Philanthropy has a role to play in rehabilitating our democracy, though it sits in an uneasy relationship with democracy. Depending on the form it takes, philanthropy can be a threat to or an indispensable component of a healthy democratic society. Democratic societies flourish as a kind of a three-legged stool: a set of healthy public institutions (the government); a vibrant private sector (the market); and a diverse array of civil society and philanthropic organizations (the independent sector).

In this piece, we focus on how philanthropy can repair and rehabilitate our dysfunctional civic and democratic institutions.*

As we see it, the vulnerabilities of American democracy stretch across four thematic areas: government infrastructure; the electoral process; civic participation and engagement; and a free, vibrant, and trustworthy media and information ecosystem.

Democracy-Rehabilitating Philanthropy is for philanthropists who seek to repair the flaws in our current civic and democratic institutions. Using the themes outlined above, we have identified a range of activities and approaches that donors can take. (The framework borrows from Candid’s research on Foundation Funding for US Democracy and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s “We the People: a Philanthropic Guide to Strengthening Democracy.”)

  • Government performance: Donors can invest in nonprofits that advocate for increased congressional staffing budgets, improve federal and state legislature performance, or increase government transparency.
  • Increase the capacity of local and state administrators
  • Expand civic education and civic participation efforts to communities more frequently excluded from the political process
  • Support underfunded journalism organizations

Learn from others! In addition to reviewing the recommendations listed above, donors can also learn from other philanthropists and family foundations who have been funding to rehabilitate US democracy for some time. Giving Compass has helpfully compiled an “Election 2020” resource that includes a list of organizations and funds working within several of the themes we outlined above.

Read the full article about how philanthropy can reimagine democracy by Mohit Mookim, Rob Reich, Nadia Roumani & Ayushi Vig at Stanford Social Innovation Review.