Connecting Constituents to Representatives through Research and Development with Fireside21

Type of Activity: Project 
Grantee: Fireside21
Amount: $100,000 in 2018

What is Fireside21?

Just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt connected with individual citizens via radio with his “Fireside chat” broadcasts, Fireside21 believes politicians in the 21st century can similarly build close relationships with constituents using the latest technologies and strategies. With the help of our grant, Fireside21 will research and develop a constituent relationship management (CRM) software machine that seeks to improve the efficiency of congressional client offices to process email constituent communications. This is currently deployed in 150 offices of the House of Representatives.

Why do we think this project is important?

Members of Congress receive record numbers of constituent engagement every day. It becomes difficult for congressional staffers to manage the flood of mail, which decreases the potential response and action congressional members can make. Fireside21 has spent the last 10 years working on a fresh approach to how technology can be adopted by Congressional members for improved civic engagement. Efficiency among congressional offices through better technological advances can aid in providing not only better communications, but increased for political action to take place.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting Fireside21?

In 2018, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of $100,000 to Fireside21.

Demand Progress

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: Demand Progress
Amount: Updated to $375,000 in 2021 — originally approved as $250,000 in 2019 over two years

What is Demand Progress?

Demand Progress, a fiscally-sponsored project of Sixteen Thirty Fund, is a charitable organization with two million affiliated activists focused on civil liberties and government reform-related issues. Demand Progress works to implement policy changes that keep the federal government accountable and support congressional reform.

Why do we think this project is important?

Demand Progress helps Congress make sense of the complex set of impediments that hold back its ability to innovate and hamper its legislative capacity. A modernized and more functional Congress can develop stronger policy solutions to the challenges facing the American people.

Democracy Fund Voice will provide support to Demand Progress to advocate for congressional rules changes and legislation to strengthen congressional offices’ policymaking abilities and allow for technological innovation that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of congressional staff. With the help of our grant, Demand Progress will be able to track all hearings, markups, and legislation related to congressional capacity, deepen relationships with congressional leadership, lobby new measures supporting Congress’s ability to do its job, and build upon existing coalitions to support grassroots mobilization.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting Demand Progress?

In 2019, Democracy Fund Voice approved a two-year grant to Demand Progress in the amount of $250,000. In 2021 an amendment was approved to increase the amount of the grant by $125,000, for a total of $375,000. Previously, a two-year grant of $200,000 was approved in 2017.   

Advocacy for Good Governance

Type of Activity: Project
Grantee: Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network, Inc.
Amount: $415,000 in 2017 over two years. $150,000 in 2016.

What is the Commission on Political Reform?

The Commission on Political Reform was launched by the sister organization of the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network (the Bipartisan Policy Center) in 2013 to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide and to advocate for specific reforms that will improve the political process in a polarized atmosphere. The Commission proposed 24 recommendations to strengthen the electoral process, the process by which Congress legislates and manages its own affairs, and the ability of Americans to plug into the nation’s civic life through public service.  These reforms and solutions, championed by both ends of the political spectrum, include reinvigorating the central role of the congressional committee and reestablishing bipartisan interpersonal contact.

Why do we think this project is important?

We believe that bringing together a coalition of organizations to support bipartisan political reform can increase the likelihood and the impact of those reforms. BPCAN is uniquely positioned to develop and implement a strategy for this work because of its powerful voice in congressional bipartisan policy. They will promote an ongoing conversation about how to overcome political divides and make our government work better.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting BPCAN?

In 2017, Democracy Fund Voice approved a two year grant of $415,000 to the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network to facilitate coordination with other organizations advocating for recommendations of the Commission on Political Reform and other congressional reforms. A previous grant of $150,000 was made in 2016.

Congressional Reform Project

Type of Activity: Project
Grantee: The Congressional Institute
Amount: Updated to $400,000 in 2022

What is the Congressional Institute?

Founded in 1987, the Congressional Institute is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature. 

The Congressional Institute’s latest project, the Congressional Reform Project, provides educational information about Congress to the general public and informs Members of Congress and staff about efforts to improve the function and management of the institution.

Why do we think this project is important?

The Congressional Institute has long been a trusted partner of Congress, providing Members and staff with conferences, training, resources, and strategic planning support. As turnover rates skyrocket across the institution, the Congressional Reform Project is a critical source of institutional and procedural knowledge and has published extensive reports about congressional reform issues. The project represents an important opportunity to restore public confidence in our governance process and support Congress in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities as the first branch of government..

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting The Congressional Institute project?

In 2022 an amendment was approved to increase the amount of the grant by $100,000 for a total of $400,000, with an extension of the grant period through February 2023. Originally, a grant was approved in 2019 for $300,000 over two years.

Democracy Fund Voice previously approved a two-year grant to the Congressional Institute in the amount of $339,000 in 2015 to support efforts to develop recommendations on the organization of Congress, its processes and procedures, and the behavioral patterns that currently drive congressional action.