The imbalance of power between advocates for social change and the powerful wealthy individuals and corporations opposing their agendas has always created significant challenges for Foundation grantees trying to affect the public policies impacting their communities. With Citizens United and other negative court decisions, vast sums of money are now flowing into federal, state and local campaigns to elect policy makers and judges. Beyond elections, the influence of well-funded lobbyists at the state and federal level often represents another barrier to advancing social justice. However, organizations and individuals across identities, geographies and political ideologies are pushing back and advocating for a future where everyone has an equal voice in the political process.

Given the impact of this system on the environmental and human rights issues that Overbrook cares about, the Foundation has launched an initiative to support efforts to reform the corrosive role of money in our democracy and to promote a future where government is representative of and responsive to the needs of communities. Overbrook particularly seeks to support projects that are employing innovative strategies to engage the broader public on these issues, focusing on promoting solutions and building a larger and more diverse grassroots base of people supporting a movement for reform. Moving forward, the Foundation expects to prioritize funding for projects working at the intersection of money in politics reform and other areas of focus for Overbrook, including environmental, racial and gender justice.

Below are the Foundation’s 2017 grantees in this portfolio.

Brennan Center for Justice

Money in Politics Program - $100,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice.  Since 2010, Citizens United has unleashed a flood of money in American elections, further tilting the political terrain away from ordinary citizens – and toward deep pocketed special interests.  The Brennan Center is working to mitigate the damage of Citizens United and related cases by focusing on immediate strategies for boosting the voices of voters.  At the same time, to achieve victory over the next decade in the Supreme Court and overturn Citizens United, the Brennan Center is charting a path for achieving a fundamental transformation of the constitutional framework for money in politics.

Democracy Initiative Education Fund

General Operating Support - $50,000

Democracy Initiative Education Fund (DIEF) is a dynamic coalition of more than 60 activist and policy organizations representing a membership of 30 million people, including organizations whose primary focus is on climate justice, civil rights, and workers, as well as democracy experts. Major progressive organizations founded DIEF on the tenet that outsized political spending and voter suppression diminish fairness of the process and reduce accountability in governance.

Dēmos: A Network for Ideas & Action

Inclusive Democracy Partnership - $100,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

Throughout all of its work, Dēmos challenges our country to live up to its potential as a democracy that truly empowers people of all backgrounds, so that all Americans have an equal say in setting the policies that shape opportunity and provide for our common future. The purpose of the Inclusive Democracy Partnership is to more closely align the racial justice movement and the democracy reform field in ways that advance the people’s power to achieve political, gender, economic, and racial equity. An important goal of this work is to broaden the democracy reform field to include and center the leadership of organizations advancing campaigns in communities of color and possessing the capacities and membership bases needed to create a more inclusive field. The Inclusive Democracy Partnership is designed to convene and support a cohort of state-based groups that will integrate money in politics and affirmative voting reforms into their work to advance an economic and racial justice agenda and strategy to build political power.

Free Speech for People

General Operating Support - $50,000

Free Speech for People works to renew our democracy and our United States Constitution for we the people, not big money and corporate interests. Founded on the day of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Free Speech For People envisions a democratic process in which all people have an equal voice and an equal vote. It catalyzes and helps lead the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo, and the doctrines underlying those rulings. It engages in legal advocacy to advance a new jurisprudence on money in politics and to confront the misuse of the U.S. Constitution to claim corporate exemptions from our laws. It develops and advocates for model laws and other tools to challenge big money in politics and to make corporations responsible and accountable to the public.

Not An Alternative

The Natural History Museum - $20,000 (With an additional $30,000 awarded by the Environment Program)

The Natural History Museum (NHM), a project of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit art collective Not An Alternative, is a mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature. The NHM aims to inspire established science and natural history museums to reevaluate their roles in the midst of the climate crisis. The Natural History Museum acts as a catalyst and connector amongst museum insiders who seek to move their institutions towards greater relevancy, scientists who seek platforms for exercising their expertise in the service of social responsibility, and advocates who want to bring the realities of the excluded into the bigger narratives of science and natural history. Deploying both inside and outside engagement strategies, The Natural History Museum inspires museums to cut ties to fossil fuel interests, to create a new narrative about natural history that educates and measurably influences public opinion, and inspires collective action. 

OLÉ Education Fund

New Mexico Inclusive Democracy Project/Democracy Dollars - $30,000

OLÉ Education Fund is a non-profit, grassroots member organization of working families. Since 2009, its members and staff have worked together to strengthen its communities using issue based campaigns to ensure that working families are playing a critical role in shaping New Mexico's future and democracy with a united voice.

Piper Fund

General Operating Support - $50,000

Piper Fund is a donor collaborative that unites individual donors and foundations to diminish the influence of corporate and special interest money on our political and judicial systems. Piper fosters community-driven democratic reforms that will increase participation of historically disenfranchised communities, build community power, and protect fundamental rights for all individuals. Piper invests in a comprehensive strategy to achieve and defend reform. It provides grants directly to state and local organizations that build broad grassroots coalitions to perform public education, litigation, and research; and to national groups who provide technical assistance to grantees.

Piper Fund

Collaborative Communications Initiative - $75,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

Piper Fund established the Collaborative Communications Initiative (CCI), housed at ReThink Media to enhance the communications capacity and effectiveness of the Money in Politics and fair courts sector. The Collaborative Communications Initiative has become an integral part of the field by earning trust across the sector, bringing groups together as a neutral convener, inspiring greater cohesion to message, increasing coordination among the sector, providing professional tools and resources, and delivering high quality media skills training. This approach has fostered a more collaborative and impactful field that speaks with a unified voice to elevate the import of Money in Politics and fair courts in the minds of the American public, and  to energize a broader reform movement.

Represent.Us Education Fund

General Operating Support - $95,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)

Represent.Us Education Fund (RUEF) is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization challenging the undue influence of well-financed special interests over American politics and government.  RUEF supports public education, research, and online and traditional grassroots organizing to advance sweeping democracy reforms. RUEF is building a national trans-partisan grassroots movement to generate unprecedented support for more comprehensive reform through its Represent.Us campaign.

The New Press

"Fearless Books in Perilous Times" Series - $30,000 (first payment of a three-year grant)

The New Press is a not-for-profit publisher in the public interest, committed to publishing in innovative ways works of educational, cultural, and community value that, despite their intellectual merits, may be deemed insufficiently profitable by commercial publishers. The New Press performs a unique role as a bridge between the world of artists and writers and the communities of activists, public policy reformers, and academics. Linking these constituencies, The New Press publishes well written, coherently-argued books that wage "hearts and minds" social justice campaigns. Books are developed with an eye to their potential impact on public debates; their ability to play a communications role for the nonprofit sector; and their potential role as tools for educators, activists, and policymakers.

Grantees by Year:  2018   2017  |  2016  |  2015