2011 was another successful year for us. Some of our major accomplishments and events for the year were:
Our websites received 14,419,041 sessions in 2011 compared to 10,322,703 sessions in 2010 - a 40% increase (see I. below).
We added five new issue websites (in alphabetical order): 2012 Election, Churches and Taxes, Standardized Testing, Teacher Tenure, and Vegetarian (see II. below).
We expanded the number of schools that use ProCon.org from 1,502 at the end of 2010 to 2,250 at the end of 2011 (see III. below).
We started the year with 25,830 email subscribers and ended 2011 with 57,821 (see IV. below).
We received over 1,326 responses to our ProCon.org User Survey of teachers and librarians, and learned that 98.5% of surveyed teachers who use ProCon.org reported an improvement in their students critical thinking skills (see V. below).
A division of the American Library Association (ALA) voted ProCon.org as one the Top 25 Free Reference Websites of 2011 (see VI. below).
We were referenced in the mainstream media 162 times in 2011 compared to 120 times in 2010 - a 35% increase (see VII. below).
On 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 (see VIII. below).
On Apr. 29, 2011, ProCon.org added an interactive comments feature allowing readers to share their pro and con opinions about ProCon.org issues (see IX. below).
On 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 (see X. below).
On July 6, 2011,ProCon.org was highlighted in the Congressional Record when Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) honored ProCon.org on the floor of the US House of Representatives (see XI. below).
On July 26, 2011, ProCon.org gave a 90-minute workshop at UCLA about immigration (see XII. below).
On Aug. 26, 2011, ProCon.org launched a "Headlines” feature allowing visitors to read short articles about major news events which relate to ProCon.org research (see XIII. below).
On Sep. 25, 2011, ProCon.org was selected as "Website of the Week” by Booklist, a 100-year old monthly publication of the American Library Association (see XIV. below).
We corresponded with hundreds of VIPs who helped improve our content (see XV. below)
Our organization began and ended 2011 with a full-time staff of seven in-house employees (see XVI. below)
We received charitable contributions from 136 donors in 2011 - a 15% decrease from our 157 donors in 2010 (see XVII. below)
Thank you for your continued interest in the information we supply, and thanks to our talented researchers, IT Manager, President/Managing Editor, Board Members, interns, and volunteers.
Thanks as well to our expert sources, the media who referenced us, the tens of thousands of times teachers have used our content in the classroom, and to the millions of ProCon.org readers who helped our organization become so popular. And a big thanks to all our supporters for your helping us continue our good work.
P.S. If you like our sites, please tell your friends about us, and make a tax-deductible contribution to help us continue to offer our information without cost.
ProCon.org websites received 14,419,041 sessions in 2011 compared to 10,322,703 sessions in 2010 - a 40% increase.
In 2011, according to Google Analytics, roughly 68% of our traffic came from search engines, 10% from sites linking to ProCon.org, 20% from direct traffic (bookmarks, typing procon.org directly into the browser, using ProCon.org as the default homepage, clicking to ProCon.org from an email, etc.), 1.5% from Google search engine keywords acquired using our $10,000 monthly grant from Google, and 0.5% from paid keywords on Yahoo, Bing, and MSN.
ProCon.org ranks a theoretical #142 in web traffic out of the Top 400 largest US nonprofits. On Oct. 16, 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy released its list of the Top 400 largest US nonprofits in 2010 based on private support. #1 (United Way Worldwide) had $3.86 billion in private support. #400 (Church World Service) had $43 million in private support. ProCon.org with its $606,000 of funding was clearly not on the list. However, when comparing US web traffic using Alexa.com, ProCon.org would have ranked #142 out of the Top 400 nonprofits.
Here’s a summary of our cumulative web traffic from 2004 to 2011:
Total Traffic to ProCon.org
websites as measured in:
Below is a site-by-site breakdown of our traffic from 2004 to 2011 in sessions.
A session is any 30-minute or less period of time in which an individual IP address accesses one or more files from one ProCon.org website. This definition of a "session" comes from Urchin (now owned by Google) - the software program used to track our website traffic.
