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Civic Engagement Census 2020

About Census 2020

The United States Constitution requires that the residential population of the country be counted every 10 years. A complete and accurate count is vital for communities. Census data is used to distribute $800 billion in federal funds each year -- funding for road repairs, school improvements, and social programs. In Fiscal Year 2016, Pennsylvania received over $39 billion in federal funding based on the census count. Researchers estimate that for every person not counted, communities will lose about $2,093 per year in federal funds. Census data also determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives (i.e., which states gain or lose representation in Congress) as well as redistricting at the state and local levels. Additionally, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governments use census data to identify community needs and evaluate solutions to difficult problems.

Historically, some populations – including communities of color, low-income households, immigrants, and young children – have been undercounted in the census. Undercounts happen for many reasons. People may not understand the census, may not trust the government, or may not want to share their information. Whatever the reason people don’t participate, undercounts deprive communities of necessary resources and representation.

The next census occurs in April 2020. For the first time ever, most questionnaires will be collected online, canvassing and door-to-door outreach will be scaled back and the number of field offices will be cut in half. The online questionnaire threatens to impact the response rate of the 20.1% of Pennsylvania's households that have either no internet access or dial up-only.

The US Census Bureau, the agency responsible for conducting the census, is severely underfunded, resulting in significant cuts to its local field offices, the number of door-to-door enumerators it will hire, and its advertising and public education efforts. Funding cuts have also caused the Bureau to hold only one limited “end to end” test to identify glitches and gaps, instead of the three or four it has held in previous cycles.

As a Community Foundation, we aim to understand and respond to the needs of the Lehigh Valley through funding to support critical services for the region. As we approach the upcoming Census, we know that the results will dramatically affect the next 10 years in Pennsylvania and our region. Due to the serious challenges that the Census is facing in achieving a fair and accurate count, foundations across the state and country have stepped up to lead census-related efforts in their communities. LVCF is joining in these national philanthropic efforts to support Census 2020 through supporting non-profits in grantmaking and technical assistance.  As trusted members of the communities they serve, Lehigh Valley nonprofit organizations are well positioned to engage on this issue and encourage census participation.


Lehigh Valley Community Foundation has invited specific organizations that serve historically undercounted communities in Lehigh and Northampton Counties and are located within areas that are at-risk for undercounting to apply for funding and technical assistance for Census 2020 outreach activities. Grants are supporting projects that will:

  • Engage and educate undercounted communities about the importance of the 2020 census
  • Familiarize communities with the census process and changes to the 2020 census
  • Develop and implement effective strategies to boost census participation and support communities beyond the life of the project

Within these priorities, organizations will design a project that best serves their community. Projects could include knocking on doors and visiting block clubs, partnering with local businesses to connect with employees and customers, providing opportunities to access online census forms, sharing stories through local media and online networks, and other innovative and effective ways of connecting with people on this issue. At the current time, grant opportunities are not open for applications. This opportunity is invite-only.

Technical Assistance and Awareness-Building Activities

Throughout the year, LVCF will work with partners to plan and/or participate in technical assistance events and awareness-building activities for the Census 2020 initiative. Check back here to see updates related to upcoming events and activities.

Other Local Census Projects:

Many areas in the region are forming Complete Count Committees. A Complete Count Committee is made up of government and community leaders from neighborhood, education, business, healthcare and other sectors.

These trusted voices develop and implement 2020 Census awareness campaigns based on their community knowledge relationships. These committees support and build networks for census-related efforts in their areas.

We will be adding to the list of Lehigh Valley Census efforts as we learn of them. 

If you want to add a committee or other regional census effort to this list, please send the name and contact information to

Census Equity Fund

If you would like to contribute to our Census-related activities, please see the following link Census 2020 Equity Fund for more information on how you can donate to this area of interest fund.

Have a question? See our FAQs for Census 2020  page (click here)