Four Foundations Commit $20 Million to Census Effort

Four Foundations Commit $20 Million to Census Effort

The Open SocietyJPBKellogg, and Ford foundations have announced new commitments totaling $20 million to ensure a complete and accurate 2020 census and are calling on other grantmakers to contribute an additional $10 million to the effort.

In an open letter, the chief executives of the four foundations — Patrick Gaspard, Barbara Picower, La June Montgomery Tabron, and Darren Walker — said their organizations had pledged an additional $5 million each to the Census 2020 fund, a funder collaborative created to support "a massive and coordinated 'get out the count' effort focused on the most hard-to-count communities." Housed at the New Venture Fund, the fund has received commitments totaling $63 million to date from more than ninety grantmakers. But a $10 million funding shortfall remains, and the leaders of the four foundations are calling on their "colleagues in philanthropy" to help fill the gap by contributing to the fund or awarding grants to nonprofits working to ensure a full and accurate count. 

According to the letter, the fund is supporting a network of seventeen national hubs focused on outreach efforts in hard-to-count communities; a strategic communications effort designed to disseminate accurate information, counter disinformation, and educate and engage local and ethnic media; a Census Equity Fund in support of coordinated campaigns by state and local groups in states with large hard-to-count populations; and the development of digital organizing tools, platforms, trainings, and strategies designed to help state and local groups scale their "get out the count" activities and strengthen their civic engagement work over the next two years and beyond. 

The appeal comes as nonprofit and foundation officials await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether the federal government can add a citizenship question to the census, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports; a decision is expected before the court wraps up its current term in June. Many in the nonprofit sector fear that the addition of a citizenship question will prompt families with members who are not citizens to pass on filling out a census questionnaire, resulting in an undercount of millions of immigrants and others who benefit from the work of nonprofits. 

At Ford, the $5 million for the effort came from the budgets of many of its domestic grantmaking programs, the Chronicle reports. "You work on climate or you don't. You work on education or you don't," said Erika Wood, who oversees grants that promote citizen engagement at Ford. "But census data really touches on all those different issues, so it is a way for foundations to really come together."

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

"To: Colleagues in Philanthropy ." Open Letter From the Open Society, JPB, W.K. Kellogg, and Ford Foundations 05/15/2019. Alex Daniels. "4 Big Foundations Commit $20 Million to Promote the Census — and Call for More." Chronicle of Philanthropy 05/15/2019.