doctors, students, political and religious protestors, homemakers, prisoners, Senators, and clergy.  Many cases never go to court, however, because they are handled administratively by ACLU Nebraska staff and volunteers.
  • ACLU Nebraska’s Legislative Program is comprised of staff, volunteers and the Bill of Rights Lobby.  Made up of ACLU members, the Lobby writes to and visits with state senators, monitors pending legislation, and provides testimony at public hearings.
  • ACLU Nebraska’s Public Education Program seeks to educate the public through the media, sponsors/hosts events, and provides speakers for schools and community organizations.  If you are interested in having an ACLU speaker at your event, please contact us.

ACLU Nebraska also works with the national ACLU and its projects, which include: Projects on Capital Punishment, Prison and Prisoners’ Rights, Reproductive Freedom, Women’s Rights, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, AIDS issues, Immigrant’s Rights, Arts Censorship, Privacy/Technology issues, and National Security Litigation.

What can’t ACLU Nebraska do?

ACLU Nebraska is a private, non-profit, membership organization that seeks to preserve and extend constitutional rights and civil liberties through participation in legislation, litigation, and community education.  Since the Constitution is designed to protect citizens from government, the ACLU generally becomes involved in cases in which there is action by the government, rather than action by private individuals or companies.  This is not to say that we can handle every complaint about the actions of government officials either.

As we are a small office with limited staff and resources, we must make extremely difficult decisions as to how to allocate our limited resources.  Due to this, ACLU Nebraska does not ordinarily handle criminal cases, divorce/child custody cases, or discrimination cases involving private companies or private individuals.  If you are not certain whether your case presents civil liberties issues, please feel free to write to us with the details of your situation.

Who does the work of ACLU Nebraska?

The membership of ACLU Nebraska elect our Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors decide what civil liberties issues ACLU Nebraska will promote and what cases will be taken to court.  The Board is also responsible for fundraising and hiring the Executive Director.

Most of ACLU Nebraska’s work is carried out by its three person staff, volunteers, and ACLU members.  For example, ACLU Nebraska depends entirely on volunteer attorneys to review complaints and litigate those matters that cannot be resolved administratively.  ACLU Nebraska cooperating attorneys have donated over $90,000 worth of legal services per year.

The complaint intake program is also dependent on volunteers, many of whom are university students.  ACLU Nebraska’s members and volunteers come from all walk of life and professions.  The most important role that volunteers and members can play, however, is being active in the citizens lobby.  ACLU Nebraska encourages all of its members to write or telephone legislators and elected officials on civil liberties issues so that ACLU Nebraska’s voice will be heard loud and clear, and in impressive numbers.

What is the difference between ACLU Nebraska and the ACLU Nebraska Foundation?

ACLU Nebraska actually consists of two entities: a lobbying and membership corporation called ACLU Nebraska, Inc. and the ACLU Nebraska Foundation, Inc., which conducts litigation and public education.  To make things easier, think of the lobbying and membership arm as the "Union" and the litigation/public education arm as the "Foundation."

What is the ACLU Nebraska Foundation?

As stated above, the ACLU Nebraska Foundation is the arm of ACLU Nebraska that conducts litigation and public education in support of civil liberties.  The ACLU Nebraska Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and contributions to it are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.  The “Foundation” is prohibited from using funds to lobby.  As you will read below, membership dues paid to the “Union” are not tax deductible.  A “Foundation” was created to allow our members to make tax deductible contributions towards the defense of civil liberties.

Are my membership dues used to fund litigation and public education?

Very little, if any, of your membership dues fund our litigation and public education programs.  These programs are primarily funded by the Foundation.  Your dues, on the other hand, entirely fund our lobbying and membership growth efforts.  Your dues go into the 501(c)(4) arm of our organization, and are not tax deductible.

How does ACLU Nebraska raise Foundation funds?

The ACLU Nebraska Foundation conducts two annual fundraising campaigns that seek support from individual donors to underwrite the work of the organization.  A large portion of ACLU Nebraska Foundation’s funds are raised during the annual Bill of Rights Campaign.

Funds are also raised during the annual end of the year direct mailing, and from unsolicited contributions.  In the future, the ACLU Nebraska Foundation will also be looking for grant money to fund its litigation and public education program.

What is the Bill of Rights Campaign?

The Bill of Rights Campaign takes place every fall and lasts for approximately one month.  The Campaign is grounded in the firm belief that personal outreach and one on one conversations with members and potential supporters are the most cost effective and friendly way to raise funds.  ACLU Nebraska Board Members meet with individual ACLU members to discuss the state of civil liberties in Nebraska, concerns the member may have, and whether the member will, in addition to paying membership dues to the “Union,” continue to help us defend the Bill of Rights by making a tax deductible contribution to the ACLU Nebraska Foundation.  As a result, ACLU Nebraska maintains strong ties with many of its members and is always informed about their current civil liberties concerns.

How much of my contribution goes toward litigation and public education here in Nebraska?

All contributions to the “Foundation” are shared between the national ACLU Foundation and ACLU Nebraska Foundation according to a financial formula.  Traditionally, this formula allows small affiliates like ACLU Nebraska to keep 100% of the money raised by campaigns like our Bill of Rights Campaign.  Furthermore, under this formula ACLU Nebraska receives a subsidy from the national ACLU covering most of ACLU Nebraska’s staff salaries.  Thus, almost all of your donation to the ACLU Nebraska Foundation is used to fund litigation and public education directly.

Ways of giving to the ACLU Nebraska Foundation

ACLU Nebraska Foundation and the ACLU Nebraska Foundation are as strong as our volunteers and donors make it.  Every lawsuit and public education activity is the direct result of the participation and gifts of people who care about the Bill of Rights.  You can contribute to the Bill of Rights’ protection in any of the following ways:

  • Cash or Check: We are pleased to accept your donation at any time.  Monthly, quarterly, or annual pledges are welcome.
  • Community Service Fund (workplace giving): Many businesses in Lincoln take part in the annual United Way/CHAD Community Service Fund (CSF) joint campaign.  ACLU Nebraska is a member of the Community Service Fund, and donations can be made directly to ACLU Nebraska through the CSF joint campaign.  Call the ACLU Nebraska office to find out whether your place of employment is part of the CSF campaign or if you want information on how to get your employer involved with the CSF campaign.
  • Insurance:  You may choose to name the ACLU Nebraska Foundation or ACLU Nebraska as a primary or secondary beneficiary of an insurance policy.
  • Bequests:  In your will or revocable trust you can designate ACLU Nebraska or the ACLU Nebraska Foundation as beneficiary.
  • Gift Annuities: By donating cash or securities, you can receive income on the gift for your lifetime, while still providing support for the ACLU Nebraska Foundation in the future.  Tax advantages can be substantial, depending on your individual situation.
  • Charitable Trusts: Charitable trusts can be arranged to benefit the ACLU Nebraska while providing tax advantages and a variety of financial planning options to you and your family.

The national ACLU currently has two programs that benefit both the ACLU and ACLU Nebraska.  The DeSilver Society is the ACLU’s planned giving program.  The Trust for the Bill of Rights is the new endowment program that will give ACLU and ACLU Nebraska the ability to protect the Bill of Rights far into the future.  For information regarding these programs, contact us.

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New Website In Progress

There is a glitch that directs some users to a different website. We are sorry for any confusion. Thankfully, a new website is currently in development and should be ready before fall of 2015.

ACLU Member Card

The need has never been greater for freedom-loving people to support the ACLU. By making a gift today, you can make sure that ACLU Nebraska has the resources it needs to continue to fight for all of our freedoms. Donate now!

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