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 2020 CENSUS
Update on the Census as We Enter 2020
The following update was prepared by Gary Bass, Executive Director, Bauman Foundation and Co-Chair, Funders Census Initiative

January 8, 2020

As we approach the final stretch for the 2020 census, I thought it might be useful to give you an update on where things stand.
In short, philanthropic institutions – both grantmakers and grantees – have done a remarkable job in preparing for a decennial census fraught with numerous challenges. The collaborative approach we started in 2016 is paying off at the national level and within states. Strategies and techniques are being shared; tools are being developed and deployed; and targeted outreach efforts (e.g., canvassing and ads) are just beginning.
Along the way, we’ve had to raise our fundraising goals – and each time we met that goal. Foundations have now provided more than $80 million for this census initiative at the national level and millions more at the state level.  This philanthropic commitment to census is more than any time in the past – and by leaps and bounds.  And it could not have been done without your help.  Thank you.
Together, we have created a national buzz about census.
Even as such, viewed through the lens of the 2020 census, this last year, 2019, was a wild ride.  We started 2019 with the government shutdown and uncertainty about funding for the census.  By summer, the Supreme Court ruled the citizenship question must be removed from the 2020 census survey – a huge victory for those working on the census. Yet we’re learning that the citizenship question legacy isn’t over: recent polling shows there are still many people confused about whether the citizenship question is on the 2020 census, adding uncertainty about whether they will fill out the census once it is delivered.
Additionally, President Trump required the Census Bureau to create a new database on citizenship status based on administrative data already collected from various government agencies. This new citizenship database will be shared with states interested in using such information when they use the decennial census to redraw district lines in 2021, raising significant fairness issues that could affect community resources.
Nonetheless, 2019 ended strong: ample congressional funding for the census and bipartisan congressional recognition for the importance of the census (each discussed below).
Staying Engaged
For those of you interested in staying on top of what is happening as the census is unfolding, here are two options. 
  1. You can join the Funders Census Initiative’s listserv by registering here if you aren’t already on it.
  2. Beginning the week of March 23 after the Census Bureau mailings begin going to households, you can join a weekly call where census experts will provide updates during the self-response operation of the census which ends April 30. There will also be calls (possibly not weekly) during the Non-Response Follow Up operation, which goes until July 31 and is when the Census Bureau goes door-to-door to get census responses. If interested in joining these calls, please click here and we’ll get you information about these calls once they are set up.
Many of you have begun asking about the transition from census to redistricting. We have established a separate funder collaborative to address nonpartisan redistricting, called Fair Representation in Redistricting. The steering committee is co-chaired by Ford Foundation and Bauman Foundation and will focus on ways to ensure that everyone is counted when drawing district lines, that district lines are drawn in an open and transparent manner, and that traditionally underrepresented communities have a voice in the process.  If you’re interested in learning more, let me know so we can set up a time to talk.
Updates About the Census Funder Collaborative’s Actions
This update falls into three categories: policy updates, outreach plans (also called Get Out the Count), and census resources available to you and your grantees.

  • Census Funding. Towards the end of December, Congress provided final funding for the 2020 census. It met the level sought by stakeholder groups and was $1.4 billion more than what President Trump requested. Congress provided $6.7 billion plus there was a bit more than $1 billion in carryover funds from FY 2019 for a total of around $7.7 billion.
  • Bipartisan Senate Resolution.  A Senate resolution introduced by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) encouraging households across the country to fill out the census passed unanimously. It is now headed to the House.  The resolution says, “it is the civic duty of the people of the United States to help ensure that the 2020 Census is as accurate as possible.” It encourages people to apply for jobs with the Census Bureau and concludes that “residents of the United States should plan to respond to the 2020 Census to ensure that all people living in a household in the United States, including young children, are included.”
  • Disinformation. A major concern is the spread of disinformation – that is, false information – about the census.  On Dec. 19, Facebook announced it will ban false information about the census as well as ads that discourage participation in the 2020 census.

    Last October, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared with Congress that Facebook will “not fact-check politicians’ speech.” Leaders from the civil rights community working on the census have been encouraging Facebook to change its approach and praised the company for making this policy shift, but also will be monitoring enforcement.

    Stakeholder groups have been providing trainings and toolkits on how to spot and combat disinformation efforts and the groups who have extensive experience in running election protection efforts will also be running census protection hotlines in English, Spanish, Arabic and several major Asian languages.
  • Census Bureau Advertising. In December, the Census Bureau announced information about the placement of its paid ad campaign.  The National Get Out the Count Hub organizations (described below) are analyzing the data to better understand what to expect from the Bureau’s paid ad campaign.  While the amount of money being spent on paid ads is more than in 2010, there are significant gaps. For example, the Census Bureau is advertising only in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. In addition, the Bureau will not buy ads with foreign owned media, some of which are popular with immigrant communities. Stakeholder groups are evaluating the plans and determining how best to address the gaps that exist.
  • Hiring Census Workers.  The Census Bureau is behind in recruiting and hiring enumerators. Yesterday, the Bureau announced a new push to recruit up to 500,000 census takers. If you know of people interested in applying, share this link:  The Bureau also provided this interactive map to identify areas where hiring is taking place.
  • National GOTC Hubs. We have funded at least one national organization to provide GOTC support in each of the 15 following categories: African Americans; Arab Americans; Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; Businesses; Children; Civic Engagement Tables; Civil Rights; Disability; Faith-based; Immigrant and Mixed-Status Families; Latino; LGBTQ; Libraries; Low-Income Households; and Native Americans and Native Alaskans.  Attached is the list of Hubs with contact information.

