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In light of shrinking government budgets, an increase in extreme wealth, and stories raising the alarm about threats to American democracy, how are foundations engaging with U.S. democracy? The simple answer is: in many ways! Foundation Center, in partnership with eight foundations, developed the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy data visualization platform to help answer this question. This webinar featured an online tour of this publicly-available tool that captures the range of democracy-related activities that foundations have supported from 2011 to present.

The content of this webinar focuses on:

· Explaining the framework used to represent democracy funding in the tool
· Highlighting the features, filters, and search functionalities of the data platform
· Exploring specific use cases for the data


Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy website



  • Originally launched in 2014, the tool was developed by Foundation Center in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Democracy Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The JPB Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Rita Allen Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • Created to develop a better understanding around how much funding is going to particular issue areas related to democracy and making this information easily accessible to the public – as a public good — in a dynamic and regularly updated format.
  • Data for the tool are generally sourced through one of two ways: some funders regularly submit data directly to Foundation Center via the Electronic Reporting (E-reporting) Program. And for those funders who are not eReporters, the data are sourced via 990 tax forms or other publicly available sources.


  • As of July 2017, the tool contains almost 39,000 grants totaling $3.7 billion. The data in the tool are updated regularly as Foundation Center processes grants and includes grants dating back to 2011 to the present.
  • The default view in the tool—the charts view—shows the breakdown of funding by the custom categories the Center created to represent the different funding areas within the democracy space.
  • The taxonomy—a sort of filing system used to categorize the grants by subject area—was created for the project with input from funders and other stakeholders who work on these issues.
  • There are four major categories: Campaigns, Elections, and Voting; Civic Participation; Government; and Media; each with varying numbers of more specific subcategories—such as Journalism, which appears under Media.
  • The tool lets you search by recipients or funders, and it works well in coordination with the geography field which allows you to isolate a specific geography where funders or recipients are located.
  • You can filter down further by subject, population groups, grant strategies, year, funder type, and geographic focus (either national, state, or local). You can also search by organization.
  • All this can be viewed in the default charts view, the maps view which lets you see organizations by location, and the lists view which allows you to see grants level data.
  • In the lists view, you can see grants data by funders, recipients, and grants. Clicking on “Details” will allow you to view more information about each. When in lists view, you can also export a PDF of CSV file of what you’re seeing
  • Another useful view is constellations, which gives you a ‘field-wide’ view of who’s working a specific issue, based on the grants that have been awarded in this space.

Use Cases

Funder looking to fund litigation:

  • Suppose a funder is looking to start funding litigation in the democracy space but is uncertain on where to start. They can use the tool to identify those already working in the space in order to initiate a conversation and learn from their existing knowledge.
  • To do this, first select “Litigation and Jurisprudence” under the Strategy section of the “More Filters” tab.
  • If you select the charts view on the left, you can see that grants supporting litigation exist across all categories, especially civil liberties and rule of law.
  • And then if you click on the bar, the grants list view will come up in a pop-up – limited to grants awarded to litigation in support of civil liberties.
  • To learn more, one can click on the ‘Detail’ item, which opens up a list of grants meeting these criteria.

Looking at recipients in California, by a topic:

  • Say a nonprofit working in California with children and youth is thinking about reorienting its program to more actively engage in democracy. They might want to see how other organizations in California are working with or on behalf of this population segment in a way that strengthens democracy.
  • To do this, you can select “Recipients” and search for California in the location field. Then select “Children and Youth” in the “More Filters” dropdown menu.
  • The maps view will illustrate the distribution of relevant recipient organizations across the state, and you can zoom in on particular counties or cities.
  • By clicking on any bubble, you can see a summary box on grantmaking totals for children and youth that meet the democracy criteria. Clicking on Funders, Recipients, or Grants will pull up more details.
  • Any of these lists can be downloaded as a PDF or CSV

E-reporting Program

  • Sharing your grants data directly with Foundation Center via our electronic or E-reporting Program is the best way to ensure that your most recent data is included in the tool and that the story of your foundation’s giving is told accurately.
  • Simply download an Excel spreadsheet of your full grants list from your grants management software and email it to egrants@foundationcenter.org. This is also the email address where you can direct any questions about this program.
  • As an e-reporter, you’ll also receive a complimentary, interactive map—like that used for Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy—with all of your foundation’s grantmaking for fiscal years submitted through the E-reporting Program
  • More information on the program can be found here: http://foundationcenter.org/gain-knowledge/foundation-data/electronic-reporting-program


Please email Anna Koob with any questions or comments. You can also check out this webinar for a free, online tour of the site.