Five years ago, 15 major philanthropies, including Carnegie Corporation of New York, joined together to establish the Funders Census Initiative to support a successful 2020 Census that would include hard-to-count populations that were underrepresented in the 2010 Census. Since then, the initiative has raised $85 million from philanthropic institutions and leveraged another $350 million from government and other sources to ensure a fair and accurate count.
“It is an excellent example of how foundations, at the national, regional, state, and local levels, can work collectively toward fixing a problem that we know is coming and to really engage around it in advance,” Geri Mannion, director of Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Strengthening U.S. Democracy program, said during a Council on Foundations webinar, 2020 Census & COVID-19: What Funders Can Do to Support a Fair and Accurate Count. “Here we actually thought about it five years out. And that has paid off.”
Now taking place amid the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nationwide once-in-a-decade counting effort is critical for accurate data and the fair distribution of resources and political representation. The census will inform the distribution of $8 trillion in public funds for a range of social services including education and health care over the next decade.
“Our point is to make the census as successful as possible, because we don’t get a do-over,” said Mannion. “We will not be able to fix the numbers next year. Whatever happens between now and October 31 are the numbers we have to live with for ten years down the line.”