ProCon.org Feels Free, But It Isn't

You can always expect thoroughly researched pros, cons, and related information on today’s hottest topics at ProCon.org. Your tax-deductible donations keep this service free and ad-free for 25+ million students, teachers, journalists, and regular folks.
ProCon.org Feels Free, But It Isn't

You can always expect thoroughly researched pros, cons, and related information on today’s hottest topics at ProCon.org. Your tax-deductible donations keep this service free and ad-free for 25+ million students, teachers, journalists, and regular folks.

ProCon.org is needed now more than ever before. These are divisive times. Emotions are heightened. It’s harder to have respectful conversations and to find common ground. ProCon.org gives everyone an unbiased exploration of important issues to encourage understanding and critical thinking. We can all heal the increasing divide and ground conversations with facts. Millions use our site every year, but few give. We’re going to start changing that with your help. Thank you for making a donation today and for sharing ProCon.org with others.

ProCon.org's Five Year Anniversary
July 12, 2004 - Present

I. Founder's Message II. Top Five Highlights III. Five Contests with Cash Prizes IV. ProCon.org 5 Year Anniversary Party V. Readers' Comments

I. Founder's Message "The past five years at ProCon.org have brought exciting and endless changes to our homepage and issue sites as well as to the methods and policies we use to build, maintain, and promote them.

We are fortunate to have Kamy Akhavan as our managing editor and our talented and dedicated staff, all of whom put up with my constant tinkering and nitpicking in my effort to help keep our websites' navigation straightforward and easy and the content clear and efficient.

ProCon.org has to date met two of my three initial 2004 goals. First, I needed to take the basic idea of the pro and con presentation from my head and refine it so it was easily read and understood. The substantial amount of positive comments about ProCon.org suggested that we met this goal some time ago. Second, I wanted to see if anyone cared about the information presented. This has been seemingly answered in the affirmative by the over 10,000,000 sessions that logged on to ProCon.org as of May 7, 2008. The third goal (prompted somewhat by the IRS) has been to raise enough outside funding each year to keep our designation as a public charity.

We have come a long way in five years yet we have only scratched the surface of a world that desperately needs its citizens to exercise more critical thinking and to become more knowledgeable about the issues affecting our lives so that in the process we can become better citizens.

Thank you for your help and support...now onward!"

- Steven C. Markoff, Founder and Chairman of ProCon.org


II. Top Five Highlights Over Our Five Years

1. 512 School References - On June 11, 2009, the number of schools using ProCon.org in teaching materials exceeded 500.

2. 122 Media References - On Feb. 12, 2009, ProCon.org passed the 100 mark for number of times our sites have been referenced in the media. Major media and publications that have referenced ProCon.org include New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, Guardian, Congressional Research Service, ABA Journal, and BBC News.
3. "Best Non-Profit to Work For" - On 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 are roughly 1,000,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States, nearly half of which have annual expenses of less than $1 million.
4. New Website Design - We twice upgraded our websites' design first on June 30, 2008, then again on Apr. 2, 2009, providing our readers with over 10 new features including a search function on all pages, an email function on all pages, a faster server, a time and date stamp on all pages, and more.

5. 14,912,049 Cumulative Sessions - On May 7, 2008, ProCon.org's traffic surpassed 10,000,000 cumulative sessions since the organization's inception. We had over 14 million by the end of June 2009.

III. Five Contests with Cash Prizes

ProCon.org is celebrating our 5th anniversary with five great July 2009 contests. We're giving away daily prizes and $500 in cash! Click on each contest below to read about how you can win (contests ended July 31, 2009).

Contest Prize(s) Winners
1. Wikipedia Contest $100 Cjsklions13
2. Twitter Contest Daily merchandise winners. $100 to one random winner. @MattStoller
3. Facebook Contest $100 for First place. Merchandise for 10 runners-up. Corey Kennedy
4. ProCon.org Scavenger Hunt $100 Matthew Jones
5. Volunteers Contest $100 Mark Jokel

1. Wikipedia Contest

The winner of the ProCon.org Wikipedia Contest and the $100 prize is Corey Kennedy.

Thank you to all the wonderful participants who developed the ProCon.org Wikipedia page.

Contest: Help develop a Wikipedia article about ProCon.org (contest ended July 31, 2009).

Prize: Winner will receive $100 and recognition on the ProCon.org website.

Step One: Log in to your Wikipedia account. If you are not a registered Wikipedia user you will need to create a Wikipedia account (anonymous users are not eligible for entry in this ProCon.org contest).

Step Two: Search Wikipedia for ProCon.org. If no ProCon.org Wikipedia article exists, be the first to start the article.* If a ProCon.org Wikipedia article already exists you can add content. Once you have created content please send an email to [email protected] containing your Wikipedia user name and a short description of the changes you made. Write "Wiki Contest" in the subject line of your email.

