State Infrastructure Fund
The State Infrastructure Fund (SIF) engages historically underrepresented voters in the democratic process and protects their right to vote by supporting state-based networks of organizations that work together to build long-term power in their communities.
In a democracy, the ballot box is the path to power and influence. By encouraging civic participation and voting, nonprofit organizations can assist underrepresented communities to gain a voice and influence public policy debates on issues that they care deeply about. Any movement or group that does not make use of these avenues will find themselves on the outside looking in when important policy decisions are made. Whether one cares about minority and immigrant rights, economic opportunity, reproductive rights, environmental protections, criminal justice or any other issue, Americans who want to make a difference must get educated, get out to vote and hold their representatives accountable through ongoing engagement in the process.
The State Infrastructure Fund supports networks of organizations that engage individuals and communities at every step in this process – from community organizing around issues, to voter mobilization, to voter protection and policy advocacy – all to ensure that their voices are heard and acknowledged.
Since its inception in 2010, SIF has raised more than $42 million to support the long-term sustainability of state-based networks of nonpartisan organizations that: educate, register and mobilize voters; organize communities to advocate on issues and policies; support expanded access to the polls; and, fight efforts to suppress voter participation among underrepresented communities, including people of color, new citizens, low-income communities, women and young people. By building a highly effective set of infrastructure organizations that can perform multiple tasks such as, year round cross-issue organizing, voter registration and mobilization, voter protection and litigation and education around public policy, we build the machinery needed to empower individuals, promote public interest and strengthen the architecture of our democracy year in and year out.
This approach is bearing fruit. For example, in response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, SIF organized donors to support a litigation collaborative comprised of 10 of the country’s top litigation organizations to conduct joint monitoring, research, amicus brief preparation and litigation. Members of the collaborative have secured several important wins in recent years covering a multitude of voting rights issues, including suppressive laws like voter ID and proof of citizenship, language access issues and racial and partisan gerrymandering. For example, in 2016 members of the litigation collaborative secured an important win against voter identification in North Carolina when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit decisively struck down the state’s voter identification law, saying its provisions deliberately “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to suppress black turnout at the polls.
Analysis completed by Analyst Institute, showed that as compared with 2012, voter registration among Latinos increased in seven out of the nine SIF states that have Latino populations more than 100,000. Furthermore, Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) registration increased in all five SIF states with more than 100,000 AAPI citizens. While more work remains to be done, SIF continues to evaluate and adapt where necessary to be sure it is employing tested best practices in its grantmaking.
Our Investment Strategy
SIF asserts that the most direct, powerful and expansive way for underrepresented communities to improve the policies that impact their lives is through voting and issue advocacy. SIF-funded organizations weave together voter engagement with issue advocacy and base building programs. This strategy ensures community stakeholders are informed about issues and motivated to participate and take leadership positions in the full range of civic endeavors that benefit their families and communities.
SIF organizations work to achieve results in three areas:
Integrated Voter Engagement: SIF investments maximize civic and voter participation in states by supporting year-round programing that explicitly integrates issue advocacy, leadership development, voter registration and mobilization tactics, to effectively engage individuals in the democratic process.
Voting Rights and Reforms: SIF investments strengthen the field of nonpartisan organizations working to reform and modernize the voting system and defeat efforts to suppress the votes of minority and other vulnerable voters that have explosively expanded due to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision.
Communications: SIF investments build long-term communications capacity in states in order to continuously educate voters and amplify their voices concerning issues, policy, voting rights and the importance of voting.
According to our members, SIF provides the following advantages:
History: The SIF is the most established civic engagement fund in the United States. Since its launch, SIF has continuously surpassed its fundraising goals, grown its membership and engendered confidence and commitment among its members. The longevity of the fund and consistency of its funding and strategy has positioned SIF as an important partner and leader in the nonpartisan voter engagement field.
Vision: SIF embraces a creative and entrepreneurial approach that synthesizes the various goals of its members into a cohesive long-term strategy that enhances and rationalizes the funding of each member within the broader ecosystem.
Learning and Expertise: SIF creates a unique peer-to peer learning space for its members who together represent some of the most important civic engagement foundations in the country. Through regular conference calls and meetings, SIF funders rigorously discuss emerging issues, strategic plans and specific funding recommendations to ensure that SIF funding is most effectively utilized within the broader civic engagement funding landscape.
Leverage: SIF brings more resources to critical issues by leveraging and aligning the investments of state and national donors and other collaborative funds. In particular, SIF’s partnerships with state donor tables is unique and deeply valuable.
Flexibility: SIF is a flexible and agile funding mechanism that allows national funders to make more targeted grants in multiple geographies. The fund is able to move quickly, making and acting upon informed decisions with an efficiency that is often impossible thorough larger foundations.
From our members
“SIF is the best collaborative fund at creating a center of gravity for both voting rights and civic engagement work that attracts all major and smaller players interested in these fields.”
“SIF provides an opportunity for state– or issue-based funders to connect to the larger field of democracy funding, while lifting up their own examples and expertise.”
“SIF bridges a values-based approach with evidence-based research that tests assumptions and moves us all forward.”
The State Infrastructure Fund is housed at NEO Philanthropy. NEO’s collaborative funds are designed to help donors make more agile and effective national and state-level grants.