In early September, Global Citizen and HeadCount, announced Just Vote, a three-year initiative to encourage U.S. employers to provide paid time off for their staff to vote and volunteer. In response, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker and Wallace Global Fund executive director Ellen Dorsey penned an op-ed calling on the philanthropic sector to join and support these campaigns.
We often hear that nonprofits are nonpartisan, and it’s true that U.S. tax law prohibits public charities—which make up the bulk of the nonprofit sector in the United States—from supporting or opposing specific political candidates, parties, and ballot measures. Of course, it doesn’t mean these organizations can’t have a position on issues.
History has shown that presidential election years can equate to big giving years for some nonprofits. In particular, organizations whose agendas counter those of the winning candidate can end up receiving a drastic spike in giving. Looking at Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, we see that foundation support nationwide for democracy-related projects jumped 24 percent from 2015 to 2016, to $1.2 billion—and this figure has only continued to grow, totaling $1.3 billion in 2017 and $1.8 billion in 2018.
Senate Republicans' rush to fill the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat before the election is a terrible blow to Black people's civil rights and the health of our communities.
Overcoming my initial despair at how Congress seems hopelessly divided and the courts have become an ideological battleground, I wanted to see if philanthropy had any answers. To find out I turned to “Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy,” Candid’s free public web platform that tracks how foundations are working to improve democratic practice, the money involved in doing so, and relevant research.
Our storytellers always look at what's behind and beyond the hashtag and work hard to report on systemic transformation. The fact that they are also eager to vote on Election Day gives me hope and brings me back to that moment many years ago when I was challenged to make a choice between being a journalist or being a Black citizen of the United States.
In early 2019, Candid asked 645 of the largest U.S. foundations if they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. The vast majority (88 percent) of the respondents said their organizations made “few or no changes” to their giving priorities during the two years following the election. About one in eight (12 percent) reported making “some notable changes.”
Workplace giving in support of political and social causes and in response to current events in the United States has increased significantly since 2016, a report from giving platform Benevity finds.
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.