From mistrust in the media to a lack of confidence in government institutions, our democracy is facing challenges. But, these obstacles can be tackled with the help of philanthropy. This collection will explore the various facets of the U.S. democracy and help donors better understand the landscape to take action.

democracy primer

Pace Primer: Democracy  

It’s no secret that people lack trust in the leaders and institutions that exist to serve them, but there’s also a lack of trust in democracy, and in our fellow citizens ... The reason our work feels so urgent in this moment is because those of us who do this work know that realizing the change we seek in a sustainable way will mean shifting our collective perceptions of what civic engagement looks like. -Kristen Cambell, Executive Director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement.

What Others Are Saying about Philanthropy and Democracy

Five Perspectives on Philanthropy and DemocracyGiving Compass:

We have a system which was designed to disenfranchise and disempower marginalized communities from having a political voice. Civil society, with robust support from philanthropy, is needed to help take back our system of government through wide-scale democratic system reforms, community engagement, and protecting our democratic institutions. Collaboration is key: Networks like FCCP provide philanthropy a space to strengthen our democracy by bringing together grantmakers, community organizations, and individual leaders around the country. Ultimately, if we can create the context for people to have a political voice, we can unlock the potential to solve the big challenges facing our country and world. — Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation

Philanthropy Supports Democracy, Democracy Supports Us All,  National Center for Family Philanthropy:

Historically, nonprofit organizations have played an important role in helping to shape the meaning and application of citizens’ rights. Through advocacy, education, and litigation, nonprofits have helped to define and defend our democratic values when they have come under attack…. There are many opportunities to support – financially and with one’s time — organizations that advocate for the essential precepts embodied in our founding documents. -Bruce DeBoskey

Resources for Donors

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy's We The People toolkit includes a range of giving opportunities, resources, data, and examples of organizations that are all strengthening democracy.

Learn how to take an active role in civic engagement. This article by Grantcraft for Candid discusses how funders can get involved.

Philanthropy Northwest has a useful tool called the Democracy Lens that helps donors understand and identify their capacity to strengthen democracy in their communities. Although this is a regional tool, funders can look at Philanthropy NW's case studies across the U.S. that serve as bright spots.

Did You Know?

Civic Engagement is defined as the "process of helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities, whether defined as a place or a shared identity or interest."

Pace Primer: Civic Engagement

Keep Learning

Read through the rest of the magazine to see various ways funders can strengthen democracy through philanthropy. Find out how donors can advance other components of both democracy and civic engagement: