Forefront Announces New Democracy Initiative

Friday, January 19, 2018

Statewide Association to Mobilize Its Members Around Civic Engagement, Census Outreach

Illinois could lose a significant part of its $19.7 billion in annual federal funding as well as two Congressional seats. Our state cannot throw away its shot when it comes to fighting for a fair and accurate Census 2020 count. The demographic and socioeconomic data it provides dictates redistricting and the allocation of billions of dollars.

As we look ahead to 2020, there are many challenges threatening a fair and accurate count, including persistent underfunding, the director’s unexpected resignation, obstacles implementing technological innovations under budget constraints, and the potential appointment of a controversial leader. And most recently, we face the issue of a potential citizenship question on the Census form. If these challenges aren’t addressed, rural communities and communities of color, in particular, could be both underfunded and underrepresented.

What is Forefront Doing?

Forefront is pleased to announce the launch of our Democracy Initiative, thanks to generous funding from an anonymous donor, the Joyce Foundation, and United Philanthropy Forum. Our Democracy Initiative work will focus on Census 2020 outreach and civic engagement in the nonprofit sector.

Civic Engagement

Forefront will empower and train nonprofits to build voter engagement into the fabric of their organizations. Instead of searching for ways to bring voter registration to individuals, a new model provides voter engagement opportunities to entire populations with typically low voter engagement at organizations people already visit and trust. Forefront will provide mini-grants to nonprofits for voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities ahead of the 2018 general election. We also plan to hold two gubernatorial debates for our Members this summer (one in Chicago, the other in Central Illinois), prior to the November election.

Census 2020

In partnership with Common Cause Illinois, Forefront will form Illinois Count Me In 2020, a statewide coalition to do concentrated outreach in hard-to-count communities, provide safe spaces for self-reporting purposes and help educate and canvass for get-out-the-count efforts. We will provide educational briefings for our Members and serve as a liaison to Grantmakers, government and nonprofit organizations to ensure statewide coordination.

Anita Banerji, our Policy Director, will be transitioning into the role of the Democracy Initiative Director, working closely with our national partners on this work— NonProfit Vote, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights and our most recent national partner, the Funders Committee for Civic Participation— and leading our Statewide efforts. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative, or how to get involved, please contact Anita directly.

Every state gets one shot, once a decade, to get it right. This is our opportunity to work together to ensure a fair and accurate count in the 2020 decennial census. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we need YOUR help in doing so. Let’s work together on our shot to get the count right.