A Call for Philanthropy to Help Meet Unprecedented Challenges Facing the 2020 Census

United Philanthropy Forum’s President & CEO David Biemesderfer penned a recent blog, A Call for Philanthropy to Help Meet Unprecedented Challenges Facing the 2020 Census. In it, he amplifies the joint message regarding the need for census funding from philanthropy from the Ford, JPB, Kellogg, and Open Society Foundations, who recently committed $20 million. Biemesderfer writes: “No matter what or where you fund, the issues and communities you support will be impacted negatively if we don’t get the census count right in 2020. I call on everyone involved in philanthropy to help us get it right.”

The Importance of Census 2020 for Funders

The Importance of Census 2020 for Philanthropy and the Communities We Care About

The final segment of the GCRI session on the federal budget last week was focused on the upcoming 2020 Census.  As you know, the decennial census determines the allocation of more than $600 billion in federal assistance to states, localities and families.  Philanthropic funding, while important to Rhode Island communities, is obviously only a small portion of the federal resources that come into the state.  It is important that the Census get an accurate count of Rhode Island communities to ensure that they receive adequate resources from a shrinking pool of federal dollars.

The only test site for the 2020 Census is Providence County (currently underway), although lapses in funding mean that this test is primarily focused on testing the Census technology, and messaging will not be tested.

Historically, the census has missed disproportionate numbers of young children, people of color, and the rural and urban poor.  In the current environment, refugees and immigrants are reluctant to participate, and the proposed addition of a citizenship question will likely increase the difficulty in getting an accurate count of these populations.  In Rhode Island, particularly hard to count communities in the last census included sections of Washington County, Newport County, West Warwick, Providence, East Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Lincoln, North Providence and Woonsocket.

A few other facts about undercounted groups (from Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights Census webpage):

Children under age five are the most likely of all age groups to be undercounted.  In 2010, the undercount rate for young children was 4.6% and more than 2.2 million in this age group were not included in the census results.

In 2010, Hispanic children under age five were overlooked at twice the rate of young non-Hispanic White children, and up to 400,000 young Latino children were missed.

The 2010 Census undercounted the African American population by more than 2 percent, and approximately 6.5 percent of young African American children were overlooked, roughly twice the rate for young non-Hispanic white children. Also startling, the net undercount of Black men between the ages of 30-49 was more than 10 percent. Today, more than one in three African Americans live in hard-to-count census tracts.

 Since many of you work hard to support groups and geographic areas that tend to be undercounted, it’s important to work with your community partners in the next two years to ensure that they are counted accurately, and have access to the federal resources they should have access to.

  1. There are two upcoming opportunities to learn more about opportunities for philanthropy to be involved in supporting an accurate count of Rhode Islanders:Next Monday, April 9, from 2:00-3:00pm, our partner in the Forum, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) will be hosting a webinar on “Participate. Convene. Invest.  A Call to Action for Philanthropy for Census 2020.”   Register
  2. RI Kids Count is co-sponsoring a Census Solutions workshop on April 13 for community organizations to help strategize ways to reach Rhode Island populations that are typically undercounted.  If you are interested in participating or have a community partner who would be a valuable part of the conversation, more information.

Moving forward, there are many resources for funders available:

The Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a sister organization in the Forum, has also initiated a Funders Census Initiative if you would like to keep abreast of Census-related information for funders.

If you are interested in ideas about how funders can be involved in different aspects of supporting the Census, FCCP developed a menu of opportunities.

If you would like more information about the current status of Providence test, preparations for the 2020 Census, the addition of the citizenship question or other general information about the Census, the Forum has complied a number of articles that may be of interest:

Census 2020 and Tax Reform Implications

Census 2020 Efforts to Get an Accurate Count

Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership on Civil and Human Rights, wrote a compelling piece on the critical importance of the 2020 Census for the future of public and private support of vulnerable communities.  We have excerpted from the piece below:

The decennial census is a massive, complex undertaking with far-reaching impacts on American democracy, the effectiveness of government and private sector investments, and the lives and health of every person who lives in America.

The Census Bureau needs a steady and significant ramp-up in funding in 2018 and 2019 to test new technologies and procedures, from start to finish, in a census-like environment and to create an effective outreach and advertising campaign. However, the Trump administration’s budget request for next year is woefully inadequate. Necessary testing has already been cut back due to lack of sufficient funds.

