Seattle Foundation Blog

Seattle Foundation Creates $1 Million Regional Census Fund

City of Seattle and King County invest to support outreach to underrepresented communities with the goal of a complete count

April 03, 2019

By Aaron Robertson, Managing Director, Policy & Civic Engagement

Updated May 1, 2019: Applications for Washington Census Equity Fund & Regional Fund are now open. Proposals are due May 15, 2019.


With the 2020 Census, a decade’s worth of data, decision-making and democracy is at stake. That is why Seattle Foundation is invested in ensuring a fair, accurate and inclusive count, and we are encouraging others to join us in this effort. Seattle Foundation President & CEO Tony Mestres, together with King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, announced Greater Seattle’s first-ever Regional Census Fund on April 1.

The Foundation is contributing $500,000 to this effort and administering the fund. We are joined by the City of Seattle and King County, which each invested $250,000, for a total of $1 million. This coordinated, strategic approach will expand the reach and depth of our investment across the region on this vital issue, which has significant implications for our state.

The Fund, launching April 15, will support trusted community-based organizations to conduct effective outreach in hard-to-count communities. With frontline partners, the Regional Census Fund will provide funding and technical support to organize, educate and activate residents in historically underrepresented communities, including communities of color, immigrants and refugees, native people, LGBTQ residents and others.

Every 10 years, the Constitution requires a census count of all residents to determine political representation and allocate federal funds.

The Census Bureau estimates that Washington State received a total of $16.7 billion or $2,321 per person in federal funds in 2016. Each person counted leads to significant resources to support critical programs and services including transportation, health care, education and housing. Unfortunately, the census has not historically counted residents accurately or evenly, especially in communities that include people of color, non-English speaking residents and immigrants and refugees.

Philanthropists have a stake and an important role to play in supporting a fair and accurate census count.

There are a number of challenges facing the 2020 Census that threaten to further drive down the participation of hard-to-count communities, including:

  • The proposed addition of citizenship questions, which have led to fear in many communities, potentially decreasing response to the census;
  • Federal funding cuts that will likely make Census 2020 one of the most underfunded counts in history, resulting in fewer resources to ensure as many residents as possible are informed about the census;
  • A new, primarily online format means people with limited internet access may be missed; and,
  • Previously planned testing of the online form has been canceled.

We created the Regional Census Fund to address these critical gaps.

Seattle Foundation has also joined forces with Philanthropy Northwest and its Washington State Census Equity Fund to support coordination between funders and equitable resource efforts across the state. Together through these two funding efforts, we have combined our activities into a common application portal and a shared funding process. The Regional Census Fund will focus on work in King County while the Washington Census Equity Fund will focus on efforts across the state, outside of King County.

In line with our funding, Seattle Foundation is playing leadership roles in the Washington State Complete Count Committee and the King County Complete Count Committee. We are using our voice to raise awareness, including through a Seattle Times op-ed our CEO, Tony Mestres, co-authored with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Philanthropy Northwest.

For more information on how to engage with the census, please contact Aaron Robertson at



For Philanthropists


Vibrant CommunitiesVulnerable residentsRacial equityLGBTQImmigrants and refugeesgrants

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