Key Takeaways

Participate. Convene. Invest. – A Call to Action for Philanthropy

  • takeaways

We are now less than two years away from “Census Day,” April 1st, 2020! Join a conversation about why the census matters and the role that philanthropy can play in ensuring a fair and accurate count. Data from the census drive key decisions made by government, business, nonprofits and philanthropy. Although philanthropy cannot and should not supplant the government’s responsibility to ensure a fair and accurate census, funder engagement in support of the census is more important than ever.

Funders will learn about:

  • Current policy landscape on important census issues.
  • How funders can use their leverage to participate in census organizing at the national, state, and local level.
  • The different ways funders have been convening their colleagues, stakeholders, and community leaders to learn about and strategize for a fair and accurate census.
  • How funders are already planning for investments at the state and local level.

You’ll hear directly from funders on how they’ve been engaging at the state and local level, and leave with concrete next action steps for census engagement at your foundation and/or in your community. The time to act is now!

Recording Here (FCCP Members Only)


  • The census is the country’s most inclusive act of civic engagement and the basis for the continuum of civic engagement activities. It involves every person living in the U.S. When we count people, we are working towards fair representation and the equitable, prudent distribution of public, private, and non-profit resources.
  • In philanthropy, the census is a vital tool for our work. With accurate, reliable census data, we can better understand the communities and issues we care about and serve, create priority areas, and inform stronger evaluation.
  • How can you support a fair and accurate census? Participate – Convene – Invest!

CENSUS UPDATE – Terri Ann Lowenthal, FCI Census 2020 Consultant

  • We know the census is facing significant threats to its success – the bureau is without a permanent, Senate-confirmed leader; the census has experienced delayed and insufficient funding; the first online census faces tech challenges; and the recent addition of a citizenship question creates the potential for lower response rates and participation.
    • The budget – have to make sure the 2018 money is spent wisely to overcome underspending in previous years, and also seek increased funding for 2019.
    • The citizenship question – litigation is underway over the citizenship question that the Commerce Secretary added to the census
    • Key census milestones to keep in mind – 2018 “dress rehearsal” is in full swing in Rhode Island; state/local government review of address lists under Local Update of Census Addresses program will be completed by the end of June. In January 2019, 40 early local census offices will open and communications campaign will start; next summer, 76,000 addresser canvassers will be hired

PARTICIPATE – Elina Alterman, Kansas Health Foundation

  • It is essential for philanthropy to get involved in the census, regardless of issue area or whether your foundation wants to weigh in on the challenges the census faces.
  • Start within your foundation, get internal commitment and provide education. Make sure your rationale is aligned with your foundation’s mission.
  • Engage your networks and partners, the Kansas Health Foundation has relationships with so many different sectors. Mine your networks for people you can approach, including businesses.

CONVENE – Marcia Avner, Bauman Foundation

  • Play up foundation’s role as a CONVENER – people are likely to show up when we call them and ask them to come to our meetings. Use that power to bring people together.
  • Once you have them in the room use inspiration (motivate people with how much it matters), information (be good messengers in sharing information), strategy (highlight how the census has implications for your work), and action options (connect people with opportunities for engagement)
  • Who should you be convening? Your own foundation’s board and staff to infuse them with excitement about the census and show how it weaves into everyone’s role, board and staff; grantees to educate and strategize get-out-the-count plans; philanthropic partners to show how your work can connect and maximize your potential; and the business community and other community stakeholders

INVEST – Alexie Torres-Fleming, Access Strategies Fund

  • Establishing a pooled fund starts with finding your allies and establishing a committee. Identify the anchor foundations in your state and invite them to the table, and work with your local regional association of grantmakers. Think through the grantmaking cycles leading up to the 2020 census and create a decision-making structure for awarding grants.
  • Set a fundraising goal – In Massachusetts we’ve set it at $1 million to cover both grantmaking and other expenses including a consultant, communications, education, and advocacy.
  • Launch the campaign with a kick off statewide funder briefing and offer multiple levels of engagement from most to least: table member, pooled funder, grantmaker, educator.
  • Consider grants that support long-term investments past the 2020 census in civic engagement and the opportunity to reach funders who may not fund CE work.