The recent congressional failure to pass an appropriations bill and instead merely pass a short-term continuing resolution until Dec. 8 will force the Census Bureau to operate at current year funding levels, leaving the agency without any budget ramp-up well into the first quarter of the new fiscal year (which begins on Oct. 1). This will further stall much-needed, rigorous planning and preparations for the upcoming census. The window for the administration and Congress to prevent a failed 2020 Census is narrowing quickly.

Bipartisan action is needed immediately to shore up the Census Bureau’s budget and to put in place experienced, qualified leadership in the wake of the previous Census director’s unexpected resignation.

Why the Census is so important

The decennial census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. It is central to the constitutional design of the United States as a representative republic.

It determines the apportionment of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. The same data are used to ensure that congressional districts within states comply with the principle of one person, one vote, to configure state and local voting districts, and to assist in the implementation of the nation’s civil rights laws, under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Census data guided school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education and continue to inform Voting Rights Act enforcement. Nothing less than fair representation in our public lawmaking bodies is at stake.

Data collected in the decennial census and the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS) provide information that is vital to effective decision-making by policymakers, government and nonprofit agencies, and private industry. Congress allocates at least $600 billion annually in federal grants or direct payments to states, localities, and individuals/families for a range of vital programs and services, based on census-derived data. Business leaders use the data to make decisions about where to locate and market their businesses.

Why the 2020 Census is at risk for a potential disaster

Congressional expectations that the 2020 Census must cost less than the 2010 enumeration have driven efforts to develop and deploy new technologies and procedures. For example, giving people the option of responding online and equipping enumerators with connected handheld devices are advances that could dramatically reduce paperwork and streamline operations, with potential savings of more than $5 billion.

But technological failures could compromise data security as well as accuracy. These new technologies and procedures must be fully developed, tested in the field, and refined well before final preparations for the 2020 enumeration start in 2019. That requires a significant ramp-up in funding.

Insufficient funding for 2017 and uncertainties for 2018 have already forced the Census Bureau to cancel final testing of some key activities, including the only field evaluation of special methods for counting rural and remote communities. The bureau has canceled two out of three planned sites for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test – informally known as the “dress rehearsal” – which will severely limit the scope of the only integrated evaluation of all operations and technological systems before the 2020 Census takes place. Other damaging program changes resulting from underfunding include delays in opening regional census centers and in developing the advertising and partnership programs that are essential to ensuring participation in historically hard-to-count communities.

Bipartisan action is needed now

There are two urgent steps that the administration and Congress must take. First, the Trump administration must nominate a highly qualified, well-respected, and nonpartisan candidate with a clear vision for an accurate, fully inclusive census to fill the now-vacant position of director of the Census Bureau. If the administration’s nominee meets those criteria, the Senate should make confirmation a top priority.

And, second, as Congress takes up fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills this fall, it must give the Census Bureau sufficient funding to ensure comprehensive final testing and development of all 2020 Census systems and operations. To achieve that goal, Congress should allocate at least $303 million over the administration’s irresponsibly inadequate request.

There will be no second chance to get the 2020 Census right, and the nation must live with the results for the next 10 years.

Vanita Gupta was appointed by President Obama in 2014 to lead the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. Earlier this year she became president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s newsletter on importance of Census 2020 for funders

Census 2020 Milestone Webinar

The Forum and a number of our partner organizations have teamed up for a webinar on November 16, “Key 2020 Census Milestones:  Preparing to Invest in a Fair and Accurate Count.”  The session will look at important decision-making points as the Census Bureau finalizes the 2020 census operational plan; key milestones in census preparations and implementation, including when the standards of collection of race and ethnicity data will be released, when local offices will open, and when address canvassing will begin; what is already happening on the ground to ensure a fair and accurate census and how that informs your grantmaking timeline; how philanthropy can play a key role as a census partner and catalyst of statewide get-out-the-count activities; and effective ways philanthropy can influence the formation of effective and representative complete count committees at the state and local levels.  More information

Tax Reform Implications for Nonprofits

Proposed tax reform changes could have drastic effects on charitable giving.  Be sure to read the National Council of Nonprofits’ analysis of the implications of the proposals, as well as Nonprofit Quarterly‘s analysisMarts & Lundy analysis