Election season is upon us with the upcoming presidential caucuses and primaries beginning in February and the hundreds of other contests on the national, state, and local levels to be decided next week. During this time, it’s imperative for both foundations and public charities to understand the rules surrounding election-related activities. Charities have an opportunity to engage in important nonpartisan work during elections, such as get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, and voter education work. At the same time, however, the Internal Revenue Code provides that charities may not “directly or indirectly participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
In a little over a year, America could see the unthinkable: the highest level of voter participation in living memory. And based on insights gleaned from recent research, voter messaging focused on issues and empowerment is likely to be key to the turnout.
Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is a community of funders that invest in the sustaining elements of democracy and civic life in the United States. Earlier this year, a PACE-led research effort set out to gain a deeper understanding of the way everyday Americans understand the language that we as practitioners use to describe this work. In other words, when we say words such as civic engagement, activism, justice, and even democracy, what do most Americans hear, and what—if anything—does they mean to them? The results both challenged and affirmed our understanding.
Written by Allen Smart and Betsey Russell. The 2020 Census is the single most important event for rural America in recent history. Its impact will be felt for decades to come. And while most of the focus of the public discussion around the census has been on the prospective citizenship question (rightfully so), there also are fundamental changes in census methodology hidden in the weeds of the process that have the potential to diminish federal and state investment in rural America by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Mark Zuckerman joined the Century Foundation as president in 2015. A veteran of the Obama administration, Zuckerman has worked over the last four years to bring the organization’s research efforts and policy work into the twenty-first century. PND spoke with Zuckerman recently about some of those changes, the meaning of the 2018 midterm elections, and the Foundation’s efforts to advance a progressive policy agenda.
Traditionally, support for youth civic engagement declines at the end of an election cycle and resumes as the next cycle starts to heat up — along with thought pieces about why young people don’t vote. To break this pattern, I offer a suggestion: increase investment in youth organizing groups now; don't wait until 2020.
Trends cited as evidence of democracy's demise — dwindling participation in civic life, attacks on the press meant to undermine its legitimacy, the proliferation of digital disinformation, the rise of authoritarianism in formerly democratic countries — have been joined by renewed scrutiny of philanthropy, which finds itself under fire (once again) for being an anti-democratic tool of wealthy elites intent on shaping the world to their benefit. This criticism, however, exists alongside the reality that there are foundations funding efforts to strengthen democracy and loosen the grip of elite interests on the levers of power.
Heading into the midterm elections, we've seen heightened interest in the role that philanthropy plays in democratic societies, both globally and in the United States. Although foundations are prevented by law from engaging in partisan political campaigning, the regulations leave plenty of room for foundations to engage with democracy in other ways.
Foundation Center has launched new dashboards on its Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site, a nonpartisan data visualization platform for understanding philanthropy's role in U.S. democracy. Learn more about this tool and why funders should be transparent about their democracy work.
When the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 on Saturday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it was a significant victory for the Federalist Society, and for the foundations that support the organization. It also represented something — an outcome and real impact — that philanthropists of all persuasions crave, and it was achieved through, that’s right, general support grants.