A charity installed pink flamingos on our lawn, ordered by an anonymous donor. We have an unstable stalker-like person in our lives and we are concerned that she might have ordered them to show that she “knows where we live.” We feel in danger. They also installed these flamingos on rods into our lawn without our consent. Our underground sprinkler system could have been damaged. The organization refuses to divulge the donor’s name, claiming protection under their 501(c)(3) status. Can we demand disclosure under the Freedom for Information Act?
You have no rights under a Freedom of Information Act because those acts apply only to governmental entities and not to an ordinary 501(c)(3) charity. The charity is also correct that it has no obligation to disclose its donors to the public. Like 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that dump a lot of “dark money” into political campaigns, charities are protected by law from having to disclose the names of their donors. There is also a generally recognized ethical duty to protect the identity of donors who don’t want their donations to be disclosed.
This case is different, however, because they apparently acknowledged a donation by trespassing on your property, violating your space and at least minimally damaging your property. A threat to bad-mouth the organization may convince them that the law does not prohibit them from disclosing a donor’ identity and that the general ethical duty of confidentiality may not apply to a donor who may be using the gift to torment a third party.
If that suggestion doesn’t cause the charity to divulge the name, a suit for damages (which might be hard to prove) or for an injunction to prevent it from happening again (which the charity might be able to moot by agreeing not to do it again) might give you the opportunity to learn the identity of your tormenter through discovery. You will have to decide whether it would be worth the time and money to litigate to try to learn who did it, particularly considering what you would do with the information if you got it.