Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

Mark Rosenman

Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups.

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Mobilizing Community College Students to Protect Our Democracy

Catalina Ruiz-Healy

Today, almost half of undergraduates in the United States are enrolled in community colleges. Compared to students at the nation's four-year colleges and universities, community college students are significantly more diverse. By mobilizing students to become active in their communities (and society more broadly), we ensure that government and other institutions are more accountable to everybody — not just the privileged (or loudest) few.

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Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy': What Does the Data Say?

Larry McGill

Concerns about U.S. democracy are on the minds of America's philanthropic institutions. We know, of course, about the "dark money" that is being pumped into the electoral process in an attempt to influence the outcomes of U.S. elections. But what about the efforts of U.S. foundations who see the task of improving U.S. democracy as an important part of their philanthropic missions?

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What Is at Stake, and Why Philanthropy Must Respond

Mark Rosenman

In the months since the 2016 presidential election, philanthropy has begun to respond energetically to real and perceived threats to longstanding American principles of justice, equality, and fairness. Yet more is needed to counter policies and actions that undermine democratic norms, roll back essential safety-net protections, and shrink or destroy government programs essential to the health of the nation and the planet.

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What is Civic Engagement Anyway? A Primer from PACE

Kristen Cambell

A new conversation about civic engagement is emerging. Against the backdrop of rapidly changing social and political upheaval, Americans are feeling a call to take a more active role in their democracy. This swelling interest and urgency has been increasingly felt among the constellation of organizations devoted to the public good. And at Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), a network of funders committed to civic engagement and democracy, we’ve felt this shift firsthand.

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How Is Philanthropy Engaging With Legislatures?

Mitch Nauffts

Legislatures, at the federal, state and local levels, are where elected officials write the laws and pass the bills that establish the rules by which we live, work, and play. They are to democracy what the heart is to the human body, the beating, messy source of its vitality and dynamism. At the same time, they are, as Tocqueville noted, the American political institution "most easily swayed by the will of the majority," subject, by design, "not only to the general convictions, but even to the daily passions, of their constituents.

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Who's Financing the Campaign Finance Conversation?

Mitch Nauffts

With the quid-pro-quo nature of politics more evident than ever and public trust in government at close to all-time lows, organizations like the Brennan Center for Justice, with the support of foundations across the country, are working to advance reforms that would reduce the influence of corporations and individual mega-donors in our politics and give "ordinary voters a far louder voice."

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Philanthropy as if Democracy Really Mattered

Brad Smith

The foundation and grants data captured on the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site represent a spectrum of strategies designed to help the democratic process in this country live up to our lofty ideals. They also represent the best of philanthropy: foundations using their unique freedom and flexibility to tackle long-term challenges that markets are ill equipped to address or solve. If democracy is the operating system of American society, it badly needs an upgrade, and a growing number of foundations are doing something about it.

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How Foundations Get Out the Vote

Mitch Nauffts

In recent years, only 40 percent of the voting eligible population has bothered to vote in midterm elections, a number that jumps to 60 percent in presidential election years. It is not, as this infographic suggests, because U.S. foundations have ignored the issue. Indeed, since 2011, foundations have made grants totaling more than $3 billion in support of U.S. democracy.

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