Strengthening Democracy

The Foundation has an open application process for grants of up to $35,000 per year for up to two years at a time. Any entity that is legally eligible to receive a grant from the Foundation may apply for a grant using the Foundation’s Small Grant Application process. However, in this focus area, the Foundation makes grants larger than $35,000 per year only to organizations who have been granted permission to apply by the Foundation. See Strengthening Democracy FAQs.

Please note that due to the Foundation’s recent announcement to suspend its Spring 2017 grant cycle, the Foundation will not permit any strategic grant applications for New Work for the Strengthening Democracy focus area. Current Grantees in the Strengthening Democracy focus area may apply for grant funding for Ongoing Work. To learn more about how the Foundation defines New Work versus Ongoing Work, please see our Strategic Assessment FAQs.

If you have questions, please contact Allie Garrett.

The quality of life of the people of North Carolina depends, in large part, on how well its government and democratic processes function. The Foundation aims to strengthen democracy by ensuring that public institutions and processes are effective, transparent, accountable, accessible and inclusive. The Foundation is especially interested in removing barriers that prevent civic participation among traditionally marginalized and underrepresented populations, including people of color, women, low-income people, immigrants and young adults. Furthermore, the Foundation recognizes that our government institutions only work well if people have enough credible information on which to base decisions and know how to make their voices heard, and if there are strong leaders willing to serve the public good. 

The Foundation cannot effectively impact all of the ways to support and strengthen democracy in North Carolina. Rather, it must target its funding on a few goals in order to have impact. For this reason, funding in this area is limited to:

Good Government Reforms

In order for North Carolina’s public institutions to best serve NC residents, the processes and the rules and laws that govern them should be free from undue influence and operate fairly and reasonably. Grants in this area are for work that includes but is not limited to:

  • Reducing the influence of money on politics
  • Ensuring transparency and oversight of government activities
  • Reducing structural barriers that limit the ability of underrepresented people to run for or serve in office or participate in other public decision making bodies

Increased Participation in Government

The Foundation believes our government works best when more people participate in it. ZSR is especially interested in funding work that increases the participation of traditionally underrepresented voters (women, people of color, young adults, new citizens and low-income people), including but not limited to:

  • Promoting election reforms and actions that allow for increased civic participation and just and fair elections
  • Protecting and strengthening voters’ rights
  • Increasing participation in elections and government affairs

Furthermore, the Foundation believes that a strong democracy depends, in large measure, on the ability of people to come together for a common purpose. The nonprofit sector has an important role to play in providing the space and tools that can allow a common purpose to be realized for the greater good of the people of North Carolina. In order to build a nonprofit infrastructure that can advance issues of social, economic and environmental well-being in this state, there are core capacities that must be strengthened, including: leadership development, communications, and organizing.

With rare exception, in this focus area the Foundation does not give priority to projects focused on:

  • K-12 Civic Education
  • Research projects that are not connected to a larger civic agenda
  • Traditional leadership development programs unless they are aimed at underrepresented populations

The Foundation is legally prohibited from funding voter registration.

Review the complete list of uses, programs and activities to which the Foundation (with rare exception) does not make grants.