    The Hubs are engaged in a range of tasks to help with outreach within their target audience. These tasks can include opinion research to help define messaging, toolkits and multi-lingual materials to help with state/local outreach (including do’s and don’ts), national communications strategies and campaign events, training and technical assistance to state/local groups, assistance with rapid response needs, and buying paid ads to promote the census.
  • Census Equity Fund and Mini-Grants. The Census Equity Fund is a fund to support groups doing census outreach in states with high hard-to-count populations where there is limited philanthropy and government financial support. So far, we have provided around $9 million to 57 organizations in 25 states. In many of the states, these grants helped to leverage additional funding by state-based funders.

    We will make additional grants between now and February.  That will be followed by an emergency fund to provide quick turnaround money in areas were the census response rate is extremely low. 

    We have also provided over $1 million for several mini-grant programs that allowed national groups to redistribute small grants to local groups to help with immediate GOTC efforts. These mini-grants were targeted to five groups: immigrants, faith-based organizations, children, formerly incarcerated individuals, and libraries.
  • Digital. We implemented a four-part approach to capitalize on digital tools to assist with the census as well as to leave a legacy after the census: (a) Conduct a technology/communications “audit” of seven National GOTC Hub organizations and make individualized recommendations for strengthening capacity; (b) Create a Digital Academy comprised of six videos and five webinars on digital organizing for the census; (c) Provide grants to support digital pilots and implementation; and (d) Create a Census Digital U, providing digital tools and capacity building opportunities.  The Census Digital U is just becoming operational. We will be sharing lessons learned from the digital grantmaking soon.
  • Hard-to-Count Map Updates. The funder collaborative provided support to CUNY’s Graduate Center to build an interactive hard-to-count map, which has been widely used throughout the country.  CUNY continues to make improvements to the map by adding data and newer tools. Once the census is in full swing in March, CUNY will be adding real-time data from the Census Bureau on response rates. This will allow a better sense of areas where stakeholders and funders should channel last-minute resources to encourage households to fill out the census.
  • Census Guided Distribution of Federal Funds. The census guides the distribution of federal funds for many programs. We supported Prof. Andrew Reamer of George Washington University (along with the Project On Government Oversight) to track and analyze this information.  His most recent brief identifies 316 federal programs that rely on census data to distribute $1.5 trillion. He is about to release a supplement that shows how much federal money each state gets based on the census count. Thus, if there is an undercount in a state it would likely lower the amount of money that state receives from the federal government.
  • How to Fill Out the Census Online. The Census Bureau recently released a 6 minute, 24 second video on how to fill out the upcoming online 2020 survey. The video is here; it provides step-by-step instructions. They will be rolling out versions of this video in multiple languages.  
  • Filling in Census Bureau’s Gaps in Paid Ads. As mentioned above, the Census Bureau’s ad campaign will be starting soon. The funder collaborative has attempted to fill in gaps, where possible. We have provided funding to some of the National Hubs for ads in multiple languages to help partially fill some gaps.  We’ve also engaged Civic Nation to work with the stakeholder groups to provide videos, PSAs, and paid ads.  These will be launched in February and targeted to hard-to-count areas.
  • Finding Census Resources. We have recently provided funding for the Census Counts campaign (which is housed at the Leadership Conference Education Fund) to update their website to make it easier for stakeholders (including your grantees) to find materials to help them with census outreach. This includes links to National GOTC Hubs, helpful Census Bureau materials, training materials, past webinars, and much more. Here is a link to the list of materials being compiled for the Census Counts website. If you have suggestions for things that should be included, please contact Tim Lim ( at NEWCO, the firm hired to help the Census Counts campaign.
  • Let FCI Know How You’re Engaged in the Census. Finally, the Funders Census Initiative is updating state funder contacts serving as liaisons for 2020 census engagement. Please contact Jocelyn Bissonnette ( if you are willing to serve as a contact for one of the following states: Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.  Additionally, FCI is tracking philanthropic engagement on Complete Count Committees (CCCs). Please email Jocelyn if you are serving on a state, regional, or local CCC.

Gary Bass
(202) 328-2040
2020 Census
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#2020Census | #PhillyCounts2020 | #CountPhilanthropyIn
Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia
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