"Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, and primarily pro-con format.”
2. 1-Minute Overview
ProCon.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit nonpartisan public charity that provides well-sourced pro, con, and related research on more than 50 controversial issues, from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy. With more than 12,000 pages of highly curated, referenced content, ProCon.org provides a platform for people to question information, evaluate opposing views, and debate them in a respectful way.
Our innovative, digital education website has become a leading source for unbiased information and civic education for students, educators, legislators, journalists and the general public. In 2015, we had more than 23 million unique users, and we continue to grow. (See our Traffic page for more information) We rank among the top 5 Google search results for hundreds of terms including medical marijuana, Cuba embargo, death penalty, and many other topics.
As readers consider well-sourced opposing positions on controversial topics on our various websites, they use critical thinking to formulate their own views. No matter whether they are ultimately "pro” or "con” an issue they are empowered with facts, perspectives, and references.
ProCon.org is FREE of charge, requires no registration, and has been used by educators in more than 7,500 schools in all 50 states and in 87 foreign countries. (See our Teachers’ Corner for resources and more information.)
For the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections, we created nonpartisan voter information websites that attracted millions of users (including a candidate matching quiz that attracted 600,000 people). The New York Times ("Great Free Websites for Teaching Election 2012," Sept. 5, 2012) hailed our election site as: "The most comprehensive teaching tool for researching the candidate’s stance on issues." (See our Testimonials page for more information.)
ProCon.org has been referenced by 34 US state governments, 17 US state departments of education, 23 foreign governments and 22 US federal agencies, including the US Department of Labor which cited our gay marriage state laws resource in its Feb. 25, 2015, Final Rule regarding the definition of "spouse" under the Family Medical Leave Act in light of the US Supreme Court’s decision striking down portions of DOMA. (See our Metrics page for more information.)
We are entirely donor supported. In 2016, Guidestar gave ProCon.org its highest rating, Platinum, for our commitment to transparency, and Great Nonprofits declared ProCon.org a "Top-Rated Nonprofit" for the 6th year in a row. (See our Donors & Sponsors page for more information.)
Our annual calendar reports include a message from our Chairman, financial information, and details of ProCon.org's major accomplishments for the year. The 990 reports are the required filings we submit to the IRS annually. The IRS spells ProCon.org as Procon Org because it does not accept dots in business names.
6. History & Highlights of ProCon.org, July 12, 2004 - Present
May 16, 2016
ProCon.org was declared a "Top-Rated Nonprofit" by Great Nonprofits for the 6th year in a row.
May 9, 2016
Guidestar awarded ProCon.org its highest level of recognition, Platinum, for our "commitment to transparency."
Guidestar is the nation's largest charity evaluation organization.
Nov. 13, 2015
At the invitation of the National Council for the Social Studies, we made a presentation at their annual conference on "Using Election Issues to Teach Civic Participation." The conference was the year’s largest gathering of social studies teachers in the United States.
Oct. 13, 2015
Dr. Michelle Herczog, Past President of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and Vice-Chair of the California Instructional Quality Commission, joined the ProCon.org Board of Directors.
Sep. 20, 2015
We were invited to conduct a 1-hour professional development seminar for high school teachers at the Ronald Reagan Library’s Constitution Day. The seminar was titled "Using the 2016 Presidential Election to Teach Critical Thinking and Civic Engagement."
July 29, 2015
Our presentation was accepted and we gave a lecture to scholars at the 35th International Conference on Critical Thinking in Berkeley, CA, on the topic "Using Election Issues to Teach Critical Thinking and Civic Participation."
July 27, 2015
We presented our critical thinking seminar for the 7th consecutive year at UCLA to Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) students attending the Gene Burd Symposium on Politics.
June 25, 2015
At the invitation of Mikva Challenge, we attended the "New Civics Practitioners Conference" in Chicago on June 25, 2015 and served as a panelist for two sessions called "Elections in Action – Making Elections a Dynamic Learning Experience for Youth."
Mar. 7, 2015
At the invitation of the California Council for the Social Studies, we attended their March 7, 2015 annual conference in Oakland, CA, and jointly presented, with Junior Statesmen of America, a session entitled "Don’t Hate. Debate!"
Feb. 25, 2015
ProCon.org was referenced by the US Department of Labor (DOL) in its Final Rule revising the definition of "spouse" under the Family Medical Leave Act in light of the US Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision, which found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. The Rule, published in the Federal Register (vol. 80, no. 37), stated that the DOL found it unnecessary to include the status of gay marriage laws in the 50 states on its website because reliable data was already available from ProCon.org.