Details: To be entered into our contest, you must contribute to building the ProCon.org Wikipedia page using a registered Wikipedia account profile. If you make anonymous additions to the ProCon.org Wikipedia page we will be unable to track your contributions and thus, you will not be entered in our contest. In addition you must send an email to [email protected] containing your Wikipedia user name and a short description of the changes you made. If you don't send us this email we will be unable to contact you for the prize drawing.

Please follow all Wikipedia guidelines and policies, and "be sure to write in a neutral tone and cite reliable, third-party published sources, and beware of unintentional bias." You can find information for the article content on our site or any of the hundreds of other websites that reference ProCon.org.

The contest will run from July 2, 2009 to July 31, 2009. On Monday, Aug. 3, 2009 all those who contributed to building a Wikipedia page for ProCon.org will be entered into a drawing to win $100.

* The first contestant to start the article page for ProCon.org will receive two entries into the drawing; all other contributors will receive one entry.

2. Twitter Contest

The winner of the ProCon.org Twitter Contest and the $100 prize is @MattStoller.

We had 31 daily winners in July 2009. We randomly drew one of those daily winners for the $100 prize. Thank you to all of the Twitter contest participants, and congratulations to the following 31 daily winners who will receive a ProCon.org mousepad and memo pad:

@roseofblack (Wed 7/1), @MattStoller (Thurs 7/2), @atti2ude (Fri 7/3), @daylynn (Sat 7/4), @megsholecko (Sun 7/5), @kklausser (Monday 7/6), @live2learn (Tue 7/7), @GF_AdventureGrl (Wed 7/8), @hrbeck (Thurs 7/9), @Tyyy68 (Fri 7/10), @ksiimson (sat 7/11), @ccboobooy (Sun 7/12), @js22222222 (Mon 7/13), @oHIoKit (Tues 7/14), @cahkontes (Wed 7/15), @MCJunkie (Thurs 7/16), @agordon10 (Fri 7/17), @tkharmonic (Sat 7/18), @bsw529 (Sun 7/19), @oHIoKit (Mon 7/20), @abhinav777 (Tues 7/21), @carogonza (Wed 7/22), @akira07 (Thurs 7/23), @glf80 (Fri 7/24), @ladyt64 (Sat 7/25), @contestgrl (Sun 7/26), @jenni104 (Mon 7/27), @auntiethesis (Tues 7/28), @checkkers (Wed 7/29), @tribecca (Thurs 7/30), @tkharmonic (Fri 7/31).

Tweet about your favorite ProCon.org topics (contest ended July 31, 2009).

One winner will receive $100 and recognition on the ProCon.org website. 30 winners will receive ProCon.org merchandise.

Step One:
Log in to your Twitter account and follow ProCon.org: http://twitter.com/procon_org.

Step Two:
Choose your favorite controversial issue from the list of 21 topics at ProCon.org. Tweet the following information, adding your favorite issue in the parentheses:

My favorite @procon_org topic is (fill in here). Win $500 in the ProCon.org 5th anniversary contests here http://bit.ly/oiqVl

Example: "My favorite @procon_org topic is Medical Marijuana. Win $500 in the ProCon.org 5th anniversary contests here http://bit.ly/oiqVl"

Details: One person will be selected at random as a winner each day (ending 11:59 pm PT) from July 2 to July 31, 2009. Only people who are following @procon_org and who use the correct format for the Tweet are eligible to win. All 30 daily winners will receive ProCon.org merchandise and be entered in a one-time drawing for $100. Winners will be notified on Twitter by Direct Message and announced on our Twitter page the following weekday, and must reply by Direct Message with their names and mailing addresses to receive the prize. The drawing for $100 will take place on August 3, 2009. Prizes will be mailed out during the first week in August. Up to 10 entries per day per account are allowed. Note: only US winners will receive the merchandise, but entrants from outside of the US are eligible to be entered in the drawing for $100. For questions, please email [email protected] with "Twitter Contest" as your subject line.

3. Facebook Contest

The winner of the ProCon.org Facebook Contest and the $100 prize is Corey Kennedy.

The ProCon.org Facebook "Causes" page grew from under 25 members to over 275 members in one month. The winner recruited 80 members to the Causes page by himself. Thank you to everyone who helped to recruit new members to ProCon.org on Facebook.

Recruit the most new members to our Facebook Causes page by July 31, 2009 (contest ended July 31, 2009).

Prize: Winner will receive a $100 cash prize and recognition on the ProCon.org website.

Step One: Log in to your Facebook account and become a fan of ProCon.org.

