The Census

The Census

Counting every person.

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.

A census undercount can worsen 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

Philanthropy plays an active role in ensuring a robust and accurate count, and we have only one chance in a decade to get it right. 

What Funders Can Do

The planning process for the 2030 Census is underway and philanthropy can be a critical partner in this long-term democracy-building endeavor by staying engaged.  

To inform your 2030 Census activities, learn more about how funders engaged in the 2020 Census:  

What We Did

The 2020 Census created an opportunity to show our community's strength. We worked together across the sector and with communities to make every effort to ensure each and every person in the Northwest was counted.

In 2020, the Census faced unprecedented challenges. Severe underfunding of the U.S. Census Bureau 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, threatened the accuracy and fairness of the census.

National Partnerships 
Philanthropy Northwest worked with national partners that supported, informed and coordinated approaches to 2020 Census work in each of our states. We continue to sustain partnerships developed through the Funders’ Committee Census Initiative to support ongoing programs, advocacy and collaborations. 

Our philanthropic partners from Na'ah Illahee FundMontana Community FoundationLatino Community Fund of Washington StateOffice of Financial Management (WA)Northwest Area FoundationSeattle FoundationIdaho 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.


Washington Census Equity Fund
Through the Washington Census Equity Fund, we brought together more than 30 funders to pool their resources and support community-based organizations that conducted education and outreach around the 2020 Census. To learn more about our efforts in 2020, please read Philanthropy Northwest’s 2020 Washington Census Equity Fund Evaluation Report

Want to know more about how to support long-term democracy-building?

Reach out to our public policy team to stay engaged.