At its discretion, the national organization provides subsidies to smaller affiliates that lack sufficient resources to be self-sustaining; for example, the Wyoming ACLU chapter received such subsidies until April 2015, when, as part of a round of layoffs at the national ACLU, the Wyoming office was closed.
Fundraising and membership spiked after the 2016 election; the ACLU's current membership is more than 1.2 million.
Legally, the ACLU consists of two separate but closely affiliated nonprofit organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, and the ACLU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.
Both organizations engage in civil rights litigation, advocacy, and education, but only donations to the 501(c)(3) foundation are tax deductible, and only the 501(c)(4) group can engage in unlimited political lobbying.
The ACLU was involved in the Miranda case, which addressed conduct by police during interrogations, and in the New York Times case, which established new protections for newspapers reporting on government activities.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the ACLU ventured into new legal areas, involving the rights of homosexuals, students, prisoners, and the poor.
The ACLU has received court awarded fees from opponents, for example, the Georgia affiliate was awarded 0,000 in fees after suing a county demanding the removal of a Ten Commandments display from its courthouse; Most of the organization's workload is performed by its local affiliates.