February 3, 2022

Finalists Selected for $22 Million Award to Strengthen Democracy in the United States

Chicago, Illinois, February 3, 2022 – Today, Additional Ventures, ICONIQ Impact, and Lever for Change announced the five finalists for the $22 million Stronger Democracy Award (“the award”), a competition launched in March 2021 to drive structural reforms to help improve political representation and increase the participation of all citizens in the United States’ democratic process.  

The award—sponsored by Additional Ventures with support from philanthropists Cipora and Vlado Herman and an anonymous donor in the ICONIQ Impact community—will address systemic barriers and advance structural reforms in three key areas: voting and elections, policymaking, and civic engagement.  

“We couldn’t be more excited about the ideas presented by these finalists,” said Erin Hoffmann, co-founder of Additional Ventures. “The bold solutions they propose will help improve voter engagement, strengthen elections infrastructure, and fortify community-led movements that will make our government more representative of and responsive to the needs of all citizens in the United States.”

The award’s sponsors invite others to join their efforts, so that all five of the top-ranked solutions can be funded. Donors interested in providing additional funding for this competition should contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy, Lever for Change at ddrice@leverforchange.macfound.org.

The five finalists’ projects are listed below in alphabetical order:

All Voting is Local: Through grassroots power-building, data analysis, and strategic communications, the Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights will fight to eliminate needless and discriminatory barriers to the ballot before they happen in order to build a democracy that works for us all.

Building a Movement for Robust Multiparty Democracy: Working Families Power, Center for Working Families, and New America will build the state-based organizational power, political relationships, and popular support needed to win reforms that lead to a multiracial democracy.

Civic Revolution: Building a Diverse Democracy: Accelerate Change, Inc., PushBlack, ParentsTogether Foundation, Pulso, and Noticias para Inmigrantes will develop a force of 100 million diverse citizens who consistently share news, policy, and voting information with friends and family, increasing voter participation and pressure for democracy reforms.  

The Documenters Network: A Civic Infrastructure for Connected Communities: City Bureau’s national, people-powered network will train and pay those most impacted by public policy to document government meetings and build a community around democratic participation.

Everyday Activist: Rise Education Fund will partner with BallotReady and Black Youth Vote! to erase gaps in civic participation among 7 million youth by scaling up an innovative model and technology for peer mobilization by 2024.

These inspiring projects reflect the scale and scope of the efforts needed to strengthen democracy: from grassroots mobilizing and movement building to bolstering democracy and election infrastructure, these five teams propose meaningful and lasting improvements to our political system.

Over the next two months, the finalists will work with a team of experts to strengthen, revise, and resubmit their proposals, which will include providing detailed implementation plans for their proposed solutions. Two finalists will each receive a $10 million grant—the first from Additional Ventures and the second from the anonymous ICONIQ Impact donor. A separate $2 million grant from Cipora and Vlado Herman will be awarded to one of the other finalists.

“The timing and scale of this award will help drive the innovation we need to improve our democratic system,” said Cipora Herman. “We are proud to join this effort and hope that more philanthropists will recognize this opportunity to fund outstanding projects that will help catalyze much-needed change in our country."

The Stronger Democracy Award is the second in a series of grant competitions facilitated by Lever for Change in collaboration with ICONIQ Impact. The award follows the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award—a competition launched in 2020, sponsored by Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, and the Sea Grape Foundation, to secure a brighter, more durable future for refugees worldwide.

Launched in 2019, ICONIQ Impact is ICONIQ Capital’s global platform for collaborative philanthropy. ICONIQ Impact’s partnership with Lever for Change helps donors like Additional Ventures and Cipora and Vlado Herman identify philanthropic opportunities through open, transparent, and rigorously evaluated competitions, allowing them to fund solutions to some of the greatest social issues of our time.

“We’re proud to partner with Additional Ventures, the Herman family, and other philanthropists in the ICONIQ community who are leading the charge on this critical issue,” said Michael Anders, founding partner of ICONIQ Capital. “Over the last few years, America has become a polarized battleground. We need sustained investment in organizations—like these five finalists—that have innovative, scale-ready approaches to protecting our democracy, boosting civic engagement, and re-instilling a sense of trust in our government.”

The award is managed by Lever for Change, a nonprofit that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including racial and gender equity, economic development, and climate change.  

“Strengthening democracy is one of the defining challenges of our time,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “This award gives our growing network of problem solvers an opportunity to reimagine the fundamental components of democracy and help our government fully and effectively represent its citizens.”

The award received 172 submissions from non-profit organizations across the United States. Applications were evaluated during a four-month review process involving peer applicants and multi-disciplined experts from around the country who evaluated the submissions based on four criteria: whether they were transformative, feasible, innovative, and scalable.

The awardees will be announced in the summer of 2022. More information about the award and its finalists can be found at: www.strongerdemocracyaward.org.

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Additional Ventures

Additional Ventures is a purpose-driven organization leveraging evidence-based research and deep subject matter expertise to make an outsized impact. Our fierce optimism powers bold, high-risk innovations to solve some of humanity’s most complex challenges.

ICONIQ Impact

ICONIQ Impact is ICONIQ Capital’s global platform for collaborative philanthropy. Supported by ICONIQ Capital’s passionate network of families, founders, and portfolio companies across industries, we strive to break down silos in philanthropy and scale giving for social change through collaborative initiatives. ICONIQ Impact’s goal is to guide philanthropic capital to social entrepreneurs and organizations with scalable models to have an outsized, measurable impact on the world’s most urgent problems.

Lever for Change
Lever for Change leverages investments in solutions to the world’s biggest problems — from racial and gender equity to climate change. By matching donors with problem solvers — through customized challenges and tailored funding opportunities — Lever for Change accelerates social change. Outstanding teams from these challenges form the Bold Solutions Network, which focuses on elevating organizations and catalyzing further funding. Founded as a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2019, Lever for Change has influenced more than $800 million in grants and provided support to more than 140 organizations to date. To learn more, visit www.leverforchange.org.