Inside MCF

Foundation Gives $4.1 Million for Democracy and Census 2020

April 25, 2018

Brad Wong
By Brad Wong
Communications Manager

SEATTLE – Marguerite Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy that believes no family should live in poverty, has issued a total of more than $4 million of unrestricted general support grants to aid nonpartisan voter engagement activities and ensure a fair and accurate Census 2020 count of all people in the United States.

The grants were issued in recent months so nonprofit organizations could have enough time to plan, execute and promote civic participation ideas, nonpartisan voting engagement efforts and Census 2020 outreach, said Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation.

“At Marguerite Casey Foundation, we started with a core mission: to nurture a family-led movement in which people directly affected by poverty advocate on their own behalf for a just and equitable society,” Vega-Marquis said.

“As part of our commitment to families and democracy, we — and especially all of us in the funding world — need to ensure that grantmaking is intentional and timely, and that it reflects what community members of all backgrounds are saying.”

In order for meaningful movement building and community progress to occur in 2018 and the coming years, structural barriers blocking people from participating in civic life — especially voting — must be removed.

“Democracy relies on full participation in civic life by everyone, regardless of income or political party,” Vegas-Marquis said. “We’re pleased to be supporting pathways for families to organize and participate.”


In December of 2017, months before any general election, the Foundation issued $4 million in flexible grants to 35 community organizations nationwide to boost democratic participation through nonpartisan “integrated voter engagement.”

This type of voter-engagement grant emphasizes education and leadership development with the goal of collaborating with families and other community members to come up with grassroots solutions.

Grant recipients include: Greater Birmingham Ministries (Birmingham, Alabama), New Florida Majority Education Fund (Miami, Florida), Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (Reno, Nevada), Proyecto Azteca (San Juan, Texas), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (Oakland, California), San Diego LGBT Community Center (San Diego, California), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education – SCOPE (Los Angeles, California) and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California at Berkeley.


The Foundation also recently approved two unrestricted grants to support a comprehensive and accurate census in 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the U.S. Commerce Department, will conduct the decennial count.

On March 27, 2018, the U.S. Commerce Department announced it would include a citizenship question in the upcoming census, raising concerns about suppressing participation, especially in immigrant communities, and skewing the count.

The official census count is important because it is used to determine legislative representation, and it informs policy and funding decisions for up to 10 years in federal, state, county and city government. Philanthropies also use census data to help guide funding decisions. Since 2017, community leaders and families have raised serious questions about whether the U.S. government is adequately prepared to count all people in the country during the decennial event.

A $50,000 grant from the Foundation is going to Seattle-based Philanthropy Northwest to support conversations and a 2018 gathering to highlight the need for a fair and accurate Census 2020. The gathering will include regional and national funders and will focus on the importance of issuing more philanthropy dollars to support fairness and accuracy in Census 2020.

In late 2017, the Foundation also issued a $50,000 grant to The Census Project, which is part of the Communications Consortium Media Center of Washington, D.C. The Census Project supports a comprehensive and fully-funded Census 2020 that will elevate the concerns and needs of low-income families.

Marguerite Casey Foundation is an independent grantmaking organization that supports low-income families who are raising their voice and organizing for justice, equity and progress.

Foundation Gives $4.1 Million for Democracy and Census 2020