Civic Engagement

New Profit’s Post-Election Insights on Democracy and Civic Engagement

New Profit Partner Yordanos Eyoel who leads the organization's Civic Lab portfolio and civic engagement strategy shares insights and reflections into this historic post-election period, key highlights from the work of the democracy entrepreneurs in our portfolio, and a preview of where our civic engagement work is headed.

By Yordanos Eyoel, New Profit Partner

During this historic post-election period, I am writing to share our reflections, highlight the work of democracy entrepreneurs in our portfolio, and provide a preview of our civic engagement work ahead.

The 2020 election cycle showed us both the power and resiliency of our democratic process as well as the deep systemic and structural challenges that continue to threaten our ability to build a robust, healthy, and inclusive democracy.

For many decades now, our country has suffered from a crisis of trust that has been exacerbated by divisive narrative and misinformation. Before the election, only 17% of Americans trusted the government and Americans have grown increasingly distrustful of each other.

It is because of these persistent and systemic issues that we have built a robust portfolio of civic engagement and policy advocacy efforts: the nonpartisan advocacy work of America Forward continues in Washington; our Civic Lab to support democracy entrepreneurs is in its second year; and, in 2020, we launched our Inclusive Impact Action Tank to develop a story and policy vision for a more equitable future in America.

In order for our country to address the intertwining crises of civic trust, polarization, cultural fragmentation, and inequity, we need to continue to invest in innovative solutions. During the last election cycle, we saw that democracy entrepreneur-led organizations, particularly those working at the grassroots level of proximity, are employing effective strategies to address these crises. Below are a few highlights of the work and impact of democracy organizations from our Civic Lab portfolio during the 2020 election:

Alliance for Youth Organizing (AYO), a nationwide network of organizations building the political power of young people and the premier youth vote vehicle in the United States.

AYO network organization, Leaders Igniting Transformation, which centers its work on Black and Brown young people in Wisconsin, made more than 1 million phone calls and sent more than 2 million text messages to young voters in the state; 85% of the young people New Era Colorado registered turned out to vote, in a state where a whopping 70% of young Coloradans voted; Early data indicate a historic increase in young voter turnout nationwide with CIRCLE projecting at least a 5-point increase in turnout from 2016. These numbers will be confirmed when voter file information becomes available in 2021.

Millennial Action Project (MAP), a nonpartisan organization that activates young leaders to bridge the partisan divide and transform American politics.

MAP leveraged its bipartisan network of young policymakers to safeguard our nation’s elections through the Partnering to Ensure Election Resiliency (P.E.E.R.) Project, developing tools and messaging for legislators to build credibility in the election system leading up to and after election day; MAP created resources such as state-specific safe voting FAQ’s and a national bipartisan policy playbook, and forged key partnerships to successfully help secure bipartisan reforms and PSAs in battlegrounds states; In Wisconsin, MAP is the first organization to have secured sitting Republican legislators for public safe voting efforts — effectively bridging the credibility gap in targeted communities around absentee voting, and supporting Wisconsin inefficiently counting more than 2 million absentee ballots in less than 24 hours.

New Politics Academy, a nonpartisan organization building a movement to revitalize our democracy by recruiting and supporting military veterans and national service alumni to consider politics as a way to continue serving the country

New Politics recruited the largest number of applicants for its Fall Answering the Call program with 574 applicants, 50% of whom were people of color; Dan Helmer, a New Politics candidate elected to VA state legislature in 2019 went against his own party by refusing to vote for partisan gerrymandering, contributing to the ballot victory to create an independent redistricting commission in VA; David Crowly, another New Politics candidate became the first African American County Executive in the history of Milwaukee.

PushBlack, the nation’s largest nonprofit media organization for Black Americans reaching 9 Million people.

PushBlack succeeded in running the largest online get-out-the-vote campaign (GOTV) for Black people. On Election Day, over 5.7 Million PushBlack subscribers and their friends shared 230 Million voting messages with family members and friends; In the lead up to the election, PushBlack also partnered with celebrities like Kerry Washington, John Legend, and Offset to inspire Black Americans on Instagram to vote. PushBlack currently has 440 Thousand Instagram followers. On October 23rd, PushBlack launched Save the Day, a new video and song by singing legend Mariah Carey, to inspire people to vote.

The People, a nonpartisan organization of everyday Americans working to find common ground and take action to create a more responsive government of, by, and for the people.

The People conducted a SAFE (Secure And Fair Elections) Challenge that advocated for mail-in ballot and election security best practices to be adopted attracting signers from 43 states; The People mobilized its members, held joint events, coordinated op-eds, and provided volunteer mobilization, fundraising, communications, and strategy best practice consulting to several campaigns this year including two historic campaigns that won: VA Anti-Gerrymandering (Proposition 1) and MO Approval Voting in St. Louis (Proposition D).

As we celebrate the incredible work and impact of our portfolio and other democracy reform victories, we know our collective work of building civic trust and an inclusive democracy is far from finished.

During this election cycle, our country has already spent $14Billion, the most that has ever been expended on any election. This is 3x the amount philanthropy has invested in democracy organizations over the last decade! As the engine of civil society, philanthropy and philanthropists can play an important role in shaping and building our civic infrastructure.

As Steven Olikara of Millennial Action Project says, “If you’re working on education, the environment, or immigration issues and not looking at the underlying reason of why our political system has not produced better outcomes in those areas, then you’re missing the boat. It is key that the philanthropic sector focuses on democracy entrepreneurship.”

We also believe that nonprofit organizations, particularly those who are committed to advancing equity, have a moral mandate to continue to support the civic empowerment and engagement of their constituents.

As we look ahead to 2021, we remain committed to supporting organizations building civic trust and an inclusive democracy. Between 2021 and 2024, we aim to invest in 24 nonpartisan organizations led by proximate democracy entrepreneurs. Consistent with our Inclusive Impact strategy, the majority of our investments (80%) will be in organizations led by Black, Latino/a/x, and Indigenous leaders. We believe democracy entrepreneurs who represent the diversity of our country, should be at the helm of leading efforts to transform the civic destiny of our country.

Our investment in and support to democracy organizations is complemented by policy advocacy through America Forward and our Inclusive Impact Action Tank organizations.

We are excited to continue to partner with you, our community, to lay the groundwork for a more equitable and inclusive country.