Where philanthropy meets democracy.
Philanthropy has unreached potential as a critical partner in strengthening our democracy. From mission-driven activities that build democratic citizenship, to more deliberate contributions to civic engagement, community-building and public policy work, to direct investments in democratic reform — philanthropy can more strongly step into its opportunity to shape a healthier, more inclusive democracy.
Challenges to Our Democracy
As our democracy faces unprecedented challenges today, it’s a critical time for philanthropy to embrace its democracy-strengthening role. Key challenges include:
- Attacks to democratic norms and values are eroding trust in government.
- A growing number of Americans feel that our democratic system is unresponsive to their needs.
- Voter suppression tactics and gerrymandering are preventing millions from voting or from their votes being counted.
- Foreign antagonists are using technology to exacerbate internal tensions and interfere with our elections.
- Daniel Kemmis, Philanthropy and The Renewal of Democracy
Philanthropy’s Support of Democracy
Across the region, Philanthropy Northwest members are contributing to a healthier democracy through a variety of approaches. For example:
- Community-building: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation granted $62,000 to Wyoming Community Foundation to add staff and expand coverage in the statewide independent news service, WyoFile.
- Public Policy Development: Northwest Area Foundation granted $100,000 to Jannus, Inc., to establish the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.
- Civic Engagement: The Bullitt Foundation granted $45,000 to support the coordination of Montana's Conservation Working Group with non-partisan voter registration, voter education and get-out-the-vote activities.
What We’re Doing
Philanthropy Northwest is listening to members, organizing learning and networking opportunities, and creating tools that support philanthropy in being effective democracy partners with communities.
To help funders understand the assets and opportunities within our communities, we created the Democracy Lens. It includes regional data about indicators of the health of our democracy, including voter registration and turnout, the number of nonprofit local media sources and the demographics of elected officials. It also looks at philanthropic funding — direct and indirect — that supports democracy building. In addition, it provides Democracy Bright Spot case studies that examine successful democracy-strengthening initiatives and the role of philanthropy in each state.
We are in the midst of updating the Democracy Lens data, as well as the Bright Spots. Check back summer 2020 for an update.
Democracy Northwest Advocacy Cohort
We are building a community of funders to work together to strengthen reflective democracy in the Northwest. Our focus is on encouraging civic engagement in public discourse, supporting political power-building in local communities and increasing political representation by leaders who reflect their communities. To do this, we are listening to communities about how funders can best support community civic participation, sharing what we are learning and promoting collaboration among funders to foster more reflective democracy. To learn more about the Democracy Northwest Advocacy Cohort, contact our policy team.
- Philanthropy and the Renewal of Democracy - Philanthropy Northwest senior advisor Daniel Kemmis examines the post-Citizens United landscape and how philanthropy can strengthen democracy.