Giving Compass' Take:

• Carnegie Corporation of New York breaks down opportunities for philanthropy to make an impact on voting rights in the United States. 

• Which of these approaches best aligns with your goals and resources? Which partnerships can help to advance your goals? 

• Find out why prisoners with voting rights often do not exercise them.

Today, a nationwide army of lawyers, grassroots activists and organizers, coalition and movement builders, and everyday citizens are following in the footsteps of earlier generations of activists who have fought to protect and expand Americans’ voting rights. Carnegie Corporation of New York has a long history of leadership and engagement on this issue. Now, it is working with a diverse group of other funders to bring more resources and more unity to the voting rights movement.

A key vehicle for funder and movement coordination is the State Infrastructure Fund (SIF), a collaborative fund administered by NEO Philanthropy. Among other activities, SIF convenes and supports a cohort of the leading nonprofit publicinterest litigation groups that are working on voting rights issues. Thanks to increased collaboration among these groups, they have been able to fight back more effectively against the rising tide of voter suppression across the country. They also have joined with grassroots organizations supported by SIF to track the latest threats emerging at all levels and mount an aligned response.

Meanwhile, the Corporation and its colleague funders haven’t been content just to support a defensive strategy against voter suppression. They also are actively supporting efforts to advance policies at all levels that make it easier to vote, and to educate and mobilize underrepresented groups so they exercise their voting rights.

Despite the heroic efforts of the people and organizations that make up today’s voting rights movement, and despite increased coordination and investment on the part of their funders, this work urgently needs more support. With the 2020 election on the horizon, the fact is that the voting rights of millions of Americans remain at risk. Carnegie Corporation of New York closes the report with a series of takeaways for funders to consider as they think about how they can become partners in this historic movement to protect our democracy:

  • Invest in core support and infrastructure. Provide flexible, core support so groups can invest in sustainability, relationships, innovation, and rapid-response capability.
  • Don’t think about these issues only at election time. Support organizations to be more effective on a continuing basis by providing multiyear support during election and nonelection years alike.
  • Support litigation. Don’t shy away from funding voting rights litigation—and when you do it, provide the necessary resources for legal strategies to succeed.
  • Invest in offense. Support groups at all levels to advance a positive agenda of pro-voter reforms.
  • Invest in the grassroots. Avoid the tendency to support high-profile state and national work only—invest in grassroots voting rights organizations and their leaders in the communities and regions you care about.
  • Support collaboration and convening. Bring a movement-building perspective to supporting voting rights by emphasizing collaboration, networks and convening.
  • Join with other funders. Don’t go it alone; SIF and other funder collaboratives provide an effective, cost-efficient vehicle for maximizing your impact and working with like-minded colleagues.