(Alphabetical order with parent site first)
Five New Issue Websites: In 2011 we added five new websites, listed below in the order in which they became publicly available:
On Jan. 13, 2011, ProCon.org launched the website Teacher Tenure ProCon.org to explore the question "Should teachers get tenure?" The site received 82,648 sessions in 2011.
Teacher tenure is the increasingly controversial form of job protection that public school teachers in all states receive after 1-7 years on the job. Proponents of tenure argue that it protects teachers from being fired for personal or political reasons, and prevents the firing of experienced teachers to hire less expensive new teachers. Opponents argue that this job protection makes the removal of poorly performing teachers so difficult and costly that most schools end up retaining their bad teachers, and that tenure is no longer needed given current laws against job discrimination.
On Apr. 21, 2011, we launched the website Vegetarian ProCon.org to explore the core question "Should people become vegetarian?" The site received 60,643 sessions in 2011.
In 2010, people in the US ate an average of 57.5 pounds of beef, 46.5 pounds of pork, and 82 pounds of chicken. Vegetarians, about 3.2% of the US population, do not eat meat (including poultry and seafood). Many proponents of vegetarianism say that the meatless diet is healthier and better for the environment, and that killing animals for food is wrong. Many opponents of vegetarianism say that eating meat is natural, healthful, humane, and that people have done it for millions of years.
On June 22, 2011, we launched the website Standardized Tests ProCon.org to explore the question "Is the use of standardized tests improving education in America?" The site received 49,778 sessions in 2011.
Standardized tests have been a part of American education since the mid-1800s. Their use skyrocketed after 2002's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated annual testing in all 50 states. Proponents say standardized tests are a fair and objective measure of student achievement, and that they ensure teachers and schools are accountable. Opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, and that their use narrows the curriculum and promotes "teaching to the test."
On Oct. 24, 2011, we launched the website 2012 Election ProCon.org to explore the question "Which candidate should be US president in 2012?" The site received 121,585 sessions in 2011.
ProCon.org has researched the US presidential candidates and their views on 25 issues ranging from abortion to global warming to medical marijuana to waterboarding. Our 43rd website also features resources on US presidential election history, debate transcripts, a step-by-step guide on how to become president, and more. We will add at least 50 more issues and several new resources over the coming months to help Americans decide who should be the next president of the United States.
On Nov. 11, 2011, we launched the website Churches and Taxes ProCon.org to explore the question "Should churches (defined as churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, etc.) remain tax-exempt?" The site received 6,558 sessions in 2011.
US churches have been exempt from paying income and property taxes since the country's founding. Debate continues over whether or not these tax benefits should be retained, especially during our tough economic times. Proponents argue that a tax exemption keeps the government out of church finances, and that churches deserve a tax break because they provide crucial social services. Opponents argue that giving churches special tax exemptions violates the separation of church and state, and that the government cannot afford what amounts to a subsidy worth billions of dollars every year.
ProCon.org for Teachers: ProCon.org expanded the list of schools that use ProCon.org from 1,502 schools at the end of 2010 to 2,250 schools at the end of 2011 - an increase of 748 schools (50%). We add schools to this list when we see that an educator (not a student) from that school has referenced ProCon.org online, usually in a lesson plan or suggested resources list. We include a PDF of the lesson plan so that other educators can get ideas and draw inspiration from each other.
Those schools were from 44 different countries including (in alphabetical order): Austria, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Columbia, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Macedona, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
The breakdown of schools by level is as follows: 450 elementary and middle schools (20%), 1,148 high schools (51%), and 652 colleges and universities (29%).
In 2012, we will continue to make our extensive resources available at no charge to teachers, librarians, administrators, and other educators. We believe that most of the approximate 100,000 schools in America would love ProCon.org if only they knew about it. We would appreciate it if you would tell all the teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, and students you know about us and our work.
Email Updates & Reader Response: We started the year with 25,830 email subscribers and ended 2011 with 57,821. Some respones from our email updates and our "contact us" tabs are provided below. Over 99% of the feedback we received was favorable or neutral to our overall efforts.
