State Infrastructure Fund
The State Infrastructure Fund (SIF) is a donor collaborative fund based at NEO Philanthropy that works to increase civic participation and advance voting rights among people of color and other historically underrepresented communities.
SIF advances this mission by supporting networks of state-based and state-focused nonpartisan organizations that engage their communities through advocacy, organizing and litigation.
Since its inception in 2010, SIF has raised more than $95 million to further its goals. SIF will distribute $45 million in grants in support for its work during the 2019/2020 election cycle. Meanwhile, the fund’s membership has grown substantially. Since the beginning of 2017, the number of foundations contributing to the fund has increased from 13 to 31. These rapidly growing investments in SIF demonstrate the funding community’s confidence in and support of SIF’s mission.
SIF’s funding decisions are guided by an integrated voter engagement and voting rights strategy that concentrates SIF funding in three regions of the country, the South, Southwest and Great Lakes. SIF prioritizes support to organizations led by people who authentically represent their communities. SIF currently funds 501(c)(3), nonpartisan organizations in 17 states.
To optimize the impact of its funding, SIF develops a strategy for each state selected within these regions based on research, site visits and follow-up communications conducted by senior program staff who have deep experience in the civic engagement and voting rights fields. SIF’s grant making is carefully developed to meet the needs of the networks of organizations working on the ground to do this challenging work. During the 2019/2020 funding cycle, SIF will primarily support organizations in 16 states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
SIF Goals and Funding Strategy
The State Infrastructure Fund seeks to advance the following four goals:
- Increase voter participation among people in historically underrepresented communities in select states.
- Remove barriers to voting and promotion of positive changes to voting laws and election administration through public education, organizing and litigation.
- Increase the capacity, skills and coordination of networks of organizations that represent and engage historically underrepresented communities in select states.
- Deepen alignment, coordination and planning across national and state litigation, voting rights and civic engagement organizations and funders in key states.
To achieve these goals, SIF’s grantmaking is focused in two interrelated and mutually reinforcing funding strategies:
- Integrated Voter Engagement: SIF funds programs in states that increase voter participation rates in historically underrepresented communities by tying voting to salient issues through year-round advocacy, organizing, leadership development and voter mobilization efforts.
- Voting Rights and Reforms: SIF funds programs that protect and advance the voting rights of historically disenfranchised communities year-round through litigation, monitoring, education and robust Election Protection efforts.
A Hands-On Approach
SIF staff also work directly with organizations on the ground; conducting site visits, organizing funder visits, trouble-shooting issues, encouraging and facilitating coordination, and fostering collaboration among organizations in the field. This hands-on coordination and SIF’s integrated voting rights and voter engagement approach has led to a greater overall impact and a deeper understanding of the importance of voting rights to the issue-focused work traditionally conducted by civic engagement organizations. For example, these coordinated efforts have led to a dramatic increase in the number of civic engagement organizations that actively dedicate volunteers to Election Protection poll monitoring and participate in staffing the Election Protection hotlines.
In summary, SIF is considered an effective funding entity and a valued forum for collaboration among civic engagement funders who share strategies and ideas, learn from each other, explore best practices with experts in their fields, build relationships with colleagues and grantees and ultimately implement a coordinated, well-executed voter engagement and voting rights funding strategy. As a pooled fund, SIF allows individual funders to have a much broader reach and share in successes they may not be able to fund directly but can inform their best practices. SIF provides the space to further the collective reach and impact of individual funders.