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2020 Census Essential to Philanthropic Community

Letter from JoAnn Turnquist, CCCF president and CEO


We are eight months away from Census Day, April 1, 2020, when the decennial count will begin. Philanthropic organizations, advocates, activists, faith, business, community leaders, and elected officials from around the country are coming together to launch a massive and coordinated “get out the count” effort focused on the most hard-to-count communities.

The effort is challenging.  Earlier this year, the United Philanthropy Forum wrote, “The Census Bureau is facing a daunting set of challenges as it prepares for the 2020 census. As the bureau is facing budget constraints like never before, it plans to collect the majority of census information online, scale back door-to-door outreach and roll back canvassing. These changes increase the potential of undercounting young children, minorities, low-income individuals and other marginalized individuals. Given the current climate, regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations and their members are needed to advocate and educate elected officials and community leaders on the importance and impact of the 2020 census on their communities. This is why the 2020 census matters to philanthropy.”

Census data is used to distribute more than $800 billion dollars in federal funds for infrastructure, public schools, emergency services, early childhood programs, human services and services for the elderly and disabled.  The count determines the number of congressional seats and is used to design and draw local, state and congressional legislative districts. It is relied upon by researchers, demographers, businesses, governments and philanthropy to understand who lives in our country and in our communities. It drives decisions by funders and nonprofits concerned about local services, from public education to healthcare to housing. In short, an accurate count is essential.

The philanthropic community in South Carolina has responded to this call for help. Our Foundation has joined with 14 other foundations and United Way organizations across our state to fund, and secure matching funds, for 2020: SC Counts, an initiative designed to ensure that, at a minimum, 75% of residents across our state return their Census forms and are counted.  To do this, SC Counts is providing financial support to Complete Count Committees made up of volunteers who will increase awareness of the importance of participating in and completing the census.

Without these efforts, our state will be underrepresented, and South Carolinians will not receive the funds that are essential to their well-being.  Philanthropic dollars can never replace the void created by a lack of federal funds.  Working with nonprofit and public partners, our philanthropic community can, and will, have an impact.