Step Two:
Go to our Facebook Causes page and click on "Join the Cause." Once you join, you will be given the option of inviting your friends to join. Anyone you invite to our Cause who then joins by clicking on your invitation will be counted as your recruit.

Details: If you're already a member of the Causes page, you can invite your friends by clicking "Invite" under our logo on our Causes page. Facebook allows you to invite up to 60 people per day, so come back as often as necessary to invite all of your friends. You have until July 31, 2009 to get your friends to join.

The person who has recruited the most people by 11:59 pm PT on July 31, 2009 will win $100. No donation is necessary to win, but all donations are appreciated. If you have any questions, please email [email protected] with "Facebook Contest" as your subject line.

4. ProCon.org Scavenger Hunt

The winner of the ProCon.org Scavenger Hunt Contest and the $100 prize is Matthew Jones.

We received 11 entries of which seven had perfect scores. We drew randomly from those perfect entries to select one prize winner. Thank you to all the participants of the scavenger hunt contest. See the answers to those 20 trivia questions on our Scavenger Hunt page.

Contest: Answer 20 trivia questions using information on the ProCon.org websites (contest ended July 31, 2009).

Prize: One winner will receive $100 and recognition on the ProCon.org website. 10 runners-up will receive ProCon.org merchandise.

Step One: Explore ProCon.org to find the answers to our 20 question scavenger hunt.

Step Two: Write your answers and either the title or the URL of the ProCon.org webpage where you found each answer in an email to [email protected]. Write "Scavenger Hunt Contest" in the subject line of your email. All answers are found on ProCon.org and no other sites can be used to answer the questions. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the email.

Details: The person with the most correct answers will win $100 and recognition on our website. In the event of a tie, the people who correctly answered the most questions will be entered in our Aug. 3, 2009 drawing. 10 runners-up will receive ProCon.org merchandise. Only one entry per person will be accepted; multiple entries will be disqualified. Participants who do not follow these rules will not be eligible to win. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

5. Volunteers Contest

The winner of the ProCon.org Volunteer Contest and the $100 prize is Mark Jokel.

We had numerous volunteers helping us out throughout the month of July, and one person edged them out with the most hours and took home the $100 prize. Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers. We really appreciate your hard work.

Volunteer the most amount of time to ProCon.org during the month of July (note: this contest is only open to current volunteers and new candidates who have been accepted as volunteers on or before July 10, 2009. To be eligible, new candidates must submit a volunteer application by 12:00 pm PT on July 9, 2009). (Contest ended July 31, 2009)

Prize: Winner will receive a $100 cash prize and recognition on the ProCon.org website.

Details: ProCon.org currently has a group of talented individuals who volunteer their time offsite to help us produce great content. We will give $100 to the exceptional volunteer that works the most amount of time for ProCon.org during the month of July. The winner will be announced on Aug. 12, 2009.

Step 1: Send an email to [email protected] titled "Re: Volunteering" and include:

1. your resume,
2. the number of hours per week you can work,
3. which site(s) you'd like to work on,
4. an explanation of your relevant experience and interest, and
5. any questions you have for us.

You will be contacted by ProCon.org staff.

Step 2: If accepted as a volunteer, record and submit your hours to your project's supervising researcher. Keep in mind that we know how long it typically takes to complete assignments, so please be honest when reporting your hours.

ProCon.org reserves the right to change the rules to these contests at any time.


IV. ProCon.org 5 Year Anniversary Party (July 14, 2009 from 4 - 7 pm)

  1. Watch an eight and a half minute video of our party including testimonials from our guests, a toast by Chairman Steve Markoff, and highlights from our five years of existence.

  2. Read the transcript of Chairman Steve Markoff's anniversary speech.

  3. See photos of the party below.
Custom anniversary cake from Torrance Bakery
Steve Markoff (ProCon.org Founder and Chairman), Peter Anderson, Esq. (Attorney), Jadwiga Markoff, MD, PhD (ProCon.org Board Member)
Buffet table at ProCon.org open house
Steve Gaskin (A-Mark Financial project manager), Phil Bruce (Deputy Senior Managing Editor of NPR's National Desk), Carrie Roberts (Major Gifts Manager for NPR West), and Orin Aminoff (Fundraiser for ProCon.org)
Monica Kline, MA (ProCon.org researcher) and Stan Shimohara, JD, CPA (ProCon.org Board Member)
Wayne Ratkovich (friend of ProCon.org) and Bruce McNall (former owner of the Los Angeles Kings and co-Chair of A-Mark Entertainment)
Darlene Oliver (friend of ProCon.org), Kamy Akhavan, MA (Managing Editor of ProCon.org), Leo Smith (Editor for the Daily Breeze)
Marcus Hirn (IT Manager for ProCon.org) and Kristjan Siimson (web developer and friend of ProCon.org)

