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 healthy democracy framework

Our democracy is a complex, imperfect system. It is a work in progress that requires the constant rebalancing of competing values and priorities. Our republic has proven itself to be resilient, but it nonetheless requires dedicated and ongoing attention — a fact that feels deeply relevant in our current political climate. In this moment, we believe we must be clear about what Democracy Fund stands for, why we do our work, and how we will stand up to the immediate and long-term threats facing some of our most fundamental democratic principles.

Through a rigorous, bipartisan, and participatory process, we have developed a framework to describe Democracy Fund’s convictions about what a healthy democracy should be. This framework includes our vision and core beliefs, which reflect Democracy Fund’s values, priorities, history, and culture. Our healthy democracy framework is not intended to be objective or irrefutable. We share it in the spirit of transparency and with a firm commitment to our mission of strengthening our nation’s democracy.

As Democracy Fund President Joe Goldman writes in his open letter, “While Democracy Fund’s core mission has not changed from its founding, the organization looks very different from our founding four years ago — and in the context of the events of the past two years. These changes have demanded that we clarify our core convictions and dramatically expand our commitment to strengthening American democracy and defending the United States Constitution.”

Our Vision & Core Beliefs

Our Vision

Democracy Fund envisions an American democracy that is healthy, resilient, and diverse. A society that respects the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of each individual and empowers each person to pursue and achieve the common good. A people that have the information they need to hold their leaders accountable and to actively participate in public life. And a public that is confident its voice is being heard and that democratic institutions are faithfully and effectively serving the nation’s best interests.

Our Core Beliefs

Democracy Fund is committed to advancing and defending a set of core beliefs – six pillars of a healthy, vibrant democracy:

  • ​We believe in the dignity of every individual and in the equal protection of their rights under the law. We believe all people have intrinsic value and that bigotry in any form undermines our democracy. We must protect and preserve the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
  • We believe that voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Every eligible American should have an equal opportunity to vote in elections that are free, fair, accessible, and secure. Voters should also have access to diverse sources of information to help them make informed judgments between candidates who reflect meaningful choices and whom voters trust to represent their interests. Further, our election system should offer candidates a level playing field. It should also provide voters with confidence in the integrity of election outcomes and assurance that they have a voice in our democracy.
  • We believe that constitutional checks and balances and respect for the rule of law are critical to protect against abuses of power. First among these checks are three co-equal branches of government and a federal system of state and local governments. Respect for the rule of law and transparency of government also help ensure fair and equal treatment of all individuals and groups. Independent institutions, media, and civil society play an additional critical role in holding those in power accountable to the Constitution, the law, and the people. Finally, the public retains the right to petition or non-violently protest against those in power without fear of retaliation or severe repercussions.
  • We believe that a healthy democracy cannot exist without a participatory, vibrant public square, including an independent, free press. Democracy isn’t just about Election Day. Active community engagement and a strong civic fabric improve the quality of our public life, contribute to solving community problems, and act as an important tool of civic education. Public participation both builds and reflects public confidence in the political system. It also signals that people believe both their voice and the institutions of our democracy matter. Robust, dynamic media inform the public, expose them to alternative viewpoints, and help them see their lives and interests reflected in our national conversation.
  • We believe that informed dialogue and principled compromise are essential to governing a large, diverse, and complex society like America. At least two healthy and competitive political parties are required to check each other’s power and ensure that minority viewpoints are represented in the policy making process. In this context, neither party holds a lock on good or bad ideas. Rather, dialogue, cooperation, and principled compromise within and between the parties produce sustainable policies that have broader support and reflect diverse perspectives and ideas — even if the process can be slow and messy.
  • We believe that political leaders and elected officials bear an uncommon burden to act with integrity. Political leaders and elected officials’ words and actions should reflect a deep respect for democratic values, the U.S. Constitution, and the dignity of every individual. They should put the public’s best interest ahead of their own private interests and inspire confidence that they are representing their constituents. Furthermore, political leaders and elected officials should speak honestly to the people and deal in facts. For democracy to remain healthy, the people must be able to have confidence in their political leaders and institutions. The people must also be able to trust that their democracy is fair and able to deliver on its core responsibilities.

Essential Elements & Critical Influences

​Our vision and core beliefs are built, in part, upon an analysis of what factors matter most to an effective political system. In developing our healthy democracy framework, we identified six elements that comprise a healthy democracy: energized civic participation, vibrant news and media, independent civil society, effective governing institutions, free and fair elections, and impartial rule of law and equal civil rights.

Democracy Fund employs a systems approach, which means we believe that the people, institutions, and organizations that make up our democracy are deeply interconnected and influenced by countless external factors. Given this approach, our process also included the identification of critical influences that affect a democracy’s essential elements and shape the degree to which any or all of them are able to function. We believe the following critical influences are particularly salient to the pursuit of a healthy, responsive democracy that delivers on its promise to the American people: Economics and Wellbeing, Demographics and Race, Geopolitics, Interest Groups, Political Norms and Culture, Security, and Technology. Progress toward a healthy democracy relies, in part, on understanding and tracking how these forces drive and constrain change.

In service of a healthy democracy

Democracy Fund’s healthy democracy framework is intended to articulate our vision and the core democratic principles for we which stand. In a time when the political system is under tremendous strain – from both new and long-standing forces – we knew that staying the course was not an option.

While we remain deeply committed to our long-term initiatives, we have also rebooted and expanded some of our core programs along with adding new bipartisan lines of work to combat abuses of government power, secure our elections, protect press freedom, and combat misinformation. (Read more about our ongoing and new work in our President’s Letter.)

Using our vision for a healthy democracy and core beliefs as a guide, Democracy Fund works to protect and strengthen the American political system. As a funder, a bridge-builder, and an advocate, we focus on:

An invitation

Democracy Fund’s effort to create our healthy democracy framework drew heavily from the work of our nation’s founders, as well as from their modern contemporaries. We consulted Republicans, Democrats, and independents coming from a diverse range of expertise. Our debates were robust and messy. We’re grateful to all who contributed in this process. Any errors or omissions are our own.

We hope that parts of our vision and beliefs will resonate with those who care about the health of our republic. We also expect that the inclusion or omission of other topics or nuances may engender debate.

We would welcome your feedback. Please email us at info@democracyfund.org or tweet to @democracyfund.