Oct. 8, 2014
For the first time, ProCon.org decided to bring its unique brand of voter education to local elections, starting with Santa Monica, California. The Local Elections website from ProCon.org gathers opinions from candidates for the Santa Monica City Council, School Board, and College Board on many important community issues. Visitors were able to read about each candidate, click on an issue to read candidate position statements, and take the candidate matching quiz to see which candidate best matched their views. 5,025 people visited the Local Elections website to help them decide which candidates to support. The margins of victory in the three races covered by ProCon.org were 586 votes (City Council), 264 votes (School Board), and 633 (College Board). The Local Elections website was created as part of a collaboration with the Santa Monica Daily Press.
Sep. 26, 2014
ProCon.org participated in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 44th annual legislative conference. Kamy Akhavan represented ProCon.org on the 6-person panel to discuss "Teacher Tenure: Education or Politics?" The panel was hosted by the American Federation of Teachers.
Sep. 15, 2014
Jay Rakow succeeds Steve Markoff to become new CEO of ProCon.org. Mr. Rakow previously served as President of The Lincy Foundation, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Paramount Pictures, Senior Executive Vice President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at Cornell University Law School.
July 28, 2014
ProCon.org presented its 6th annual critical thinking seminar to high school students attending the Junior Statesmen of America’s "2014 Gene Burd Institute on L.A. Media and Politics” at UCLA. Also, for the 6th year in a row, the ProCon.org seminar was selected by the students as their favorite presentation of the week-long workshop.
July 12, 2014
Happy 10th anniversary, ProCon.org! Our little operation that started on July 12, 2004 with six topics and big aspirations has become America’s leading provider of free pro and con research on controversial issues with 50 topics and more in development. Thank you to the more than 70 million people who have visited ProCon.org over the last 10 years and helped us promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship. See our 10th anniversary page for more.
June 17, 2014
Phil Magaram and Michael Klein are officially voted onto the ProCon.org Board of Directors. Their impressive backgrounds and extensive experience add to the strength of our organization. Welcome aboard.
June 2, 2014
ProCon.org was nominated for the 2014 Los Angeles Business Journal Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards in two categories, Nonprofit Organization of the Year (Small) and Nonprofit Team of the Year. Thank you for the kind recognition.
May 8, 2014
Educators in over 5,000 schools have used ProCon.org. Our free resources have been used by teachers, librarians, and administrators in all 50 states and 66 countries (the latest was Egypt). The breakdown is 1,229 elementary and middle schools (24.6%), 2,547 high schools (50.9%), and 1,226 colleges and universities (24.5%). THANK YOU to the educators, our partners in promoting critical thinking, who helped us reach this milestone achievement.
Dec. 30, 2013
We surpassed 60 million unique visitors and launched 50 pro-con websites since we started in 2004. To celebrate, we announced this milestone achievement in a national press release and a Times Square billboard. We also had 138.5 million pageviews and 2.7 billion hits since 2004.
Dec. 2, 2013
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Minority Television Project v. FCC referenced our headline article, "ProCon.org and Pivot.tv Join Forces on Critical Thinking Campaign” and linked to ProCon.org. It was our first reference in a circuit court ruling.
Dec. 2, 2013
ProCon.org and the Rehabilitation Foundation for Disabled Persons, U.S. held a celebrity golf tournament fundraiser on Dec. 2, 2013 at the Calabasas Country Club. Celebrity participants included former NHL player Marty McSorley, former MLB player Royce Clayton, former NFL player Hank Baskett and his wife, reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson, senior golf pro Steve Pate, former NBA player Norm Nixon, and actors Patrick Warburton, Alan Thicke, Anthony Anderson, Ryan Merriman, Sheila Shah, Stephen Bishop, Chris Rich, Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Paula Trickey, Josh Morrow, and Kato Kaelin. See dozens of photos from our successful event.
ProCon.org participated in the Junior Statesmen of America’s "2013 Gene A. Burd Institute on L.A. Media and Politics” for the fifth year in a row. Our 2-hour critical thinking seminar on social networking was called "phenomenal” and "fabulous” by participating students. After analyzing pro/con statements, brainstorming pro and con arguments, discussing both statements and arguments in small groups and as one large group, and conducting additional exercises to stimulate critical thinking, 15% of the students changed their minds about social networking and 100% of the students felt engaged and stimulated by the seminar.
