A Toolkit for Strengthening Democracy

About This Project

About This Project

This guide was written for individual donors, foundation professionals, and others interested in using charitable and philanthropic funds to strengthen democracy in the United States. Whether you have a hundred dollars or a billion dollars, our hope is that the information contained in this guide helps you understand the key elements of a strong and vibrant democracy and the ways you can help. As always, our team’s goal is to equip you with the knowledge to translate good intentions into positive change.

Media, Speaking, and Partnership Inquiries

To speak to a member of the CHIP team or ask about events or partnerships, contact impact@sp2.upenn.edu or 215-573-9656.

Authors

Project Methodology

As with all of our work, we iteratively rely on three circles of evidence: academic research, informed opinion, and field experience to understand philanthropic opportunities that are both evidence-based and actionable. For this guide, our research began with an extensive literature review of democratic theory, founding documents, and related analyses. In total, we reviewed roughly 130 documents.

We ensured our framing of democracy aligned with current academic inquiry and philanthropic efforts through interviews with academics and funders that grounded insights from theory in a modern context. To identify components of a healthy democracy, we reviewed 10 frameworks produced by foundations and other civil society organizations as well as eight of the most commonly referenced indices for measuring democratic health. (See chart for additional detail.) We also used Candid data on foundation funding for U.S. democracy to analyze and categorize grants to roughly 150 nonprofit organizations. Our analysis and emerging guidance was refined in response to feedback collected via an in-person workshop in October 2018 attended by 20 scholars, funders, and practitioners.

Interviews with academics and funders helped us identify elements of our democracy where philanthropic intervention would be most promising. A more targeted literature review of contemporary academic scholarship on those subjects allowed us to identify the two focal strategies of civic engagement and local media that we highlight in this guide. Through the course of our research we compiled a list of 37 organizations whose missions aligned with our focus on the two deep dive areas of strengthening local media and civic engagement. These organizations were contacted to request interviews. Twenty-five interviews with these practitioners gave us insight on how these strategies can be applied most effectively, as well as referrals to exemplary organizations which were then analyzed for evidence of impact or potential for impact and cost-effectiveness. 

Acknowledgements

Academic
  • Jeff Green, University of Pennsylvania
  • Rob Reich, Stanford University
  • Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Bob Axelrod, University of Michigan
  • Jonathan Haidt, NYU Stern School of Business
  • Peter Boettke, George Mason University
  • Michael Neblo, Ohio State University
  • Dan Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania
  • Lee Shaker, Portland State University
  • Hahrie Han, University of California Santa Barbara
  • Henry Brady, University of California Berkeley
  • Tim Franklin, Northwestern University
  • Talia Stroud, University of Texas
  • Patrick Sellers, Davidson College
  • Yascha Mounk, Harvard University
  • Kate Krontiris, Independent Researcher
  • Phil Napoli, Duke University
  • Daniel Laurison, Swarthmore College
  • Diana Mutz, University of Pennsylvania

 

Funders and Funder Advisors
  • David Askenazi, Knight Foundation
  • Sam Gill, Knight Foundation
  • Srik Gopal, Democracy Fund
  • Tony Bowen, Democracy Fund
  • Tom Glaisyer, Democracy Fund
  • Joe Goldman, Democracy Fund
  • Lauren Strayer, Democracy Fund
  • Jessica Mahone, Democracy Fund
  • Jim Friedlich and Annie Madonia, Lenfest Institute for Journalism
  • Geri Mannion, Carnegie Corporation
  • Erika Wood and Bes Rothenburg, Ford Foundation
  • Kristen Cambell, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
  • Andrew McElwaine, Heinz Endowments
  • Brooke Russell, Quadrivium
  • Charlie Ruger, Charles Koch Foundation
  • Daniel Stid, Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative
  • David Haas and Feather Houston, Wyncote Foundation
  • Loren Mcarthur and Betsy Erickson, Arabella Advisors
  • Jeff Moore, Independent Sector
  • Sarah Weissberg, Fidelity Charitable
  • Mimi Ijima, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
  • Keesha Gaskins-Nathan, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Jill Minkus, Battery Powered
  • Adam Simon, Aviv Foundation
  • Vince Stehle, Media Impact Funders
Nonprofit leaders & consultants
  • Irving Washington, Online News Association
  • Darryl Holliday, Andrea Hart, and Harry Backlund, City Bureau
  • Mike Rispoli, Free Press
  • Melanie Sill, Consultant
  • Ann Galloway, VT Digger
  • Regina Lawrence, Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon
  • Lewis Friedland, Madison Commons
  • Dana Coester, 100 days in Appalachia
  • Tim Marema, The Daily Yonder
  • Paola Jaramillo, Enlace Latino NC
  • Elizabeth Tompkins, Solutions Journalism Network
  • John Thornton, American Journalism Project
  • Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Resolve Philadelphia
  • Amy Chester, Rebuild by Design
  • Kayla Demonte, Citizen University
  • Josh Silver, Represent.Us
  • Siobhan Brewer, Generation Citizen
  • Karla Zombro, California Calls
  • Usra Ghazi, America Indivisible
  • Anna Kellar, League of Women Voters
  • Wendy Willis, Deliberative Democracy Consortium
  • Tim Dawson, The Art of Democracy
  • Ariana Berengaut, Penn Biden Center
  • Chris Satullo, Patrick Christmas, and Lauren Cristella, Committee of Seventy
  • Amy Lee and Jon Green, Institute for Democratic Engagement & Accountability, Ohio State University
  • Carol Hatcher, California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
  • Lauren Spokane, Rhonda Thomas, Genesis Garcia, Wes Lathrop, Faith in Action
  • Alece Montez, Gabrielle Smith, David Weaver, Orton Family Foundation
  • Ian Bassin, Protect Democracy
  • Lia Howard, Philadelphia Commons Institute
  • Andrew Nurkin, Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Seth Flaxman, Democracy Works
  • Dave Salvo, Alliance for Securing Democracy
  • Nicole Surber, Alexis Schuler, Lisa Dickieson and Sarah Repucci, Freedom House
  • Jessica Clark, Consultant


CHIP staff:
Special thanks to the following colleagues at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy for their assistance and support: Kelly Andrews, Director of Knowledge Management and Marketing; Sophie Feldman, Research Assistant; Stacy Henderson, Research Assistant; Kate Hovde, Senior Advisor; Patricia Jia, Communications Associate; Carol McLaughlin, Senior Advisor; Emily Seeburger, Applied Research Analyst; Molly Sinderbrand, Research Fellow; Tamla Tinsley, Program Coordinator; Tim Tsai, Research Assistant.