This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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In Defense of the Movement: Policing, Criminalization, and Surveillance of Protesters of State Violence

January 25, 2023

The Communities Transforming Policing Fund, Center for Protest Law and Litigation, CS Fund, Piper Fund, and Funders for Justice are calling on our peer philanthropic organizations to partner with us in defense of the movement. The movement to end state violence is unique, but deeply connected to all movements for equality and justice. Every right fought for and won in the United States has come through mass protests and mobilization. Every right taken away and criminalized is enforced by police and often with the use of surveillance, legal targeting, and violence. To reinforce our Democracy and to be in alignment with movements for justice and equality, philanthropy must commit to the long-term legal, safety, and security support of protesters.

Nonprofit Sector Public Polling 2022

September 20, 2022

This report outlines polling results reflecting the views of registered voters on a wide range of topics related to nonprofits and public policy. The results provide valuable insight into the landscape of public opinion ahead of the midterm elections – about charitable giving policy, federal representation of the nonprofit sector, our sector's role in the community, and how the public engages with nonprofits.The findings are clear. The public continues to see value in the nonprofit sector and the role it plays in society. Voters in the United States want to see nonprofits better resourced through charitable giving, more represented in policy conversations, and more actively engaged in civic engagement in the communities they serve. Voters value nonprofit advocacy, are more likely to support an organization that helps them advocate or that advocates for their community, and are willing to help nonprofits make decisions about their public policy work. 

How Nongovernmental Stakeholders Can Support States in Advancing Evidence-Based Policymaking

September 12, 2022

Evidence-based policymaking has helped many states across the country ensure that their budget and policy decisions are informed by the best available data. Yet, even for those states that have made significant progress using this approach, barriers remain to institutionalizing its use. By ensuring that the creation and use of evidence becomes embedded in the way state governments make decisions, leaders and policymakers can better serve their populations effectively and equitably.This report offers guidance on ways that nongovernment stakeholders can help evolve states' progress by addressing persistent challenges to the routine use of evidence.


To Overcome Challenges to Evidence-Based Policymaking, States Need Outside Help

September 12, 2022

Over the past decade, states have increasingly relied on evidence to help ensure that relevant data informs their budget and policy decisions. But states still encounter significant barriers to embedding evidence in government decision-making processes, in part due to capacity constraints. To identify ways that other entities can help states overcome these issues, the Results First initiative gathered input from philanthropies, research and policy organizations, associations for public officials, and state government staff members. The resulting report details the types of support that state governments need as they work toward more consistent use of evidence, particularly through their budget offices, and the ways nongovernmental entities can help address capacity concerns.What emerged from this research are three key challenges facing states' evidence-based policymaking efforts as well as some potential solutions.

Center for Popular Democracy Impact Report 2021

August 15, 2022

As we look toward the future of CPD, we are excited for the next executive and leadership team to continue exploring how our network can develop even further as a trusted and responsive partner in the movement. We are confident that the CPD Network will remain at the forefront of the fight to win badly-needed changes on just, people-centered COVID relief, climate change, immigration reform, housing and evictions, defunding the carceral state, addressing the growth of white supremacist and anti-democratic forces, and more.

Investments in Local News Sustainability: Early Learnings and Insights

May 21, 2022

In February 2019, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that it would double its investment in strengthening journalism to $300 million over five years, with a focus on building the future of local news and information, which are essential for democracy to function. In early 2020, Knight Foundation and Impact Architects launched this assessment of Knight's investments in local news sustainability with the goal to better understand the impacts of these investments and promising practices that contribute to sustainability. This report is an interim learning memo assessing these investments after each of these programs has been operating for at least one full year. The main objective of this assessment is to understand the effects of grantees' interventions in the context of Knight's goals for sustainability of local news, particularly with respect to audience and revenue growth. We know that the long-term sustainability of local news cannot be divorced from the need for local news organizations to be diverse, equitable and inclusive, with sophisticated organizational practices and representation from the communities they aim to serve. So, we include these aspects of organizational growth and development in the qualitative elements of this assessment, as well.  Given the upheaval of 2020 and 2021, the assessment has continually adjusted in response to our ever-changing reality. The assessment includes eight unique interventions being carried out by ten grantee organizations, all of which are B2B organizations supporting newsrooms through grantmaking, programming, training and networking. To test the Knight Foundation's hypotheses with respect to local news sustainability, we are gathering comparable quantitative data from newsrooms pre- and post-grantee intervention with respect to audience, revenue, operations, staff and culture. These quantitative metrics, together with interviews to generate qualitative data, are used to answer key questions and provide insights regarding:The return on investment (ROI) of investments with revenue-generating outcomes;The impact of grantee interventions on participating newsrooms' financial health and sustainability;The relative strengths of different grantee interventions with respect to audience growth, revenue generation and organizational culture shift;The effect of grantee interventions on newsrooms in the context of sector-level trends.


