Jimmy Fallon is not alone: 'Rage giving' fuels record fundraising for immigrant children

Jessica Guynn
Donald Trump during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 11, 2015 -- 
NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Dahlia Adler Fisch says she has donated hundreds of dollars in the past week to organizations all over the country helping children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

These small acts of armchair resistance are a release valve for pent-up feelings of helplessness, despair and fury with the Trump administration, Fisch says. Tapping a button to donate to a nonprofit on the front lines makes her feel, at least for a moment, more involved and more in control.

"I find sadness debilitating. It doesn't help anyone. But giving really does. It takes away that powerlessness," says Fisch, a 34-year-old author of young adult books from New York. “All I know is that every time I get mad, I do it again.”

This “rage giving” is fueling a viral Facebook campaign, which by Sunday had topped $20 million in donations for immigrant families swept up in the border crisis. "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon joined in late Sunday, responding to a critical tweet from President Trump by saying he'd make a donation in Trump's name to Texas-based immigration charity RAICES.

Read more from USA Today:

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This new form of political protest took off in the tense aftermath of Trump’s election. Progressives began throwing money at causes such as women’s rights, climate change and immigration advocacy to express their bottled-up frustration with the administration’s policies.

Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy that triggered an international outcry is the latest iteration of rage giving, says Elizabeth Dale, assistant professor of nonprofit leadership at Seattle University.

Individuals who feel like there is nothing else they can do research, donate and promote organizations to send a political message.

"Donating is more than just being outraged on social media, or among friends and family. It is tangible, it’s something that people can do, often without much personal cost to themselves," Dale said. "There is a psychological effect to charitable giving – the idea that I can do something, even if it’s contributing a $50 or $100 gift – that can alleviate feelings of guilt, or demonstrate a person’s morals and values. By giving on Facebook or sharing that you made a gift on social media, we demonstrate our values to others."

The surge in donations has contributed to record charitable giving, with a sharp rise in individual donors, particularly Democrats, expressing their frustration not at the polls, protest marches or by calling representatives, but by reaching for their wallets.

It helps that it never has been easier to “rage give.” Facebook and other online services make it simple to make a donation in a couple of minutes.

Rage giving has begun to transform the nonprofit landscape. Traditionally, most donors give in response to fundraising requests. Now they are pouring out their generosity to organizations outside their home cities and states.

"Ever since Trump's election, we've seen a wave of activism that consistently breaks records of activists engaged and money raised,” says Brian Young, executive director of Action Network, which provides digital tools to nonprofits. "But what has happened over the last few days has been more than anything we've seen so far."

In the largest single fundraiser ever on Facebook, a Silicon Valley couple has raised millions of dollars from tens of thousands of people to reunite immigrant parents with their children.

Last month, the Trump administration enacted its "zero tolerance” policy, which charges nearly everyone crossing the border without authorization with a federal misdemeanor.

Facing a growing backlash, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to keep migrant families together at the border. By then, more than 220,000 people pushed the total over $12 million, surpassing all expectations for the Facebook fundraiser set up by Charlotte and Dave Willner.

Their efforts to aid families split up at the border struck a raw nerve with the American public, leading to a viral movement on Facebook to fund a nonprofit in Texas. In the span of 13 hours alone, people gave $4 million, with donations streaming in from all over the country and the world. And the fundraising pace shows no signs of slowing down as public outrage over the border crisis grows.

"My son is safe in my arms. I don't worry about him being taken from me," one donor wrote. "I donate with a hope and prayer that I never have to."

"Sending whatever resources I can and prayers from Japan," wrote another. "Our hearts go out to you, America, during this dark and confusing time."

Fisch traces her rage giving to election night in November 2016. She says she was a couple months pregnant at the time.

"Many of us who gave birth for the first time after the election went through months of guilt and disbelief at what we brought our children into," she said. "We thought we were bringing our children into the age of the first female president."

Frustration over the Trump administration's response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands plunged her into rage giving. She and other children's authors banded together, raising $200,000 for Puerto Rico and $100,000 for the Virgin Islands. She also supports classroom projects through

The images, sounds and descriptions of traumatized children separated from their parents sparked her latest rage-giving binge.

"All of these stories are so rage-inducing," Fisch said. "Every time I click the 'give' button, it makes me feel like I'm doing something to help. There is also an element of selfishness. It's doing something for yourself before you explode."