News and analysis
March 24, 2017
Updated March 28, 2017

Where Should Trump Donate His Salary? Disease Charities Get the Big Win

Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump has promised to donate his $400,000 salary as president. Where might it go? The answer isn’t likely to come until the end of the year, but Mr. Trump won’t lack for suggestions. In an informal online survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than 21,000 people nominated a charity to receive his donation. The top vote-getter: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the 62-year-old nonprofit working to find treatments and a cure for the genetic disease affecting some 30,000 Americans.

Survey participants also showed strong support for other disease-research organizations, veterans groups, and a few fierce opponents of White House policies. Some, like Cystic Fibrosis, are brand-name fundraising giants. Others are mom-and-pop organizations whose small followings turned out big online.

The Chronicle today forwarded to the White House and the White House Correspondents’ Association the names of the 10 charities that received the most survey votes. Mr. Spicer previously said he wants the White House press corps to help select the charity or charities to receive Mr. Trump’s donation.

The Top Ten

  1. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  2. Planned Parenthood
  3. Kruz’n for a Kure (aims to find a cure for a rare genetic disorder that weakens the immune system and can lead to kidney disease and early death)
  4. Cherubs (promotes awareness, support, and research for a rare birth defect affecting the diaphragm)
  5. Cure Sanfilippo Foundation (supports research and treatments for a neurodegenerative disorder that causes Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in young children)
  6. Saratoga WarHorse Foundation (treats military veterans with PTSD using horses)
  7. American Civil Liberties Union
  8. Rett Syndrome Research Trust (funds research into a neurological disorder that affects young girls and can lead to death later in life)
  9. Semper Fi Fund (supports military veterans wounded since 9/11)
  10. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The Chronicle put out the call for nominations to its readers, who include nonprofit leaders, philanthropists, and executives at private foundations and corporate philanthropic efforts. Some charities promoted the weeklong survey through social media, as did notable individuals such as the movie director and frequent charity celebrity Judd Apatow; the actor Connie Britton of the television show Nashville; New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who frequently writes about nonprofit work; and Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, who last year investigated Mr. Trump’s claims of charitable giving.

Laurie Fink, a spokeswoman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, says the organization did not promote the survey but that many of its volunteers participated.

"We thank everyone who took the time to nominate our organization," she says.

Politics at Work

Thousands of organizations were nominated through the survey, which counted only one vote per email address.

The results speak in part to today’s polarized political environment. Among the top 10 in the survey were Planned Parenthood, whose federal funding the president has threatened to cut, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which has promoted to donors its fight against Trump administration policies.

In recent weeks, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation advocates spent time lobbying on Capitol Hill against what it described as "the likely significant and life-threatening consequences of the American Health Care Act on millions of patients."

Other groups in the top 10 have close ties to the president. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a favorite charity of Mr. Trump’s son Eric, who has raised and pledged at least $16 million for the hospital through his personal foundation.

At least one group in the top 10 appealed for votes directly to the president and his supporters. Saratoga WarHorse Foundation — which arranges for military veterans suffering from trauma-related illnesses to work with horses as part of their treatment — tweeted about the survey several times.

The group has only 350 followers, but one of those tweets was directed to the president’s personal Twitter handle, @realdonaldtrump, which has more than 27 million followers. It said, "PLEASEEEE VOTE NOW."

Fighting Little-Known Diseases

The survey results also speak to the variety of nonprofits backed by Americans. Many of the organizations are large groups that regularly appear on The Chronicle’Philanthropy 400, which ranks America’s nonprofits based on the amount they raise from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

Four groups among the survey’s top 10 vote-getters, meanwhile, are relatively small organizations focused on little-known diseases that affect children. Cherubs, which promotes awareness, support, and research for a rare birth defect affecting the diaphragm, hired its second full-time staff member last year.

"We’re a group run by moms and dads and grandparents and survivors," says Dawn Ireland, founder of the 22-year-old organization. She says it helps 6,100 families a year on a $200,000 budget.

Kruz’n for a Cure Foundation is a months-old charity begun by Kyle and Jessica Davenport. Their two children, Kruz, 3, and Paizlee, 2, both have an extremely rare genetic disorder that weakens the immune system and leads to kidney disease and early death.

Mr. Davenport, a machinist with a small manufacturer, and Ms. Davenport, a dental hygienist, are raising money on their own to pay for the children’s medical care, she says. They started the charity to fund research toward a cure.

The couple so far has put up $250,000 to help Stanford immunologist David Lewis establish a research center to study the disease. Dr. Lewis says such funding is hard to come by, as probably only 50 families are affected worldwide.

"It’s kind of miraculous how much they’ve done," he says. "And it’s all on their own."

Ms. Davenport says much of the money they have raised has come from families in their hometown of Muscle Shoals, Ala. She’s now working at her job only limited hours while caring for the children and raising money.

"This is my full-time job — just trying to save my kids," she says.

Send an e-mail to Drew Lindsay.