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.
An Interview with Jennifer Humke, Senior Program Officer, MacArthur Foundation…On How Bottom-Up, Citizen-Made Media Strengthens Democracy
Jennifer Humke is senior program officer for Journalism and Media at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Jennifer focuses primarily on grantmaking in participatory civic media as part of the journalism and media team. In this role, she makes grants to enable more individuals and groups to use participatory media for social change. Recently, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives for Foundation Center, interviewed Jennifer about how supporting citizen-made media can improve our democracy.
A free press is central to our democracy, but a strong, robust news operation does not come free. As the collapse of the newspaper industry leaves gutted newsrooms across the country with reduced capacity for news gathering, policy analysis, and original reporting, can the information needs of voters be met?
Institutions of higher learning are natural places for the open exchange of ideas, debating diverse viewpoints, and learning from people who come from different backgrounds. Yet, in recent years, the issue of free speech on college campuses has at once empowered, and also confused, isolated, and angered students, university administrations, alumni, and the American public.
Foundations support democracy in a variety of ways. In this staff pick, part of GlassPockets' Democracy Funding blog series, we dig into foundation-funded research on the voter experience.
Most of the things philanthropists care about — civility, moderation, partnership, consensus — are fast disappearing. Our country, and much of the world, seem to be moving to a kind of scorched-earth politics in which division along ethnic, racial, religious, gender and identity lines is the currency of power. How should foundations navigate the world of 2018 and beyond? To be sure, foundations have something valuable to contribute. But will they use them to fight, transcend, or simply ignore the conflict that surrounds them?
Part of GlassPockets’ Democracy Funding blog series, this article highlights new research on how Americans recognize news as factual or opinion, and why knowledge like this is important to produce.