July 12-13, 2013
ProCon.org exhibited at the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) conference in Torrance, CA. The collective attention to critical thinking and informed citizenship was impressive.
July 10, 2013
Guidestar, the nation's largest charity evaluation organization awarded ProCon.org the Gold Participant recognition, its highest honor. ProCon.org achieved the Silver Level of participation at Guidestar on July 1, 2013, for our "commitment to transparency.” ProCon.org had achieved the Bronze Level of participation on June 27, 2013.
Mar. 2, 2013
ProCon.org and the March of Dimes Canada held a celebrity golf tournament on March 2, 2013 at the Desert Dunes Golf Club in Desert Hot Springs, California to raise money for our nonprofit organizations. It was our first ever fundraising event. See dozens of our celebrity golf tournament photos or watch the celebrity golf tournament videos on our YouTube channel.
Jan. 17, 2013
A panel of prominent film celebrities and education leaders judged 1-2 minute student videos on the theme "Why I Love ProCon.org,” and their winners in the ProCon.org national student video contest were announced. Watch seven wonderful student films about ProCon.org.
ProCon.org was one of 500 national nonprofits invited by the Laura & John Arnold Foundation to participate in their Giving Library project. The result, launched on Aug. 14, 2012, was a high-end video production explaining ProCon.org, our origin, our strengths, our funding needs, etc. Thank you to the Laura & John Arnold Foundation for generously funding the production and related expenses.
The Library of Congress (LOC) announced that it was going to archive ProCon.org for having "materials of historical importance to the Congress and the American people to foster education and scholarship.” ProCon.org had been partially archived by the LOC on April 20, 2008, and this time they opted to archive all of our content.
Apr. 25, 2012
Great Nonprofits awarded ProCon.org its "Top-Rated 2012" designation.
Great Nonprofits awarded ProCon.org its "Top-Rated 2011" designation for the large volume of positive reader reviews we received.
Oct. 25, 2011
As of today, over 50,000 people have signed up for ProCon.org email updates.
ProCon.org was highlighted in the Congressional Record when Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) honored ProCon.org by reading a glowing statement about the organization on the floor of the US House of Representatives. His statement said in part: "It is my distinct pleasure to honor the staff of ProCon.org and wish them continued successes in their service to the American public. Their unbiased and truthful presentation makes a tremendous contribution to the political system." Read the entire statement here.
June 17, 2011
A division of the American Library Association (ALA) voted ProCon.org as one the Top 25 Free Reference Websites of 2011. Other winners included TED, Wikileaks, and Google Translate. The Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of ALA recognized outstanding reference sites on the World Wide Web. ProCon.org thanks the reference librarians who voted and who have supported our work over the years.
May 19, 2011
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, California’s highest elected education official, sent us a wonderful testimonial and offered to notify educators throughout the state about ProCon.org. He wrote:
"I’m pleased to encourage California educators to add www.procon.org to the tools they use to help students learn more about important issues and develop their critical thinking skills. I have used www.procon.org personally and recommend that California teachers and librarians take advantage of this great - and free -educational resource.”
ProCon.org added an interactive comments feature allowing readers to share their pro and con opinions about ProCon.org issues with millions of other people, and vote on, reply to, or read already posted comments.
Apr. 7, 2011
President Kamy Akhavan represented ProCon.org at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education’s (NCRE) annual conference as an expert panelist on medical marijuana. Dr. Ilana Lehman of the University of Massachusetts at Boston led the panel discussion.
Dec. 31, 2010
In 2010, ProCon.org surpassed over 10 million website sessions in one year for the first time in its history. The new annual record of 10,322,703 sessions exceeded the former record of 6,523,545 sessions set in 2009 by 3,799,158 sessions - a 58% increase.
Dec. 7, 2010
Kamy Akhavan, Managing Editor of ProCon.org, also becomes President of ProCon.org.
Sep. 24, 2010
We added the "Cite" button to all ProCon.org pages so readers can get any ProCon.org page's bibliographic or endnote citation according to the Modern Language Association Style Manual (MLA), the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), and Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian) - four of the most popular bibliographic protocols.
July 23, 2010
For the first time, ProCon.org was the subject of a peer-reviewed scientific study. Max-Planck Institute for Informatics researchers published the study "Language-Model-based Pro/Con Classification of Political Text” in the Proceedings of the 33rd International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval. The paper basically concluded that pros and cons work well to classify controversial political topics.
