Philanthropy’s role in the 2020 U.S. Census

Monday, December 9, 2019

We know that the 2020 census will be one of the most crucial given that, for the first time ever, it will be a primarily digital census allowing respondents to complete the census survey online. With close to 30% of Ohioans living in rural communities that lack internet access, it is imperative that the census count is fully funded and managed in order to count everyone.

Many community and philanthropic organizations, local governments and businesses throughout the state are key to a complete 2020 count, which is important to Ohio’s more than 3,600 grantmaking foundations as they rely on census data to:

  • Identify community needs and demographic trends that inform long-term plans and grants;
  • Measure impact, which drives many of the foundation’s investment decisions; and
  • Tell the story of foundation and grantee impact.

Shortchanging the 2020 headcount would jeopardize Ohio’s federal funds and representation.

$2,880: is the per person amount the federal government currently sends to Ohio to support health, human services and education programs – and what’s left on the table for anyone who is not counted in the 2020 census. Federal dollars coming to Ohio are significant:

  • $15 billion for Medicaid
  • $2.4 billion for SNAP
  • $1.4 billion for highway planning and construction
  • $323 million for Head Start/Early Head Start

These numbers demonstrate why it is so important for the U.S. Census Bureau to receive full-year funding, so that it has the resources it needs to deploy its new digital strategy and internet self-response choice and reach hard-to-count communities in rural Ohio. Philanthropy Ohio has been engaged at both the federal and state levels to emphasize to policymakers just how important a fully funded census is to the philanthropic community.

House Resolution 3055 is a continuing resolution which makes FY2020 appropriations to federal agencies through December 20, 2019, including a $7.5 billion appropriation to the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct its crucial and robust operations for the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau needs the certainty of a full-year funding level now, to support the successful launch and completion of a cost-effective 2020 Census. Time is running out for the bureau to conduct operations such as:

  • Expand outreach and communications activities;
  • Develop a plan for a new mobile Questionnaire Assistance Center program;
  • Verify a complete address list; and
  • Recruit a geographically and culturally diverse workforce.

With so much work to be done and the importance census data provides to members, we checked around the state to see how Philanthropy Ohio members are doing their part.

The Cleveland Complete Count Committee includes three Philanthropy Ohio members:

  • Anne Feleppelle, director, public policy and government affairs, United Way of Greater Cleveland;
  • Nelson Beckford, program director for neighborhood revitalization & engagement, The Cleveland Foundation; and
  • Jill Paulsen, interim CEO and executive director, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

The Columbus Foundation

  • Funded the Children’s Defense Fund to conduct a series of design workshops to better understand why specific communities are hard to count, and to create messaging tools to equip community organizations to communicate the significance of the census to these particular groups.
  • Staff from The Columbus Foundation have been interacting with the Columbus Counts committee coordinated by Doug Murray of the City of Columbus. The foundation’s VP, communications and marketing, Natalie Parscher, is participating in the communications subcommittee.
  • Encouraged the use of initiatives such as The Big Table to disseminate accurate information about the census by hosting community dialogue about the significance of the census and how local partners can help spread the word.

Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, Rachael Chacon, development and marketing coordinator

  • The Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to disseminate information on the census to staff, fund holders, grantees and other supporters. A Philadelphia partnership specialist provided communications materials and offered to speak to constituents and provide additional support.

Muskingum County Community Foundation, Brian Wagner, CEO

  • The Muskingum County Community Foundation offered meeting space, social media and website “space” to promote the census.

Nationwide Foundation

  • Natosha Prolago was appointed by the Governor’s office to serve on the Census 2020 Complete Count Commission.
  • The Department of Development toured Nationwide as they are looking to host three information/education series building up to a visit by the director in Jeffers in 2020.

Philanthropy Ohio, Claudia Y.W. Herrold, senior VP, communications & public policy

  • We funded ($15,000) and convened a group of funders, known as the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition, to support the hiring of a local census coordinator housed at the library.
  • Claudia was appointed to Governor Mike DeWine’s Ohio Census 2020 Complete Count Commission, a 51-member commission tasked with developing recommendations and identifying strategies to ensure a complete and accurate count in Ohio.


Pickaway County Community Foundation, Jan Shannon, executive director

  • Jan serves on the Circleville Complete Count Committee.

Greater Toledo Community Foundation, Keith Burwell, president

  • As a member of the Toledo-Lucas County Complete Count Committee, Greater Toledo Community Foundation and others are hiring a Complete Count Committee Coordinator. Funding for the coordinator is being supplied by the foundation ($15,000), City of Toledo ($20,000), Lucas County Board of Commissioners ($10,000) and the library is providing free office space.

The Troy Foundation, Melissa Kleptz, executive director

  • Melissa has established a working relationship with the local Complete Count Committee (CCC) and has engaged nonprofits to serve on their local level committees. The local CCC has broken their work into each community and will have subcommittees meeting to determine best ways to carry out the census.

Given the widespread use and reliance upon census data, it is imperative that the 2020 census is funded and managed to ensure a full and accurate count.

Vincent Coleman
Manager, Public Policy

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