Orin Aminoff, Joan Lubin (volunteer for ProCon.org), Tracey DeFrancesco, MPP (ProCon.org researcher), and Kamy Akhavan

Joseph Taylor (Public Relations Consultant for Anti-Doping Research, Inc.), Caroline Hatton, PhD (Scientific Consultant for Anti-Doping Research, Inc.), Javier Inda, MA (ProCon.org Researcher)

Mike Marvin (Consulting Producer for A-Mark Entertainment) and Relic Sun (ProCon.org Researcher)
Monica Kline and Kim Ray, JD (Volunteer for ProCon.org)

Seth Strongin, MESM (former Senior Researcher for ProCon.org) and Jodi Young, MA (ProCon.org Senior Researcher)

Relic Sun and Tracey DeFrancesco
Steve Markoff, Bob Cleaves, JD, PhD (Founder and President of the Wilderness Conservancy), Morris Markoff (friend of ProCon.org)

Lorena Avila (friend of ProCon.org) and Emily Markoff (friend of ProCon.org)

ProCon.org staff at the buffet table after the party
Emily Markoff, Jadwiga Markoff, and Betty Markoff (mother of Steve Markoff)

Holly Roark, Esq. (Attorney), Kamy Akhavan, and David Langness, MA (Senior VP and Co-General Manager of MWW Group)
Lawrence Greenspun (Program Manager at the Drucker Institute, Claremont Graduate University) and Relic Sun
Jadwiga Markoff, Steve Markoff, and Emily Markoff
V. Select Readers' Comments on ProCon.org

1. "Greetings ProCon! Congratulations on your fifth year! I am proud, for having taken a small part, of your achievement and hope you continue to deliver the special knowledge you've been sharing with us.

If I could participate in your anniversary contest and if by chance I should win a hundred Dollars, I'd gladly give it back to your organization as a gift to the nobleness you have proven your cause to be.

In the Philippines, we salute you and as we'd say... MABUHAY kayong lahat at SALAMAT sa ProCon!"

- Jay Herrera, Dolores, Quezon (Philippines), July 3, 2009

2. "The whole project looks wonderful, from the point of view both of a researcher and of someone who loves neutrality in educational resources. My compliments also to whoever designed the site and its software. It is remarkably well-laid-out...

I am also impressed by the apparent care and thought that went into making the resource as a whole both neutral and open. They seem to have really thought out just what you would have to do in order to create a neutral debate site, and have gone far above and beyond the approach that most newspapers or encyclopedias take. Among other things, I am glad that they both let partisans state their own views as forcefully as possible, and give amazingly full information about the partisans and their affiliations. In short, I am heartened that - it seems - there might be somebody out there who believes as much as I do in the possibility and beneficiality of neutrality."

- Larry Sanger, Co-Founder of Wikipedia, Dec. 15, 2008

3. "I am the librarian in a grade 7-8 middle school in northern New Jersey. I put together an information pathfinder for an 8th grade English class doing a persuasive writing unit. The kids whose issues are covered on ProCon.org are finding it very useful in their research. As their teacher-librarian, I am always happy to find current, authoritative and, in the case of these hot issues, balanced information for my students. This is an excellent resource for our students. Thanks!”

- Mary Kay Risi, Teacher-Librarian at River Dell Middle School (River Edge, NJ), Nov. 13, 2008

4. "I discovered your site via Google last summer during the presidential election. I was looking for some unbiased information to help me choose between Senators McCain and Obama. Your site was instrumental in my ultimate choice of Senator Obama. I now subscribe to your RSS feed and refer to your site regularly. I also refer other people on a regular basis. I sometimes get into contentious discussions on message boards and have often cited ProCon.org in these discussions. People on both the left and the right seem to respect the site as a good source of information, and as an excellent starting point for further research."

- Pete, Jan. 7, 2009

5. "During the summer session, my humanities class met every day. Because of that, I was able to use pro-con subject material two to three times a week; your service was invaluable in helping students understand various issues in much more depth than that to which they are accustomed. Usually students know (or think they know) whether they are 'for' or 'against' something, but they are clueless as to solid reasons relative to each position. Pro-con brings subjects to life for them, making for a much more meaningful learning experience.

I also plan to use your service later in the current semester."

- Steve Clark, Adjunct Instructor of Humanities at Wayne Community College, Sep. 18, 2008

6. "I have used your site [Medical Marijuana ProCon.org] for two different classes this semester. Your site was definitely the best I have found as far as online resources go. I used this site for my speech class (I did a persuasive speech) as well as for my philosophy class (Is marijuana use ethical?) I received 'A's' on both. And thank you for the other interesting sites!"

- Alyssa, student at Notre Dame College, Nov. 14, 2007

Click here to see more of our Readers' Comments