Program Stories

WDN’s Who Leads Us Campaign Seeking Pilot Project Proposals

Programs to be funded will focus on structural barriers preventing us from having a truly reflective democracy

Last Fall, the successful launch of the Who Leads Us Campaign sparked a coast-to-coast public dialogue from the New Yorker to USA Today, MSNBC to Fox News, the Daily Beast to Mississippi Public Radio. Our groundbreaking research showed in stark terms the over-representation of white men at all levels of political leadership (see graphic below). In addition to our compelling data, we also shined a light on the barriers and challenges that must be addressed to achieve a truly reflective democracy. 

Click to download the full RFP for Who Leads Us pilot projects.

Click to download the full RFP for Who Leads Us pilot projects.

This month, we are moving to the next phase of our campaign with the announcement of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for our first pilot and research projects. These catalytic investments will take aim at those barriers in four priority areas:

  1. Gatekeeepers: The networks of party leaders and donors that control the flow of money, resources and endorsements to candidates continue to produce elected leaders who do not reflect the American people. We will support interventions to hold gatekeepers more accountable or develop alternative approaches to candidate development.  
  2. Civic institutions: We will support the capacity of newly formed and established community-based organizations, especially in communities of color, to engage more directly in the political process through candidate training and recruitment programs.
  3. Economic barriers: We will address the economic obstacles that ordinary working people face when pursuing elected office: the difficulty of holding a regular job while campaigning and/or serving in an elected position, since few pay enough to support oneself; the cost of campaigns; and the influence of big money.
  4. Voting structures: From alternatives to winner take-all voting and at-large elections to strategies for redistricting, we will support reforms to our electoral systems that seek to empower communities of color and women.  

These grants will break new ground in dismantling the structural barriers that perpetuate our current un-reflective political system. Some of our grants will add a reflective democracy lens to existing programs. Other grants will be unique and innovative, addressing — perhaps for the first time — deep-rooted structures that directly and indirectly prevent women and people of color from achieving political leadership.

Please click here to download the full RFP, which includes detailed instructions for how to apply.

Projects will be selected for funding in two phases.

Proposals for the March 9 application deadline are now closed.  We are now accepting proposals for our second round of funding.  The deadline for applications is May 15.  Proposals should be submitted to Brenda Carter, Reflective Democracy Campaign Director, at rdcampaign [at] womendonors [dot] org. Questions about eligibility and proposal concepts should be directed to RD-Outreach [at] womendonors [dot] org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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