The State Infrastructure Fund supports, enhances, and complements existing civic engagement work, ensuring that states can build strong civic engagement infrastructure quickly and sustain it beyond the next election cycle.
What is civic engagement infrastructure?
Civic engagement encompasses the full range of activities designed to educate and mobilize the public to act in service of social, political, and community fairness. Base building and grass roots organizing, issue and policy advocacy, litigation, media and communications, and election-related activities such as voter registration, voter education, and get out the vote are all increasingly knit together in what now constitutes a civic engagement infrastructure –both nationally and in states. We call the core network of organizations that do this work the State Infrastructure.
State Infrastructure Fund Strategy
Since 2010, State Infrastructure Fund funders have invested almost $15 million in high-performing 501(c)(3) state-focused organizations. In 2014, SIF will focus its funding key states that have significant numbers of Rising American Electorate (RAE) – low-income, minority, women and youth – voters. When selecting target states, SIF also considers the possibility of leveraging funds through the engagement of other state-based and/or national funders who are interested in this area. This year’s priority states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Grants will be made to organizations working on a combination of the following:
- Infrastructure Capacity and Coordination. It is vital to support organizations that help coordinate and implement efforts to educate, organize, and mobilize voters across local communities.
- Voter Engagement. Organizations, coordinated by nonpartisan state tables, are instituting increasingly sophisticated voter modeling, education, and mobilization programs to engage young people, low-income people, and people of color.
- Issue & Policy Advocacy. Off-cycle issue and policy work deepens civic engagement groups’ relationships with voters, which makes registration and mobilization easier during election season.
- Voting Rights and Election Administration. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Shelby v. Holder County case, which disconnects the federal government’s oversight of state and local election practices, states are increasingly the frontlines on which this most basic democratic right is contested. In reaction to the Shelby decision, SIF established the Shelby Response Fund to develop a coordinated plan to counter the decision’s impact in affected states. Indeed, with challenges to basic voting rights already underway in more than 35 states, issue groups and funders now must consider the role election administration will play in the success of their issue and policy programs. In 2014, SIF will support local, state, and national groups to protect voters’ poll access, work with state and local election officials, and educate voters on the changing rules affecting their right to vote.
Governance and Investment
The State Infrastructure Fund provides an accountable mechanism for national foundations to channel their funding to local and state-based organizations doing critical civic engagement and issue-based work. Aligning the Fund’s grants with local donor investments, ensures that resources are invested in a strategic, coordinated manner. Specifically, SIF benefits funders by providing:
- Leverage: SIF leverages and aligns investments of state and national, individual and institutional donors.
- Sustainability: SIF’s investments build stronger and more durable state-based civic participation and advocacy capacities in under-represented communities for 2014 and beyond.
- Expertise: SIF collaborates with the most respected civic engagement organizations, strategists and donors in each state and nationally.