More than $20 billion in federal money comes to Illinois each year through funding allocated by U.S. Census data. This critical funding supports vital programs like Medicaid, highway infrastructure, SNAP, and programs that aid low-income households, rural communities, and communities of color. If Illinoisans were undercounted during the 2020 Census, fewer resources would come to the state. Additionally, since Congressional seats are apportioned by Census data, an undercount also had serious political ramifications. Thanks to the work of Forefront’s Democracy Initiative and our partners, Illinois only lost a single seat in the House of Representatives.
Forefront is dedicated to creating a sector where leaders are given the tools, training, and space to advocate for their communities. Forefront’s Democracy Initiative enlisted, educated, and trained hundreds of nonprofit leaders and legislators across Illinois to encourage their constituents to participate in the 2020 Census, register and turn out to vote, and remain civically engaged. It consisted of two main initiatives: Civic engagement and Census 2020 outreach.
Forefront formed Illinois Count Me In 2020, a statewide advocacy coalition that organized outreach in hard-to-count communities, provided safe spaces for self-reporting purposes, and helped organizations educate and canvass for get-out-the-count efforts. As part of these efforts, we also founded the Illinois Count Me In 2020 Funders’ Collaborative, a collaborative of Illinois foundations that have joined together to support coordinated Census outreach in hard-to-count communities across the state, co-chaired by Mark Murray of the Field Foundation and Deborah Bennett of Polk Bros. Foundation. In 2019, the Funders’ Collaborative released a competitive RFP and funding to Illinois nonprofits working to educate and engage their communities around the 2020 Census.
The Democracy Initiative also provided educational briefings for the public in partnership with state and federally elected representatives, and served as a liaison to grantmakers, government, and nonprofit organizations to ensure statewide coordination. Learn more about Illinois Count Me In 2020 and our Census work here.