Democracy Funding in Washington

Democracy Funding in Washington

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 Washington 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 demographic range from 2012 to 2019.

Read how Washington’s grantmakers have been involved in creating a stronger civic infrastructure in these Bright Spot articles.

Washington Bright Spot: Democracy Vouchers in Seattle Washington Bright Spot: Sharing Power for Shared Prosperity

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 Washington

Key points from the data include:

  • The number and typical size of such grants increased from 2012-2014 to 2015-2017, totaling over $9 million per year.
  • However, this was less than 1% of total grantmaking in the state. Still, around 4% of foundations that give in Washington support democracy work, which is higher than in much of the Northwest.
  2012-2014 2015-2017
Grants 333 537
Funders 120 177
Funding $20.8 million $28.1 million
Median Grant Amount $20,000 $25,000
Portion of Funding in Washington* 0.9% 0.6%
Portion of Total Funders 4.2% 3.7%
Portion of Funding from In-State Funders 35% 43%
Funding per Resident $2.99 $3.85

*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.

Washington Democracy Funding by Category
Grants can be listed under more than one area. From 2012-2017, about $4.3 million also fell under
“Other.” For category definitions, visit 
Democracy Maps by Candid.


Recent Examples

  • Campaigns, Elections and Voting: In 2019, the Seattle Foundation gave $17,500 to Disability Rights Washington for a voter education initiative.
  • Civic Participation: The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust in Vancouver, Washington provided $225,000 in 2019 to the Washington Policy Center in Seattle. This served a program to increase young professionals’ civic engagement.




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 Washington’s election performance 20th out of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in 2016. This score, unchanged from its 2014 rank, is based on 17 election performance metrics, showing average rates in Washington on election participation and accessibility. Turnout in Washington is above the national average by around 5% or more each election, but registration has been flat around 80%. The upcoming Bright Spot for Washington will discuss a local philanthropic effort to quantify civic participation and other community indicators of progress.


Washington Voter Participation
Sources: United States Election Project (voter eligible population and turnout),
Washington Secretary of State (registration) and Statista (national voter registration).

Demographics of Candidates

Political candidacy is also a way to ensure democracy is reflective of the public good, but not all demographic groups are equally likely to run for office in Washington. People of color were around 30% of the population but 7% of total county, state and federal representatives in 2019, a small increase from 2015. White males are the most elected demographic group, and in 2019, seven out of Washington’s 12 federal legislators were white males and four were white females. Candidate demographics in the 2014 and 2018 elections are like those of officeholders in 2015 and 2019, which means that people of color are not often running for office in Washington but are similarly likely to win as others.

Washington Officeholder Demographics
*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.