Making the Case: Philanthropy’s Role in the Movement to Reimagine Criminal Justice

March 31, 2022

Bridgespan's experience and relationships working with institutional foundations and philanthropists created an opportunity to dive into the common challenges we've heard funders navigate: What role could philanthropy play in movement building in criminal justice reform? How might mindset and practice need to shift to enable effective giving to movement?The purpose of this report is to provide guidance for some of those common challenges by offering the perspectives and wisdom of those doing the work. Our research included interviews with more than 40 movement leaders, funders, and others across the ecosystem seeking transformative change of our criminal legal system, as well as a review of literature to understand how social movements can achieve equitable change.Bridgespan recognizes that this research is indebted to the work of many others who have long been thinking about these issues deeply. We hope to contribute to that ongoing conversation and the fight for equity and justice. 

Making a Voter Engagement Plan For the 2022 Midterms

March 31, 2022

This powerpoint and the accompanying webinar (available through Nonprofit VOTE's YouTube channel) look at a variety of resources designed to assist your organization in putting together a 2022 voter engagement plan ahead of this year's midterm elections! Additionally, we launched our 2022 Work Plan! Created with a human service organization in mind, this tool will help your organization harness its existing power and further leverage its trust and relationships with potential voters. Please note, that this is a beta version of the tool and that we anticipate room for improvement and future updates.

Texas Civil Rights Project Impact Report 2021

March 14, 2022

This year's Impact Report will tell the stories of the victories we shared together in our movement for social justice in Texas. From the halls of the Texas Capitol in Austin to the Rio Grande Valley, our team of dedicated legal advocates fought to ensure the civil rights of all Texans were preserved, no matter what language they spoke or what their citizenship status was.

Civic Participation

America’s Nonprofits Get Out the Vote

February 16, 2022

This report not only gives an unprecedented look at the scale of nonprofits doing nonpartisan voter engagement across the nation, but also reveals a crucial link between democracy building and racial equity.Using data from a 2021 Urban Institute survey, the report shows that 1-in-5 surveyed nonprofits do voter engagement, but that share climbs to 1-in-3 for nonprofits that serve Black, Hispanic, and low-income communities. Most encouraging is the discovery that nearly half of nonprofits led by People of Color do voter engagement work.Whether you are a nonprofit looking for inspiration to engage the communities you serve or eager to support those at the intersection of democracy and equality, this report offers next steps to fostering a more inclusive electorate.

Civic Participation

Violence—Proofing U.S. Democracy: Immediate Priorities For Philanthropy

December 15, 2021

U.S. philanthropy is keenly focused on re-invigorating and renovating democracy, supporting a wide range of actors and approaches. Successful strategies to strengthen formal and informal institutions, and reverse polarization, will need to include strategies to prevent and build resilience against political violence. International experience teaches that the risks of violence endure—and sometimes reach their heights—amidst efforts to reform dysfunctional systems and address democratic backsliding.In other words, rising risk of political violence is not just an outcome of democratic failure, but a side effect of efforts at democratic renewal. As such, philanthropy needs to prepare to minimize and mitigate violence as part of longer-term efforts to renew U.S. institutions and build bridges among American communities.This working paper for philanthropy, written with our partners Over Zero and Thought Partnerships, briefly summarizes current trends that, in light of global experience, suggest heightened risks of violence. Against this worrisome backdrop, we propose six funding strategies and specific recommendations to integrate violence prevention and mitigation into existing strands of work on polarization, institutions, or justice issues:Bolstering democracy and institutionsAddressing the threat of extremismAddressing the harmful communications landscapeResetting norms at the elite and community levelsCreating accountabilityLaying the groundwork for coordinated response to immediate risks


California Census 2020 Statewide Funders’ Initiative Final Evaluation Report

November 1, 2021

The 2020 census was among the most fraught in recent history, with threats to a fair and complete count posed by the global pandemic and the federal administration's attempt to limit the inclusion of immigrants. Fortunately, funders and other stakeholders built on the lessons of census 2010, and the California Census 2020 Statewide Funders Initiative coordinated investments with the state to maximize the number of Californians counted. This report documents learnings from the California Census 2020 Statewide Funders Initiative.

Civic Participation