Organizing Through “Door Knocking” within ACORN

  • Heidi Swarts


This exchange illustrates features for which ACORN was well known long before it gained notoriety during the presidential campaign of 2008: Bill, a local organizer, intentionally wanted to incite anger in grassroots members who were used to feeling passive and powerless. ACORN members felt exhilarated and empowered by direct action. The organization encouraged them not to be intimidated by powerful officials.


Charter School Presidential Campaign Internal Revenue Service Voter Registration Minimum Wage Increase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Gary Delgado, Organizing the Movement: The Roots and Growth of ACORN (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1986);Google Scholar
  2. John Atlas, Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America’s Most Controversial Antipoverty Community Organizing Group (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2010).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Nathan Newman, “ACORN Praised by Prosecutors for Fighting Voter Registration Fraud,” TPM Café (September 9, 2009), July 5, 2010).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Peter Drier and John Atlas, “ACORN under the Microscope,” Huffington Post (July 14, 2008), (accessed July 5, 2010). Note: Like almost all grassroots organizations, ACORN’s membership claims were typically inflated; however, the budget figures are probably accurate.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Nicholas von Hoffman, Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky (New York: Nation Books, 2010).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Lisa Ranghelli, “The Monetary Impact of ACORN Campaigns: A Ten Year Retrospective,” unpublished draft paper (February 16, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Heidi Swarts, Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-Based Progressive Movements (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), chapter 4.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2002 this included 4.9 million people, including 2.7 million children. Joseph Llobrera and Bob Zahradnik, A Hand Up: How State Earned Income Tax Credits Help Working Families Escape Poverty in 2004, Summary (Washington, D.C.: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2004), (accessed June 20, 2005).Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    F. Brooks, “Racial Diversity on ACORN’s Organizing Staff, 1970–2003,” Administration in Social Work, 31, no. 1 (2007): 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 21.
    Strom, Stephanie, “Funds Misappropriated at 2 Nonprofit Groups,” The New York Times (July 9, 2008), (accessed July 6, 2010).Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    An internal investigation (which ACORN commissioned) by former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger found “there was no criminal conduct by employees who offered advice on how to hide assets and falsify lending documents.” Frank James, “ACORN Workers Cleared of Illegality by Outside Probe,” National Public Radio (December 7, 2009), (accessed July 6, 2010); also see Editors, “NPQ on ACORN Investigation Results,” Nonprofit Quarterly (January 26, 2010), (accessed July 6, 2010).Google Scholar
  12. Andrew Newman, “Advice to Fake Pimp Was No Crime, Prosecutor Says,” The New York Times (March 1, 2010), (accessed July 6, 2010).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Sharon Theimer and Pete Yost, “Did ACORN Get Too Big for Its Own Good?” Associated Press (September 9, 2009), July 18, 2010).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Aaron Schutz and Marie G. Sandy 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi Swarts

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations