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Philanthropy's Role in the 2020 Census

The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers joins the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation’s Funders Census Initiative, the United Philanthropy Forum, and philanthropy-serving organizations around the country in asking our members to commit to supporting and encouraging a fair and accurate census.

“Census Day,” April 1, 2020, is right around the corner and the time to act is now.

More than $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities and families is distributed based on census data; yet historically, the census has missed disproportionate numbers of people of color, young children and the rural and urban poor, leading to inequality in political power and inaccessibility to public funding and private investment for these communities. Going into 2020, additional communities, including immigrants, refugees, unmarried women and the LGBTQ community are at risk of being missed.

Of that $800 billion, $17.56 billion distributed to our state is based on census data. Furthermore, in the 2010 census, return rates for New Jersey’s cities were very low: 55% in Newark, 50% in Irvington, 55% in Orange, 55% in Atlantic City, 56% in New Brunswick, 59% in Trenton, 60% in Paterson, and 61% in Camden. These communities are among those labeled Hard-to-Count (HTC). Being hard-to-count can lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital public and private resources for these groups and their communities. Our state has so much at stake, and we need to ensure a full, fair and accurate census. Without accurate census data, the communities you care about could see less investment in their vital public and private resources.

The Fund for New Jersey has created a website, which includes interactive maps to find Hard to Count areas, resources, and news. The Fund reminds us that almost everything we know about our communities comes from information collected during the census and its related surveys. Read The Fund for New Jersey’s policy paper, Toward a Fair and Accurate Census 2020 and a Timeline for Philanthropy, and download their checklist for outlining a number of ways philanthropy can support Census 2020.

The 2020 Census is facing unprecedented challenges, including years of underfunding, a climate of fear, the challenges of the first “high tech” census, and the potential addition of an untested citizenship question. So what can you do?

Here are some things you can do today:

  1. Review the Funder Menu of Options created in partnership by United Philanthropy Forum and the Funders Census Initiative (FCI 2020) to help funders identify what they can to do.
  2. Join the Funders Census Initiative Working Group. As a working group member, you’ll have access to the core listserv for funders to connect on their work at the national, state and local levels. There is no cost, and you don’t need to be a FCCP member to join.
  3. Sign up to get ongoing updates from the Census Bureau, including America Counts: Stories Behind the Numbers, the latest news, Tip sheets, and Stats for Stories. You can also partner with our Census Regional Office.
  4. Talk to your grantees about the importance of a full and accurate 2020 Census, and what it means for their community and their work. Encourage them to get involved.
  5. Advocate for a fair and accurate census, and for the resources to support a complete count in your community and statewide.
  6. Share information on your website; via mailings, e-blasts and social media; and at your board and staff meetings to inform people why the census matters to your community and your grantees.
  7. Keep the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers up to date on what you are doing. Please contact Theresa Jacks, Deputy Director for more information.  

It is difficult to overstate the importance of a fair census count. When census information is not accurate, it threatens to muffle the voices of undercounted groups and regions, and undermine the basic political equality that is central to our democracy. Institutions across the country, including local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits and foundations, routinely rely on data from the census to allocate funding, define where services are delivered, and promote economic development. Thank you for your commitment to making sure that everyone counts!


Websites to Visit

  • The Census Project
    A broad-based network of national, state, and local organizations that supports a fair and accurate 2020 Census and comprehensive American Community Survey (ACS — the modern version of the census “long form”). Participating stakeholders represent a diverse range of American sectors that rely on objective data for decision-making and promote civic engagement: business and industry; civil rights advocates; state and local governments; social service agencies; researchers and scientific associations; planners; foundations; and nonprofits focused on housing, child and family welfare, education, transportation, and other vital services.
  • Funders Census Initiative
    A project of the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a philanthropy-serving organization spearheading Census-related work and information for funders.
  • United Philanthropy Forum
    The largest network serving philanthropy in America, consisting of regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs). Through the Census 2020 Project, the Forum is working with members to mobilize regional funders to advocate for policy improvements for the 2020 census, and to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of a fair and accurate census count to philanthropy. CNJG is a member of the Forum.
  • United States Census Bureau
    The Bureau's mission is to serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy and is the federal government’s largest statistical agency. The Decennial Census is the once-a-decade population and housing count of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas as required by the U.S. Constitution. The results of the decennial census determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts and to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds each year.
  • NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development
    NJ's governmental department that works with the Census Bureau to conduct the census in New Jersey.
  • Governing.com Census Resources
    Governing Magazine has a number of data, resources, and informative reports about the Census all in one dedicated area.
  • Advocates for Children of New Jersey – Census 2020 NJ
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights – 2020 Census

Resources to Use


Webinars to Watch


Articles to Read