Democracy Funding in Montana

Democracy Funding in Montana

As a part of our Democracy Lens tools, for each state in our region, we report a data snapshot about democratic activities (ranging from funding, voter participation and candidate demographics) and case studies (called Bright Spots). The Bright Spots illustrate the scope and story of philanthropic support for civic engagement. You can access these data and Bright Spot stories for the other Northwest states on the Democracy Lens webpage


The funding data below highlight totals in Montana from grants of at least $5,000 for democratic activities. This funding summary compares data from three-year periods at two different time points: 2012-2014 and 2015-2017. The data include funding coming from outside of and within the state. Additional data and charts on voter participation and candidate demographics range from 2012 to 2019.

Read how Montana’s grantmakers have created a stronger civic infrastructure in these Bright Spot articles.   

Montana Bright Spot: The Role of Philanthropy in Montana’s Civic Culture

Montana Bright Spot: Convenings of Civic Leaders to Strengthen Democracy

Montana Bright Spot: Developing Young People’s Skills to Find Policy Solutions 

If you are a funder interested in highlighting your democracy work, please email our policy team to share your story.

Democracy Funding to Grantees in Montana

Key points from the data include:

  • Compared to 2012-2014, funding declined in 2015-2017. However, the statistics are skewed by over half of the funding going toward the National Institute on Money and State Politics in Montana, which is why most democracy grantmaking came from out-of-state philanthropies.
  • Around 3% of Montana’s funders continued to give to democracy causes in 2015-2017.
  2012-2014 2015-2017
Grants 72 84
Funders 39 46
Funding $8.1 million $6.6 million
Median Grant Amount $31,380 $25,000
Portion of Funding in Montana* 3.8% 1.1%
Portion of Total Funders 4% 2.9%
Portion of Funding from In-State Funders 4% 8%
Funding per Resident $7.96 $6.31

*Excludes federal grants and relies on two datasets (Foundation Maps and Democracy Maps) updated at different frequencies. 
Sources: Democracy Maps by CandidFoundation Maps by Candid (for Percent of Total Grantmaking to State), American Community Survey (for Funding per Resident). Foundation data is less complete after 2017.

Montana Democracy Funding by Category
Grants can be listed under more than one area. From 2012-2017, almost $31,000
also fell under “Other.” For category definitions, visit Democracy Maps by Candid.


Recent Examples

  • In 2017, the Montana Healthcare Foundation granted $50,000 to the Montana Budget and Policy Center to analyze Medicaid policy, as well as provide general operating support.
  • Media: The Lee and Donna Metcalf Charitable Trust in Helena provided nearly $7,000 to the University of Montana Foundation in 2018. This funding supported journalism scholarships for University of Montana students.



Public Participation in Democracy

Democracy grants provide members of the public with services to increase their abilities to participate in civic life, including elections and public service. Voting provides one snapshot of the public’s involvement in civil society. 


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Elections Performance Index ranked Montana’s election performance 25th out of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in 2016. This score, lower than its 2014 rank, is based on 17 election performance metrics, showing average rates in Montana on election participation and accessibility. Voter registration is not increasing but remains high while turnout is consistently above the national average. Turnout was especially strong in the 2018 midterms, with participation hardly dropping off from the previous presidential election.


Montana Voter Participation Graph
Sources: United States Election Project (voter eligible population and turnout), 
Montana Sec
retary of State (registration) and Statista (national voter registration).

Demographics of Candidates

Political candidacy is also a way to ensure that democracy is reflective of the public good, but not all demographic groups are equally likely to run for office in Montana. People of color were 14% of the population but 5% of total county, state and federal representatives in 2019. White males are the most elected demographic group, and in 2019, all three of its federal legislators were white males.

Candidate demographics in the 2014 and 2018 elections are like those of officeholders in 2015 and 2019, though men of color were a slightly smaller portion of the candidate pools in the 2014 and 2018 elections. Overall, people of color are not often running for office in Montana but are similarly likely to win as others. See our Bright Spot on Developing Young People’s Skills to Find Policy Solutions to learn how one Montana funder is fostering young people’s leadership skills around policy issues.

Montana Officeholder Demographics Graph
*Population demographics are approximate and shifted slightly from 2015 to 2019. POC means people of color.
Source: Reflective Democracy Campaign (2014-15 and 2018-19 Demographics of Power datasets – excluding city officials).


Interested in learning more about democracy funding?

Take a look at our Democracy Lens webpage for more information.