Apr. 22, 2010
Managing Editor Kamy Akhavan represented ProCon.org as an expert panelist in one of the first ever Continuing Medical Education (CME) classes on medical marijuana in the United States. The session titled "What Physicians Should Know About Medical Marijuana” was organized by emarc Network, held at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, approved by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), and attended by dozens of physicians.
Apr. 1, 2010
ProCon.org Surpasses One Million Monthly Sessions in March 2010 - the first time we have received over a million sessions in a month. The new record of 1,026,399 sessions marked a 90% increase in traffic over Mar. 2009 and an 88% increase for the first three months of 2010 over the first three months of 2009. We are thrilled that so many teachers, students and others are finding our free and unbiased content so useful.
Mar. 27, 2010
The San Diego Science Festival donated a double booth to ProCon.org, and we created an interactive exhibit of pros and cons on two featured topics: whether obesity is a disease and whether social networking sites are good for society. About 500-600 people participated in our interactive booth including students, teachers, scientists, parents, and others. Check out some photos from the event to see how much critical thinking took place in our booth.
Feb. 5, 2010
As of today, ProCon.org has been used by over 1,000 schools in 26 countries and all 50
US states. We are thrilled to have 176 elementary and middle schools, 435 high schools, and 398 colleges and universities using the free nonpartisan research we provide to stimulate critical thinking.
Nov. 2, 2009
ProCon.org needed one more state,
North Dakota, to have its content referenced by schools in all 50 US states. On Nov. 2, 2009, we learned that the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) included a link to ProCon.org from its library page to "help students in Writing and Communications classes at NDSCS, with links to useful resources related to class assignments.” ProCon.org is now used by schools in all 50 states and at least 17 countries.
Guidestar, one of the largest information services about nonprofits in the US, declared ProCon.org a "Valued Partner” and one of its "Partners in Trust” because of the amount of information about ProCon.org that we had made publicly available.
ProCon.org celebrated its 5-year anniversary with a party for supporters and friends from 4-7 pm in our Santa Monica office. We also held five anniversary contests and awarded winners over $500 in cash and prizes. See photos and video from the party, find out who won the contests, and read highlights and reflections from our first five years on ProCon.org's Five Year Anniversary page.
July 14, 2009
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell met with ProCon.org’s founder Steve Markoff. After the meeting, California’s highest elected education official Tweeted:
"Just met with the founder of procon.org. It's a great resource that breaks down hot button issues with quality, sourced info… The best part about procon.org is the entire web site is free to use... no registration necessary. If you’re in ed, check it out... a quality resource for controversial issues...”
Apr. 20 and 21, 2009
ProCon.org’s Managing Editor was invited to serve on two panels ("The Future of Online Debate and Dialogue” and "Collaborative Politics Online: Principles, Pitfalls and Practical Advice”) at the Politics Online national conference in Washington, DC. A video excerpt of the latter panel is available here. It was ProCon.org’s first time participating as an invited speaker at a national conference.
Mar. 20, 2009
Released the first ProCon.org email update newsletter for free to over 1,200 opt-in recipients.
Feb. 12, 2009
ProCon.org passes the 100 mark for number of times our sites have been referenced in the media.
Feb. 2, 2009
ProCon.org was honored to receive the "Best Non-Profit to Work For" award in a national competition. ProCon.org was one of five winners in its class of "non-profits with an operating budget of under $2.5 million." There were 15 winners total. There are roughly 1,000,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States.
May 14, 2008
ProCon.org is referenced in official government legislation for the first time (that we know of). The Northern Marianas Commonwealth issued a formal legislative recommendation from the House of Representative’s Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations that cited a case summary from our aclu.procon.org website.
May 9, 2008
Referenced seven times by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) - the largest organization of social studies teachers in the United States - in their Middle Level Learning publication, their homepage, and their Social Studies Professional publication.
Apr. 20, 2008
The Library of Congress honored ProCon.org by requesting permission to archive three of our websites (ProCon.org, 2008 Election ProCon.org, and US Iraq ProCon.org) because The Library of Congress considered our three sites "materials of historical importance to the Congress and to the American people."
National Public Radio (NPR) ran dozens of messages referencing ProCon.org and our 2008 election website.
The Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, referenced ProCon.org four times in its report to Congress titled "Medical Marijuana: Review and Analysis of Federal and State Policies."
First time ProCon.org presents its pro and con statements in a newspaper. The Westside Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Los Angeles, ran our pro-con presentations for five issues. The newspaper hit hard times and shut its doors by summer 2007.