"I donated to ProCon.org because in this world of noise, where lying, bullying and shouting are celebrated, where critical thinking and intellectual curiosity are discouraged, where facts are twisted or disregarded altogether and where people are dissuaded from intelligent discourse, ProCon cuts to the heart of every issue without bias and thereby encourages the critical thinking that is so very necessary but too seldom practiced. We have forgotten how to reason and to evaluate and communicate ideas effectively, and I believe you perform a valuable service to help correct that deficiency. If schools and government agencies are using ProCon.org as a source, this is a step in the right direction." Shawn, Dec. 20, 2011
"ProCon.org is THE best resource for political information and analysis. Before you read the Washington Post or turn on Fox News, go to ProCon.org. Every conservative policy wonk should donate to Procon.Org, a 501(c)3. We need to strengthen resources that are committed to truth and no nonsense presentation of facts. ProCon.org is one of those resources!" Ken McClenton, host of The Exceptional Conservative on American Conservative Nation radio, Nov. 28, 2011
"Your work is not merely excellent, it is very valuable. Keep the bar high! Thank you for your service to our nation." David Phoenix, Educational Therapist, Learning Specialist and Professor of Education at Pierce College, Nov. 15, 2011
"We live in a world of hyper-partisanship in which polite dialogue has become a distant memory. But that need not be our permanent condition. At the forefront of the battle to reintroduce reason and thoughtful analysis into our national debate about the future of our country stands ProCon.org. By fairly presenting opposing viewpoints on critical issues ProCon.org creates an atmosphere of mutual respect that allows for a real exchange of ideas -- and the exploration of viable solutions to our most pressing problems. ProCon.org is the place to go to understand today’s most controversial issues." Jeff Schweitzer, PhD, former science adviser to the White House, and author of Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World, Nov. 5, 2011
"You asked about my reaction to the Pro-Con.org site and to the subsite on medical marijuana. I find them both to be excellent - clear and easy to use, with a wealth of pro/con material to ponder over. I intend to return often to the site as issues present themselves to me and my clients." Gary Carr, Rising Moon Marketing & Public Relations, July 26, 2011
"I am convinced that you are trying to be objective in a field of inquiry that has largely forgotten the meaning of the term. You (procon.org) have made far more effort than any others have for this sort of thing--you put Education Week, the Center for Public Education, and other organizations only interested in superficial celebrity opinion to shame." Dr. Richard P. Phelps, testing scholar and educational statistician, July 1, 2011
"I was doing an 'argument paper' for my 'critical thinking' class. Our professor told us that we needed to list both pros and cons related to our topic. I simply Googled something about 'pros cons of ...' and your website as one that came up and it seemed to provide me with the best verifiable information. I assume that in the future I will be submitting a couple more questions/ concerns - (unless I find that someone else has already done so). In a word, I think ProCon.org is 'AWESOME!' It includes a wealth of information covering both perspectives of some of the most controversial topics. I finished my paper for school [Editor’s note: She received an "A”], but... I still enjoy going to the site just to read about the different views and the reasoning behind them." Sharon, May 6, 2011
"I marked your website on my favorites list. Your ongoing efforts to promote critical thinking are of much value. It only takes a few minutes listening to talk radio to realize just how impressionable people can be. Instead of doing their own reasoning, they would rather push a button for an app or follow some leader who thinks for them. Keep up the good work!" Diana, Mar. 17, 2011
"I just wanted to leave a comment that your website is a fantastic find for any educator wanting great sources all in one place. Not only is the content great, but all the features you offer make life for teachers, librarians and students much easier. Keep up the good work!" Katilyn, Mar. 9, 2011
"In my research I found procon.org to be the single best free web resource for teachers, like myself, to help students understand multiple perspectives on controversial issues. I appreciate the work you and your staff do to provide this outstanding resource to educators, students, and the general public." Ben Bohmfalk, Social Studies Teacher, Roaring Fork High School (Carbondale, CO), Feb. 3, 2011
"Excellent site. The issues are very well laid out and I think will be considered very fair by all involved. As a retired teacher, I know this is a very current and very emotional issue."
