Non-profit

Children’s Defense Fund

Website:

www.childrensdefense.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-0895622

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $19,095,858
Expenses: $19,117,496
Assets: $28,083,457

The Children’s Defense Fund is a left-of-center organization that works to increase the size of government and expand the welfare state. The organization focuses on increasing government spending on education, health care, and day care programs for American children. [1] CDF also supports other left-of-center priorities such as restricting firearms ownership and anti-racism advocacy. [2]

The CDF operates a series of schools called Freedom Schools which operate every summer all across the country. The schools are used to turn children and young people from low income and disadvantaged groups into political activists. [3] In 2020, the Freedom Schools held a nationwide virtual rally to encourage voters to turn out and vote in that year’s elections. The children who took part in the rally discussed issues they would like to see addressed. [4]

The CDF also has state affiliates in many states all over the country. [5]

Overview

The Children’s Defense Fund was established in 1973 by attorney Marian Wright Edelman. Edelman had previously worked with civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Poor People’s Campaign. [6]

The CDF began advocating for an expanded welfare state in order to benefit children. CDF officials argued that most of society would regard programs that predominately benefited children as sacrosanct and once the welfare state was expanded it would never be taken away. [7]

The CDF believed that American society had to change how it treated children. It envisioned federally-funded programs that would save at-risk youth from poverty, abuse, scholastic failure, incarceration, and other maladies that effect young Americans. [8]

In 2000, the CDF and Edelman were criticized for having the wrong view on what caused child poverty. Edelman and the CDF believed that racism and greed were the main contributors to poverty. They were criticized for ignoring other factors such as the lack of a father. [9]

In addition to advocating for an expanded welfare state, the CDF advocates for restrictions on firearms ownership. Among the things that it advocates for are expanded background checks, restricting access to firearms for more people, banning commonly owned semi-automatic weapons, and other restrictions on gun ownership. [10]

The CDF has affiliates in most states that advocate for expanded government on the state level. [11]

Activism

The CDF’s main activist project is movement building. The primary means of movement building is through the CDF’s Freedom Schools. The Freedom Schools are created to give low income and other disadvantaged kids summer school. [12]

The Freedom Schools help turn these students into activists. In 2020, the CDF’s Freedom Schools held a virtual rally that helped encourage people to come out to vote in that year’s elections. The children in attendance were encouraged to make signs about issues that they cared about. [13]

Leadership

Starsky Wilson is the president and CEO of the CDF. He took over the position from its founder in 2020. Previously, he was president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation. He is the board chair of the left-wing National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and an advisor to the Democracy Fund. [14]

Kristal Moore Clemons is the national director of the CDF Freedom Schools. [15]

Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president emerita of the CDF. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Poor People’s Campaign and founded the CDF in 1973. She retired as president in December 2020. [16]

Angela Glover Blackwell is the chairwoman of the board. [17]

Finances

According to the 2019 tax returns, the CDF took in $17.9 million in revenue and spent $20.3 million in expenses. It has $31 million in assets. [18]

The largest expense was $9.9 million spent on youth leadership development to encourage young people to advocate for a larger welfare state and racial issues. [19]

It spent $4.2 million on policy advocacy. [20]

It spent $2 million on the CDF’s Freedom Schools. [21]

In July 2021, Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett donated $20 million to CDF. Scott’s donation is the single largest donation CDF has ever received, and it makes her and Jewett the second most generous donors to CDF since its founding. CDF’s vice president for strategy and program, Sheri Brady, said that “This investment will help strengthen public policy and community organizing at state and national levels through efforts like our signature CDF Freedom Schools.” CDF plans to use the funds for multi-year campaigns over the next few years leading up to its 50th Anniversary in 2023. [22]

References

  1. “Children’S Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  2. “Gun Violence Prevention”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/policy-priorities/gun-violence-prevention/. ^
  3. Elliott, Debbie. 2019. “Children’s Defense Fund Trains New Activists”. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/02/747504742/childrens-defense-fund-trains-new-activists. ^
  4. Gibbs, Audrey. 2020. “The Children’s Defense Fund Calls Voters To Action”. Ms. Magazine. https://msmagazine.com/2020/08/05/the-childrens-defense-fund-calls-voters-to-action/. ^
  5. “Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  6. “Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  7. “Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  8. “Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  9. Hymowitz, Kay. 2000. “The Children’s Defense Fund: Not Part Of The Solution”. City Journal. https://www.city-journal.org/html/children%E2%80%99s-defense-fund-not-part-solution-12160.html. ^
  10. “Gun Violence Prevention”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/policy-priorities/gun-violence-prevention/. ^
  11. “Children’S Defense Fund (CDF)”. 2021. Discover The Networks. Accessed May 17. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/childrens-defense-fund-cdf. ^
  12. Elliott, Debbie. 2019. “Children’s Defense Fund Trains New Activists”. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/02/747504742/childrens-defense-fund-trains-new-activists. ^
  13. Gibbs, Audrey. 2020. “The Children’s Defense Fund Calls Voters To Action”. Ms. Magazine. https://msmagazine.com/2020/08/05/the-childrens-defense-fund-calls-voters-to-action/. ^
  14. “Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/staff/rev-dr-starsky-wilson/. ^
  15. “Kristal Moore Clemons”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/staff/kristal-moore-clemons/. ^
  16. “Marian Wright Edelman”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/staff/marian-wright-edelman/. ^
  17. “Board Of Directors”. 2021. Children’s Defense Fund. Accessed May 17. https://www.childrensdefense.org/about/leadership-and-staff/board-of-directors/. ^
  18. Form 990. 2019. Ebook. Children’s Defense Fund. https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Childrens-Defense-Fund-2019-IRS-Form-990.pdf. ^
  19. Form 990. 2019. Ebook. Children’s Defense Fund. https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Childrens-Defense-Fund-2019-IRS-Form-990.pdf. ^
  20. Form 990. 2019. Ebook. Children’s Defense Fund. https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Childrens-Defense-Fund-2019-IRS-Form-990.pdf. ^
  21. Form 990. 2019. Ebook. Children’s Defense Fund. https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Childrens-Defense-Fund-2019-IRS-Form-990.pdf. ^
  22. San Martin, Beki. “Children’s Defense Fund Receives $20 Million From MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.” Children’s Defense Fund, June 15, 2021. https://www.childrensdefense.org/2021/childrens-defense-fund-receives-20-million-from-mackenzie-scott-and-dan-jewett/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: September - August
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 1969

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $19,095,858 $19,117,496 $28,083,457 $14,195,179 Y $15,477,736 $3,511,807 $447,626 $838,682
    2015 Dec Form 990 $17,882,033 $21,527,532 $27,749,303 $13,864,391 Y $14,793,185 $3,091,514 $453,849 $509,007 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $19,024,291 $21,639,751 $31,911,729 $13,834,507 Y $13,711,498 $3,034,741 $398,761 $602,797 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $21,338,231 $22,048,162 $35,047,275 $14,238,606 Y $15,333,978 $3,192,401 $342,864 $536,140 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $18,662,098 $21,692,230 $36,090,223 $14,775,296 Y $13,257,744 $5,260,171 $278,230 $1,287,285 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $16,417,348 $20,472,958 $35,079,240 $11,584,397 Y $11,067,117 $2,524,984 $367,120 $603,004 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Children’s Defense Fund

    25 E ST NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20001-1522