Following the election of Donald Trump and, most recently, the president’s ban on immigration from seven countries, the American Civil Liberties Union has received a surge in financial support from those in opposition to his policies. This past weekend alone, the ACLU received $24 million in online donations — six times more than its annual average, The Washington Post reports.
Now, it appears the organization is looking to startup accelerator Y Combinator to help turn some of its new funding into progress. In a blog post, Y Combinator president Sam Altman says the ACLU will be joining the Winter 2017 class and is expected to present at its biannual Demo Day in March.
“The ACLU has always been important, but has a particularly important role right now,” Altman wrote. “We are honored to be able to help, and we will send some of our team to New York for the rest of the batch to assist.”
The ACLU joining Y Combinator is both interesting and bizarre. On one hand, it will give the organization the opportunity to network with other Silicon Valley companies, grow its influencer base, and receive mentorship on how to use its new funding to effectively induce change. On the other, Peter Thiel — a Trump supporter — is a part-time Y Combinator advisor, and ACLU donors are concerned with the accelerator’s continued relationship with Thiel given his role in the current administration. Altman has stated that he will not cut ties with Thiel because diversity of opinion is “critical.”
The ACLU is a successful organization that has been around for decades — it joining a startup bootcamp is an unusual but timely move to work more closely with the tech industry that has, for the most part, rejected President Trump’s immigration policy. Y Combinator has mentored nonprofit organizations since 2013, including The Detroit Water Project, CodeNow, and DemocracyOS.