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CENSUS 2020: Why an Accurate Count Matters to Philanthropy

Making the Case for Philanthropy

It is difficult to overstate the importance of a fair census count. When census information is not accurate, it threatens to muffle the voices of undercounted groups and regions, and undermine the basic political equality that is central to our democracy. Institutions across the country, including local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits and foundations, routinely rely on data from the census to allocate funding, define where services are delivered and promote economic development.

The Census Bureau is facing a daunting set of challenges as it prepares for the 2020 census. Since the bureau is facing budget constraints like never before, it’s planning to collect the majority of census information online, scale back door to door outreach and roll back canvassing. The changes increase the potential of undercounting young children, minorities, low-income individuals and other marginalized individuals. Given the current climate, regional philanthropy associations and their members are needed to advocate and educate elected officials and community leaders on the importance and impact of the 2020 census on their communities. Even without the changes being proposed for the 2020 census we know there were gross undercounts of vulnerable populations in the 2010 census. This is why the 2020 census matters to philanthropy.

Forum’s Census Project

The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers would like to thank The Joyce Foundation for providing funding for a two-year project to engage regional funders in ensuring a more thorough and accurate census count in 2020. The Forum’s Census 2020 project has three main objectives:

  1. to educate regional philanthropy associations on the importance of the 2020 census and the role for their grantmaking members
  2. to mobilize regional funders to advocate for policy improvements for the 2020 census
  3. to Increase Funding Support for the 2020 census among regional funders.

Mini grants were made available to the regional philanthropy associations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana to engage in the Census 2020 Project. Though we will be paying special focus to the aforementioned mid-west states, many of our efforts will reach the Forum’s entire regional association membership. The Forum will focus on providing tools, information and other resources on this site, as they are developed, that will enable regional funders to advocate with local and state governments to provide adequate funding for census outreach and education. These resources will be placed on our website and many will be open to public access to encourage others to advocate for a fair and accurate Census 2020.

Want to join this effort?

For more information or resources please contact Erin Pratt or Maggie Osborn.


Resources on the Census

Fact Sheets and Toolkits

New Fact Sheet on Census Accuracy and Undercount
This new resource from the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) explains what we know about census accuracy and why it matters to funders and their grantees. 

Why We Need the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey
by the Census Project, March 2016

FY2017 U.S. Census Bureau Appropriations: Why Full Funding Matters
by the Census Project, February 2016

2010 Census Funder Toolkit
This toolkit from the Ford Foundation provides valuable resources to help make a difference in the 2010 Census. It offers a snapshot of the 2010 Census, its implications and practical steps to ensure that everyone is counted.

How Census Data Affects Your Community - Funding of Federal, State and Local Programs
Examples of programs impacted by the Census count. 

Supporting the Census and American Community Survey: A Toolkit for Coalition-Building
Produced by The Census Project, this toolkit offers information, resource and guidance for local stakeholders who want to create a coalition to help preserve a fair and accurate decennial census and comprehensive American Community Survey (ACS).

Everyone Counts!
Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees infographic on national and California undercount data


Counting For Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds
This analysis of the geographic distribution of funds from the 16 largest Census-guided programs is designed to help stakeholders and policymakers understand the extent to which federal financial assistance is distributed on the basis of census-derived data. Fact sheets are available by program and states.  

Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multi-Ethnic America
This report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund examines the Census Bureau’s research and testing program from the perspective of civil rights stakeholders and to ensure that any revisions to the 2020 census race and ethnicity questions continue to yield data that support the advancement of fairness and equity in all facets of American life.

2020 Census Operational Plan
This document presents a summary of 2020 Census operational design and presents the high-level schedule of key milestones and the most critical project risks.

Five Steps for Reducing the High Net Undercount of Young Children in the 2020 Census
by Dr. William P. O’Hare, August 2016

Reports on Philanthropic Support for 2010 Census Outreach and Education
These reports from the Funders Census Initiative includes details on California philanthropic census efforts and overview of grants awarded across the country.


Webinar- Census 2020: Why Philanthropy Counts
Co-hosted by the Forum and Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation on October 18, 2016, this webinar included a conversation about why the census matters and the role that philanthropy can play in ensuring a fair and accurate count.

Webinar- Census 2020: Making Philanthropy Count
Co-hosted by the Forum and Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation on February 27, 2017, this webinar why philanthropy should care about the census and how the success or failure of this important civic project will impact grantmaking and the communities that continue to be at risk. 

Monthly Updates

The Census Project shares monthly updates on census issues

Recent News

Additional Resources

The following resources are available to members of the Forum only. 

Materials from Philanthropy-Serving Organizations' Census Projects

  • Materials on the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s (MCF) census project
  • Gearing Up for the 2020 Census- Agenda for Philanthropy Ohio’s initial meeting with funders.
  • Regional Census 2020 Infosheets- Two-pagers to encourage members of Congress to support a accurate, reliable and fair census.
  • Ohio Funders for the Census- Two-pager from Philanthropy Ohio to encourage members of Congress to support a accurate, reliable and fair census.
  • Recording Available: Funders Census Initiative Webinar on Census Public Opinion Research- This briefing provides guidance on best practices for talking about the census and the American Community Survey (ACS), which messages work best for different demographic groups, and other data on the census and ACS.

Data and the Census

  • Summary of Policies and Procedures the Census Bureau uses to Protect Individual Privacy of the data collected
  • Data Stewardship Brochure on understanding and protecting census bureau information
  • State Contact Status Table on where the Census Bureau is with respect to securing data sharing agreements with the states.  The Census Bureau is using data the public has already provided to the government and data available from commercial sources, to reduce follow up to non-responders to the Census. 

Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup

  • Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup Plan of Action – this document addresses key census policy issues, conducting broader outreach within philanthropy and inviting new voices on census, and a “get out the count” outreach effort as we get closer to the 2020 census.
  • Democracy Funders Policy Framework - provides a road map of what needs to be done related to the policy phase of the Plan of Action.
  • Census Field Meeting Notes – report from a recent convening on building field support for census policy work.
  • Gearing Up for the 2020 Census  - Agenda for Philanthropy Ohio’s initial meeting with funders.
  • Recap of the January meeting of the Democracy Funders Census Subgroup- The meeting included on how the 2016 elections will impact the census; updates on research and policy efforts; review of polling data and a dialogue with the Census Bureau about their communication plans and status of preparations for Census 2020.

Fact Sheets and Talking Points

  • Effective Messaging About the Census- Guidelines for communicating effectively about the 2020 Census are grounded in a nationwide survey and focus groups of American voters conducted by Lake Research Partners. 
  • Fact Sheet: The Census And Civil Rights- This document explores why the 2020 census is a civl rights issue; why the census is an urgent issue; principles of a fair and accurate census; and what action is needed.
  • Talking Points on Appropriations for the Census- New talking points to address census appropriations in the skinny budget proposed by the Trump Administration. These new talking points will be helpful for informing members of Congress, their staff, and coalition partners about what’s at stake with this budget proposal.
  • FY2018 U.S. Census Bureau Appropriations- A leave behind for meetings with Congress on why full funding matters.
  • Why We Need the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey- a leave behind for meetings with Congress on the importance of the American Community Survey (ACS).
  • Census 2020 Update: Draft EO on Census Immigration Status Questions- February 8, 2017 policy update regarding the census from Terri Ann Lowenthal, including more details on the White House proposal re immigration status question.