Judith, Jan. 13, 2011
"I think this web site [Medical Marijuana ProCon.org] is a great idea, but to be fair I think it is one sided. If you truly want to tell the pros and cons give facts and opinions from people who believe strongly on both sides of an issue. Not someone who is against it giving both sides of the story. That just isn't telling the whole truth." Tim, Mar. 23, 2011
"Was excited HEARING about your [Abortion ProCon.org] site. Disappointed in implementation and your bias. Picked abortion because it is the most controversial and the easiest to see bias in, not because I am a religious nut. Example #1: Under projects you have abortion rights but no list of adoption options. This indicates your staff only cares about researching one side of the issue. Example #2: Unequal comparison is the most egregious insidious of all bias and is frequently used by our yellow journalistic press. You compared male, phd, senior lecturer, english against female textbook writer for American University. Could you not find any more prestigous person on the con side? The pros was also heavily influenced by religion and opinion instead of logic or science. A more fair way to do this would be to send pros and cons to major advocates of both positions and let them debate the pro/con list back and forth until both parties refined their arguments instead of having a biased education person research both sides. Using words of unequal emotional context or unequal comparison is the easiest way to spot bias without even looking at the specific argument. Perhaps you should turn this into a newspaper site." David, Jan. 20, 2011
ProCon.org Teacher Survey: We started a ProCon.org Teacher Survey on Mar. 25, 2009, to get input from teachers and librarians so we could understand how they use ProCon.org and to learn their views on whether or not using ProCon.org improves their students' critical thinking skills. The survey had 1,326 respondents from Mar. 25, 2009 - May 12, 2011 - 1,326.
98.5% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that ProCon.org improved their students' critical thinking skills.
98.1% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that their students found ProCon.org useful.
98.0% of respondents said they would recommend ProCon.org to teachers and librarians.
ProCon.org Named Top 25 Free Reference Website: On 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.
ProCon.org In the News: ProCon.org received 162 media references in 2011 compared to 120 in 2010. The 2011 references started on Jan. 4, 2011 with the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. President and Managing Editor Kamy Akhavan was interviewed six times on radio stations and 10 times for print publications across the country.
Notable 2011 media references included ABC, PBS, NBC, CNN, Associated Press, Education Week, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Bloomberg, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, The Week, Huffington Post, Discover Magazine, The Atlantic, Yahoo! Sports, Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, The Economist, Forbes, and Washington Times.
The Los Angeles Times wrote about and linked to Health Care Reform ProCon.org in an article by Tami Dennis on the newspaper's health blog, "Booster Shots." Dennis wrote "If you're a consumer just trying to figure things out, try ProCon.org's take on health reform."
The Los Angeles Times referenced and linked to Medical Marijuana ProCon.org in an article by Mary Forgione titled "Rare Disease or Not, Colorado Teen Can't Have Medical Pot at School, Not Even a Lozenge." The article stated "If you don't have a position on medical marijuana, fine. But check out ProCon.org's exercise in rational exploration of the topic. It’s enlightening."
ProCon.org at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education: On 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.
Interactive Comments Feature: On Apr. 29, 2011, 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. We received thousands of comments, and spurred an increase in repeat visitors to our websites.
California Supt. of Public Instruction Recommends ProCon.org: On 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 Honored in Congressional Record: On July 6, 2011,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.
ProCon.org Workshop for Students at UCLA: On July 26, 2011, ProCon.org gave a 90-minute workshop titled "Using ProCon.org for Critical Thinking about Illegal Immigration” to about 75 Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) high school students attending JSA's "Gene A. Burd Symposium on Los Angeles Media and Politics” on the UCLA campus.
Launched "Headlines" Feature: On Aug. 26, 2011, ProCon.org launched a "Headlines” feature allowing visitors to read short articles about major news events which relate to ProCon.org research. We wrote 37 articles, and became an official news provider to Google.
Selected as "Website of the Week" by Booklist: On Sep. 25, 2011, ProCon.org was selected as "Website of the Week” by Booklist, a 100-year old monthly publication of the American Library Association.Academic reference librarian Christine Bulson wrote in the review: "Do librarians still use [Taking Sides] books or do they find ProCon.org?... Similar to Taking Sides, topics such as Sex and Gender, Sports, and Media and Entertainment have at least one pro con issue. A current, popular topic is 'Social Networking...' No more jotting down footnotes or bibliography items and finding them in the card catalog and in bound volumes of periodicals."
