People Don’t Stop Counting When the Counting Stops

Two years agoin the face of incredible oddsthe Census Bureau, along with all of us and our dedicated practitioner partners, set out to count every person residing in this country. Our efforts were transformativefor philanthropy, census infrastructure, and democracy. Today, communities across the country continue litigating for fair maps, advocating for resource equity, and preparing for a critical election. The Post-Enumeration Survey results recently revealed where the 2020 Census fell short, especially among communities of color and young children.

So, we have work to do to ensure that in the future all communities are counted. To this end, we hope you never underestimate the impact of your role, your engagement, and your ability to effect change. As we gathered from last year’s Funders Census Initiative (FCI) survey of 500+ grantmakers and philanthropy organizations:

  • For 82% and 64% of respondents, their involvement with FCI deepened their organization’s commitment to the census and improved the impact of their census grantmaking, respectively.
  • 71% of respondents are working to maintain aspects of census infrastructure beyond the 2020 Census; 88% of respondents are interested in ongoing civic engagement/democracy issues.

These numbers reflect your understanding that the census is the backbone of our republic, where true power flows from the people to those they elect to public office. 

As shared in FCI’s 10-Year Blueprint for Philanthropic Census Engagement, there are meaningful year-by-year actions you can take to help ensure that between today and the next census, we build upon our groundwork for equity and inclusivity in 2030. Among these are:

  • Sustain grants to key groups advocating for prudent policy and operational decisions that will affect the accuracy of the 2030 Census and ACS –both for early census campaign development and real-time outreach and promotion campaigns.
  • Make multi-year grants to national, state, and local groups to begin educating and mobilizing their networks to address policy challenges and prepare for Get-Out-the-Count campaigns in historically undercounted communities.

Beyond grantmaking, philanthropy can be a strategic partner in working with the Census Bureau to center historically undercounted communities in all of its work, including the American Community Survey and the decennial count. As an example, 160 census advocates and organizations recently sent a letter to the administration related to federal data collection on race and ethnicity. 

Funders must engage in this work now because getting the census right requires setting our democracy on an equitable course – across redistricting, voting, representation, and the distribution of public funding. If we do, people will be counted, heard, and reflected in ways that advance a more just and multi-racial democracy.