Democracy Fund

The Democracy Fund invests in organizations working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.

Democracy Fund

Our Priorities

Principled Leadership & Effective Governance

Equipping elected leaders to deliberate, negotiate, and serve the American people.

Modern Elections & Money in Politics

Ensuring that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy.

Vibrant Media & the Public Square

Helping people understand and participate in the democratic process.

Principled Leadership & Effective Governance

The Democracy Fund focuses on principled leadership and an effective Congress. We believe leaders in Washington can rise above their differences and find common ground to address the greatest challenges facing our country. Stronger working relationships across the aisle can cultivate mutual respect and make productive negotiation possible. Changes to the rules that affect how Congress operates can create new incentives to work together and elected officials can demonstrate that it is possible to govern without abandoning core principles or ignoring substantive disagreements.

Today, American politics is characterized by gridlock that paralyzes our political institutions. This dysfunction contributes to voter disillusionment with the system and divides the public. Although polarization is likely to persist, we must find ways to reduce hyper-partisanship and ensure that our governing institutions perform and address vital problems. The Democracy Fund seeks to foster better, more trusting relationships among political leaders and encourage greater civility to increase their capacity to work together to solve problems.

Grantees include the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program and Rodel Fellowships, Faith & Politics Institute, Millennial Action Project, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse — organizations that find creative ways to forge bonds between leaders and create space for bipartisan dialogue. Other grantees, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Congressional Management Foundation, and the OpenGov Foundation provide policies and tools to increase the capacity of Congress to govern and engage the public.

The Democracy Fund has invested in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Program in order to identify and assess bipartisan solutions that reduce political polarization and make American democracy work better. In 2014, BPC released bipartisan recommendations from its Commission on Political Reform, which assessed how Congress could work better through a set of procedural reforms and analyzed the effectiveness of different types of election reforms to encourage primary and other voting.

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Modern Elections & Money in Politics

The Democracy Fund focuses on modern elections and the role of money in politics. We believe the American people deserve modern elections as part of a responsive political system. Data-driven policies and new technologies can help reduce barriers to voting, improve integrity and public trust in the electoral system, and reduce the dependency of our leaders on special financial interests​. We must work to encourage leaders across the political spectrum to find common ground to improve our electoral and campaign finance systems, exemplified by the bipartisan progress made by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

The Democracy Fund supports unbiased research, promotes bipartisan dialogue, and highlights ways to improve elections administration and campaign finance — encouraging common-sense steps as well as breakthrough ideas. Our aim is to help build consensus around the solutions that serve the needs of the American people, and boldly advance the will of voters.

For example, we invest in Pew’s Elections Initiatives, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Center for Technology and Civic Life, and MIT’s Voting Technology Project — efforts that are improving the mechanics of elections through the smart use of technology, policy, and best practices. Other grantees are addressing the effects of money in our political system, including the Center for Public Integrity, the Campaign Legal Center, and Take Back Our Republic, each of which are holding politicians accountable and expanding the voices heard in public debate.

TurboVote's web and mobile technology makes registration and voting easier — and is in use on more than a hundred college campuses. Working with elections officials to solve problems, TurboVote gives those officials greater capacity to serve voters.

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Vibrant Media & the Public Square

The Democracy Fund focuses on vibrant media and the public square. We believe the American people must have effective ways to understand and be a part of the democratic process. As the internet transforms political life, it opens exciting new pathways for public engagement while challenging models that used to work. This digital shift is redefining how people receive and act on information: Fresh platforms are gaining use, and traditional news organizations are responding to dramatic change. We seek to support media models that serve the needs and preferences of communities today.

The Democracy Fund invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square to ensure that people can access diverse sources of information — and different points of view. We support efforts to ensure media has the tools to engage communities and hold the powerful accountable. This includes supporting efforts to combat misinformation. We also look for ways to deepen individuals’ engagement in civic life through new venues for reasoned debate and deliberation.

The Public Square Program’s Local News and Participation Initiative specifically seeks to encourage greater community participation in the local public square by supporting innovations in news that makes it more responsive to the democratic needs of communities. Our focus is to transform the norms around audience engagement in the realm of local journalism through funding of, collaboration with, and highlighting of innovators, leading outlets, and researchers that are working to improve local news in communities around the country.​

We work with a range of grantee partners, including the American Press Institute, Institute for Nonprofit News, Engaging News Project, Participatory Budget Project, Next Century Cities, Online News Association, and PolitiFact.

The Engaging News Project at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life provides research-based techniques for engaging online audiences in commercially viable and democratically beneficial ways. The project tests web-based strategies for informing audiences, promoting substantive discourse, and helping citizens to understand diverse views.

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