less than a penny a year for grassroots civic organizing

(DC) The Foundation Center’s database and analytic website entitled Foundation Funding for US Democracy is full of interesting information and worth detailed exploration.

Drawing on tax forms, the site categorizes $5.5 billion in grants made to strengthen democracy in the USA since 2011.

The ideological range is wide: the DeVos and Mercer foundations are in the database, along with Open Society and many more.

This is the distribution of grants by very broad categories, with a somewhat more detailed look at the pie slice devoted to “civic participation” (which interests me most).

My graphs based on Foundation Center data

I estimate that $1.73 billion of the $5.5 billion (31%) has gone to nonprofits headquartered in DC or the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. With some exceptions, these are professional organizations without a grassroots membership base.

Within the category of “civic participation,” $2.1 billion has been distributed for the following purposes. These categories are non-exclusive; a grant can serve more than one purpose.

A total of $23 million–.0.43% of all democracy funding and a little less than one cent per American per year–has been spent on grassroots organizing for civic participation. I think that marks a major deficit.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.