VIP Correspondence: We've received beneficial feedback and/or content from many VIPs. Here's a random sample (in alphabetical order):
Tami Abdollah, Correspondent for the Associated Press (Oregon)
Ernest Abel, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychology at Wayne State University
Robert Andrews, US Congressman (D-NJ)
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Stephanie Armour, Reporter for Bloomberg News
Richard Baum, Chief of the International Policy Branch at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
Dave Brian, Editor of The 420 Times
Scott Brown, US Senator (R-MA)
Albert Carnesale, UCLA Chancellor Emeritus and Professor
Teresa S. Collett, Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law
William A. Cook, Professor of English at the University of LaVerne
Robert Cottrell, Professor of History and American Studies at California State University at Chico
John E. Deasy, Superintendent of Schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District
Siobhan DeLancey, Team Leader for Food, Veterinary and Cosmetic Products in the FDA Office of Public Affairs
Marshall Forstein, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Alicia Gallegos, Staff Writer for American Medical News
Lisa Hardaway, Communications Director for Lambda Legal
Gilbert Herdt, Executive Director of the National Centers on Sexuality at San Francisco State University
Joe Hunter, Communications Manager for Governor Gary Johnson (R-New Mexico)
Ryan Jaslow, Associate Producer and Health Blogger, CBS News
Michael Kraft, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public and Environmental Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Joe Mandese, Editor in Chief of MediaPost
Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms
Clayton James Mosher, Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Sociology at Washington State University
Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance
Karen O'Keefe, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project
Chris J. Preimesberger, Senior Writer at eWEEK at Associated Press Correspondent (San Francisco)
Harry Reid, US Senator (D-NV) and Majority Leader
Craig Reinarman, Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz
Allen Rostron, William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent and San Francisco Editor, Xconomy
Stephen G. Scholle, General Counsel of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Cathy Schuchart, Staff Vice President in the Child Nutrition and Policy Center at the School Nutrition Association
John Schwartz, National Legal Correspondent for the New York Times
Peter Schweizer, William J. Casey Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution
Carlos Sierra, Campaign Manager for Governor Buddy Roemer (R-Louisiana)
Margaret Somerville, Founding Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law
Tim Walz, US Congressman (D-MN)
Debra Weiss, Senior Writer for the ABA Journal
Byron Williams, Pastor of the Resurrection Community Church
Staff: Our organization ended 2011 with a full-time staff of seven in-house employees, the same number we had at the end of 2010. Our 2011 end-of-year staff included five researchers, one IT Manager, one President & Managing Editor, and me, our Chairman (unpaid).
Financials: We received charitable contributions from 136 donors in 2011 - a 15% decrease from our 157 donors in 2010.
In 2011 ProCon.org received total gross income from unrestricted donations of $837,352 up from $776,119 in 2010. We also received $650,000 in restricted donations. Of our $784,670 in 2011 expenses, $692,841 (88.3%) was spent on program services, $64,669 (8.2%) on management and general expenses, and $27,160 (3.5%) 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, our Chairman has refused a salary since we started, 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.
2. 2011 vs. 2005 - 2010 Expenses: A Graphical Breakdown
3. Detailed Chart of Financial Data, 2005-2011
Total Contributions (Unrestricted)
Total Contributions (Restricted)
2. Efficiency of Expenditures:
Program Services Expenditures*
Management & General Expenses
3. Excess <Deficit> of Operating Revenue over <under> Expenses:
4. Balance Sheet
- Cash & Cash Equivalents
Payable & Accrued Expenses
-Net Worth <deficit>
Total Liabilities & Net Worth
4. Definitions of Terms Used
Program services are mainly those activities that the reporting organization was created to conduct and which, along with any activities commenced subsequently, form the basis of the organization's current exemption from tax.
Overall management expenses usually include the salaries and expenses of the chief officer of the organization and that officer's staff. General expenses include those for meetings of the board of directors or similar group; committee and staff meetings (unless held in connection with specific program services or fundraising activities); general legal services; accounting (including patient accounting and billing); general liability insurance; office management; auditing, personnel, and other centralized services; preparation, publication, and distribution of an annual report; and investment expenses.
Fundraising expenses are the total expenses incurred in soliciting contributions, gifts, grants, etc.