The New York Times referenced ProCon.org in its article "Supporters of A.C.L.U. Call for Ouster of Its Leaders" by Stephanie Strom.
June 22, 2006
The winner of the ProCon.org logo contest was selected out of 166 logos from 42 contestants in 8 countries.
Mar. 12, 2006
60 Minutes, the CBS weekly television news magazine, listed ProCon.org as one of only three recommended links on its website section titled "The Science of Sexual Orientation." The other two links were to specific studies on sexual orientation.
Feb. 26, 2006
First radio interview for ProCon.org took place on WLPO radio in Oglesby, Illinois. In the 23-minute interview, host John Small commented "Fascinating website. I think we can learn something. Anybody who has access to a computer can learn a little more about their world and get a little ammunition to battle the office bully over an issue but it's also just to better your brain."
Jan. 23, 2006
ProCon.org selected as a "Yahoo! Pick" The Yahoo! editors wrote: "You're guaranteed to disagree with 50% of what you read here, but you'll come away better informed and -- if the site's founders are proved out -- a better citizen, to boot."
Oct. 26, 2005
ProCon.org is declared by the State of California Franchise Tax Board as a charitable corporation (PDF 991KB) and thus exempt from state franchise or income tax under code section 2370ld.
Oct. 13, 2005
Forbes Magazine made ProCon.org the only website referenced in an article about marijuana and the brain. The article was reprinted in Yahoo! News, Drkoop.com (the former U.S. Surgeon General's website), numerous local TV news station websites (such as KLEX in Lexington, KY, KLAS in Las Vegas, and KPHO in Phoenix), and health-related sites such as Health Central, Health Finder, and Medicine Net.
Sep. 1, 2005
ProCon.org moves to 233 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200 in Santa Monica, California.
Steven C. Markoff, the Chairman of ProCon.org, has been active in trying to find pros and cons of various controversial issues since 1986. He created an organization to pursue this effort, and after going through several iterations, that organization became ProCon.org on July 12, 2004. Read a detailed personal statement from Mr. Markoff on the origins and background of ProCon.org.
"When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time... To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con... And tho' the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step..."
7. Financial Info
I. 2015 Financial Summary
According to our audited financials, in 2015 ProCon.org received $1,085,190 in total support and revenue. Of our $1,118,572 in 2015 expenses, $994,856 (88.9%) was spent on program services, $87,409 (7.8%) on management and general expenses, and $36,307 (3.2%) on fundraising expenses. ProCon.org operates with such a high percentage of its expenditures in program services for several reasons, including: we spend small amounts to yield large amounts of funds raised, our operation is remarkably efficient, we have an all volunteer Board of Directors, and we have received in-kind donations to offset expenses such as keyword advertising, rent, and accounting services.
II. Expenses: A Graphical Breakdown
[Definitions provided by the Financial Accounting Standards Board]
Program services are the activities that result in goods and services being distributed to beneficiaries, customers, or members that fulfill the purposes or mission for which the organization exists.
Management and general activities include oversight, business management, general record keeping, budgeting, financing, and related administrative activities except for the direct conduct of program services or fund-raising activities.
Fundraising activities include publicizing and conducting fund-raising campaigns; maintaining donor mailing lists; conducting special fundraising events; preparing and distributing fund-raising manuals, instructions and other materials; and conducting other activities involved with soliciting contributions from individuals, foundations, government agencies, and others.
8. Supporting ProCon.org
Supporting ProCon.org helps us continue to provide well-researched pros, cons, and related nonpartisan information on today's important issues free to charge to students, teachers, elected officials, media, professionals, and the public to help promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship.
Mail a contribution to ProCon.org, 233 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Donate appreciated stock.
[Donating appreciated stock to ProCon.org that you have held for at least one year allows you a donation deduction for the fair market value of the stock and you do NOT have to recognize any capital gain for income tax purposes when you donate the shares.
For example, assume you own 100 shares of stock which you purchased at $5/share; and that after one year your shares are now worth $15/share. If you donated those 100 shares to procon.org, you would have a tax deduction of the current fair market value of $1,500, and you would pay no taxes on the appreciated value of the shares.
Of course, it's always wise to confirm any such transaction with your tax or other advisor.]
For information regarding appreciated stock, bequests, matching gift donations, or charitable contributions in other forms, please contact ProCon.org's Chairman Steve Markoff by email at [email protected] or by phone at 310-587-1470.