Let’s make sure every person is counted.
Every 10 years in the United States, a national census takes place. A robust and accurate census is critical to our democracy. The results inform the distribution of vital government resources and political representation in our communities for years to come. The philanthropic sector also relies on census data to understand community demographic trends and guide investments.
The 2020 Census is our opportunity to show our community's strength. It is an important time to join together — in each Northwest community and state, and as a sector — to make sure each and every person is counted.
Challenges Facing the 2020 Census
The 2020 Census faces unprecedented challenges. Severe underfunding of the U.S. Census Bureau has led to substantial cuts in outreach to groups who have been historically underrepresented, as well as delays in building technology systems for people to complete the census online. These barriers, along with growing public distrust in the government, threaten the accuracy and fairness of the census.
A census undercount can increase inequality in political representation and reduce funding to states and localities for critical services that support the safety, health and well-being of communities. For example, an undercount can affect:
- The number of teachers in schools
- The number of nurses in hospitals
- The availability of benefits like food stamps and health insurance
- Whether roads get fixed
- A community’s emergency preparedness
- How many representatives a state has in Congress
When it comes to the census, there are no do-overs — we have only one chance this decade to get it right. Philanthropy can play an active role in ensuring a robust and accurate count.
Our philanthropic partners from Na'ah Illahee Fund, Montana Community Foundation, Latino Community Fund of Washington State, Office of Financial Management (WA), Northwest Area Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Idaho Community Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation share why they think it is important for philanthropy to be involved in census work in the video below.
What Funders Can Do
Use your platform and communications channels to make sure people are aware the census is happening and why it matters to be counted. Help people know when and how they can complete the census safely (avoiding scams), and where they can get help, if needed.
Bring together interested funders and partners who can mobilize volunteers and/or fund outreach to make sure historically undercounted communities know about the census and why it’s important.
Fund your grantees to engage in census work, either through add-on grants to their existing work or new grants. Identify and fund those organizations that will help make state or local “Get Out the Count” plans a success. Recognize that the participation in the census is just one part of civic engagement, and that longer-term investments in democracy building will yield the highest impact.
What We’re Doing
Philanthropy Northwest is working with national partners that support informed and coordinated approaches to 2020 Census work in each of our states. These include:
- United Philanthropy Forum is a resource for information and opportunities to engage philanthropy-serving organizations across different regions on the 2020 Census. Learn more about United Philanthropy Forum.
- Funders Census Initiative (FCI) 2020 supports grantmakers by providing forums to learn and strategize together; developing resources, including a Funders’ Toolkit; and monitoring policy developments that could impact the 2020 count. Philanthropy Northwest is a member of the FCI leadership team. Your foundation can join the FCI working group to connect with hundreds of funders nationwide and gain access to additional resources and programming. Learn more about FCI 2020.
- Census Counts 2020 is working in more than 30 states and partnering with national organizations and stakeholders invested in a fair and accurate 2020 Census. It is a clearinghouse of fact sheets, updates and resources for stakeholders from all sectors. Learn more about Census Counts 2020.
Washington Census Equity Fund
Through the Washington Census Equity Fund, we’re bringing together more than 30 funders to pool their resources and support community-based organizations that are conducting education and outreach around the 2020 Census. The fund has provided $1.5 million in grants to ensure historically undercounted communities across Washington are counted. Learn more about the fund.