On June 8, the Commerce Department (which oversees the Census Bureau) invited the public to comment on the paperwork associated with the 2020 census.  The public has 60 days – until August 7 – to submit comments.

This is one of the few opportunities for philanthropy to make its case that the citizenship question should be removed from the census questionnaire. Regardless of whether public comments will move the Trump administration to reverse its decision, this establishes an important record for the public, Congress and the courts to consider.

Please note – Submitting comments is NOT considered lobbying. This means that private foundations can weigh in on this question, and that public charities, including community foundations, can do so without tracking and reporting it as lobbying on their 990s. For more information, please see this legal memo on advocacy and the census here and this Bolder Advocacy blog “Nonprofits and Foundations Can Advocate to Remove the Citizenship Question from Census 2020” here.

HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

Briefing:

On Thursday, July 12, FCI hosted a briefing on Philanthropy’s Response to the Addition of a Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census. You can access the recording here and the slides here.

Sign-on Letter for Grantmakers:

We hope you will consider signing on and encourage other funders to do so.  You can find the text of the letter here. To sign-on, we’ll need the following as you want it to appear on the letter that becomes part of the public record: signer’s name, title, organization name, city, state.  To sign on, add your information at: https://goo.gl/forms/VU9VkrVnWBMYwJcz2. We will collect signatures until July 30.

This letter will exclude philanthropy serving organizations and affinity groups from signing on, although they are playing a leadership role in executing this plan.

Template Comments for Grantmakers:

Even if you signed the comment letter described above, it is vitally important to send your own letter. Such letters have an impact. You can access a sample letter here that you can use to request that the citizenship question be removed from the 2020 Census.  We thank the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) for drafting the sample letter.

The sample letter outlines concerns around the citizenship question and allows each organization to discuss how census data is important to them specifically and how an undercount would affect the communities that they serve. Everything in the sample letter is optional for your organization to customize and include in your final comment. We encourage you to individualize the letter as much as possible. To help, the letter includes links to key sources.

The notice to submit comments may be found here.

You can submit your comments at this regulations.gov link.

Sign-on Letter for Philanthropy Serving Organizations:

The United Philanthropy Forum has created a sign-on letter specifically for Philanthropy Serving Organizations. You can find the sign-on letter here and the form to sign-on to the letter here.

Resources for Your Grantees

The Leadership Conference Educational Fund, NALEO, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice have been leading a coalition of field partners to submit comments to show the breadth of voices in opposition to the citizenship question. Please share this action alert with your grantees.