The 2020 Census: An Individual and Collective Journey

The 2020 Census: An Individual and Collective Journey


For more than 40 years, Philanthropy Northwest has supported and advocated on behalf of the region’s philanthropic sector. We promote cross-sector collaboration between the philanthropic sector and government, support the role of foundations as stewards of resources for the public good and the health and vitality of communities, and promote civic engagement to enable the nonprofit and philanthropic community to fulfill its role in strengthening communities and sustaining a thriving democracy.

As a part of this vision, Philanthropy Northwest and our members have been taking intentional steps to ensure a more vibrant and equitable democracy. Collectively we have been engaging and responding to the needs of communities, facilitating strategic grantmaking and taking clear policy positions.

In addition to this vision and framework, the diverse leadership and voice of Philanthropy Northwest staff, board and members inspired me to join the team three months ago. One specific position Philanthropy Northwest has taken is to ensure a robust and accurate count during the 2020 Census. I am incredibly excited about the launch of the Washington Census Equity Fund, and all the work that has gone into ensuring that communities can mobilize quickly and efficiently by our philanthropic partners.

As an immigrant, I have experienced both the legal and social limits to civic participation in the U.S. There are rigid boundaries to what types of job opportunities I have, or whether I can vote. I have had to navigate what feels right to me in terms of civic participation considering both legal and social implications. For instance, I have experienced increasing scrutiny when I enter/exit the U.S. over the past 20 years and I feel discomfort during marches or rallies. Before I came to the U.S., I saw massive and historical shifts in democratic processes – whether it was the end of apartheid in South Africa or the post-colonial creation of a multi-party ruling in Zambia. These power shifts came with the ability for people to organize and rally, but also at the cost of violence, such as rioting. My story is just one of the many immigrant stories that make up the diversity of immigrant communities and their relation to civic participation. I would not have built my experience and passion for being engaged and leveraging the tools for a vibrant democracy without community leaders who helped me understand and navigate life in the U.S., organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for historically marginalized communities, a law degree, and over a decade of experience advocating for immigrants.

Today, the Washington Census Equity Fund released a request for proposals (RFP). This RFP provides an opportunity for community leaders across Washington state to engage with hard to count communities to help them understand what the 2020 Census is and to help community members make an informed choice to be counted. While I understand the current realities of many immigrant communities and the hesitancy to participate in the 2020 Census, I hope that community and grassroots organizations will take advantage of this funding opportunity to build or elevate their capacity to engage with communities. The act of participating in the census will help shape what kind of resources the government and private sector will dedicate in the next 10 years.

For Organizations in Washington State:

We encourage you to apply for funding through the Washington Census Equity Fund. You can find more details about the application process through the Equity Fund page. Applications are due May 15, 2019.

For the Philanthropy Sector:

We encourage you to invest in 2020 Census efforts in Washington state through the Equity Fund or to get involved in your state through local census efforts. Contact me to join the Washington Census Equity Fund. Contact Meredith Higashi to engage in census efforts in your state. Individual donors can also contribute directly to the Equity Fund online.

Please let us know how you are involved in 2020 Census efforts. We would love to feature our members’ stories and the programs you are funding or partnering with for census efforts across the region.