NCRP calls on funders to support 2020 census

Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: October 17, 2018

78 foundations have invested $30 million, but hundreds haven’t yet engaged.

Funders and leading national activists recently gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., for the Stand Up For the Count 2020 Census Summit to explore the challenges we face in ensuring an accurate count and to share solutions.

Kudos to the 78 foundations (listed below) that have already invested a collective $30 million in the national effort and the many other funders that are supporting state and local work.

I urge the rest of the nation’s foundations to get involved and put some money into this important initiative.

As Vanita Gupta of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote in “Philanthropy and the 2020 census: A once-in-a-decade chance to get it right,” every issue that foundations care about is affected by the census – from education and health care to rural development and veterans’ services. Communities that have been historically marginalized are especially at risk of being under-counted.

Generally, I’ve been impressed with philanthropy’s engagement thus far with the 2020 census:

  • The field is well organized, and many funders started early. The Funders Census Initiative of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation and the United Philanthropy Forum has been leading outreach to funders and encouraging participation.
  • Some of the country’s top funders hosted activists and grantmakers during the Stand Up For The Count The co-hosts included Patrick McCarthy of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Darren Walker of Ford Foundation, La June Montgomery Tabron of W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Gary Bass of The Bauman Foundation, Patrick Gaspard of Open Society Foundations and Barbara Picower of The JPB Foundation.
  • Antonia Hernández of the California Community Foundation along with Gary Bass, Barbara Picower and Darren Walker co-authored an op-ed that clearly and succinctly makes the case for why grantmakers should invest in the census. Their key message in Every Person Counts: Why the Census Must Be Rescued is: “All philanthropists have a stake in the census, no matter what they fund or where. It is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can to guarantee that it proceeds accurately, apolitically, ethically, and efficiently. And we are running out of time.”
  • There’s a great video available to help folks understand what’s at stake.

But census funders say they need an additional $35 million to support national efforts to reach hard-to-count populations and encourage them to participate, and for a Census Equity Fund that will provide grants to hard-to-count areas in states where there is limited philanthropy.

Even more funding is needed at the state and local levels. The goal is to make sure everyone gets counted.

Nonprofits will do media campaigns in multiple languages, along with door-to-door outreach and other high-touch engagement strategies.

As I reviewed the list of funders participating with this funder collaborative thus far, several large national foundations were conspicuously and disappointingly missing such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, The MacArthur Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Also not on the list are large regional funders like Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, William Penn Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Houston Endowment, Daniels Fund, Duke Endowment, Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Brown Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

Every single community foundation in the nation should also be a part of this effort, yet I only see a handful of them on the list.

Given the missions of these grantmakers, why aren’t they engaged? Word is that Houston Endowment, The Heinz Endowments and Schusterman Family Foundation are in discussions and will soon come on board, but what about the others?

I realize that it’s possible some of these funders are indeed doing census-related funding and they just haven’t connected yet with the national effort. I really hope that’s the case.

There is no more time to waste. Philanthropy can play a meaningful role in helping to ensure the 2020 census produces an accurate count. To succeed, foundations large and small need to get engaged now, before the end of the year.

If you’re considering being a part of this important effort, reach out directly to one of the leaders I mentioned above, or join a conference call to be hosted by Darren Walker and Gary Bass on Oct. 30, 2018, to learn how you can get involved.

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.


Kudos to these foundations that have invested in the census

Access Strategies Fund

Albuquerque Community Foundation

Annenberg Foundation

Annie E. Casey Foundation, The


Barr Foundation

Bauman Foundation, The

Berger Action Fund

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Blandin Foundation

Blue Shield of California Foundation

Boston Foundation, The

Bush Foundation

Butler Family Fund

California Community Foundation

California Endowment, The

Carnegie Corporation

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Chicago Community Trust, The

Claneil Foundation, The

Con Alma Health Foundation

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

David & Lucile Packard Foundation, The

Democracy Fund

East Bay Community Foundation

First Five LA

Ford Foundation

Four Freedoms Fund

Fund for New Jersey, The

Gold Bay Foundation

Grove Foundation, The

Haynes Foundation

Heising-Simons Foundation

Hyams Foundation, The

Irving Harris Foundation

James Irvine Foundation, The

Joyce Foundation, The

JPB Foundation, The

Klarman Family Foundation, The

Knight Foundation

Kresge Foundation, The

Latino Community Foundation

Maddox Foundation

Marguerite Casey Foundation

McCune Charitable Foundation

Meyer Foundation

Miami Foundation, The

Miller Foundation

New York Community Trust, The

Open Society Foundations

Philadelphia Foundation, The

Pittsburgh Foundation, The

Polk Bros. Foundation

Present Progressive Fund

Rhode Island Foundation

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Roth Family Foundations

S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Samuel S. Fels Fund

San Francisco Foundation, The

Santa Fe Community Foundation

Sapelo Foundation, The

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Solidarity Giving

State Farm

Streisand Foundation

Sunlight Giving

Taos Community Foundation

Thornburg Foundation

Unbound Philanthropy

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Wallace H. Coulter Foundation

Weingart Foundation

Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

WKF Giving Fund