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#MakeBrooklynCount: Census 2020 Report Showcases Impact of Funding for Nonprofits in Brooklyn

Two years later, it’s still hard to believe the challenges we faced in the lead up to, and implementation of, the 2020 Census: decreased funding for the Census Bureau, the politically-motivated introduction of a citizenship question, the roll-out of a new online survey, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which had taken hold of New York City right as the 2020 Census launched. 

Yet, in the end, the New York self-response rate for the 2020 Census decreased just 0.2% from the 2010 self-response rate and New York State lost only one congressional seat by a margin of 89 people, rather than the projected loss of two seats. Morover, here in Brooklyn, the self-response rate actually increased 2% over 2010 and the population count reached a near-record high. All of this points to an incredible win for the foundations and nonprofits that spent years working to build trust and understanding in our communities. 

Held nationwide every ten years, the Census is critical to our democracy. Census data inform the allocation of federal funds, the apportionment of elected representatives, and the redistricting of state and federal election districts. When the data are inaccurate and biased in favor of certain demographics, undercounted communities lose out on crucial investments in their schools, public transit, healthcare, and much more.

Brooklyn is considered the hardest-to-count county in all of New York State, with over 80% of Brooklynites living in hard-to-count neighborhoods. With this in mind, starting in 2018, we led the creation of the #MakeBrooklynCount campaign in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (pictured above), joined the New York State Census Equity Fund (NYSCEF), conducted our own direct grantmaking to Census organizations, and administered the distribution of nearly $500,000 in New York State funding for local nonprofits

A new report from our partners in the New York State Census Equity Fund examines the outcomes of the 2020 Census and the impact of the coalition of local foundations’ over $2 million in grants to community-based organizations for Census outreach and messaging. The report makes a strong argument for the impact of our investments and our advocacy on behalf of trusted community-based partners to “get out the count.” 

Case studies of census tracts with high levels of improvement in self-response rates from 2010 and high proportions of undercounted groups illustrate how foundation grants played an important role in contributing to Census outreach efforts. Nonprofits that received foundation funding in the “most improved” census tracts noted several keys to their success, including culturally responsive and linguistically specific outreach efforts; high levels of coordination and collaboration with other community actors, including nonprofits, government, and faith-based institutions; and adept use of data to guide outreach activities.

Case studies also demonstrated that relatively modest grantmaking resources yielded significant results. Given that each additional person counted results in increased allocations of federal funding for critical social services, the return on investment is substantial. 

Overall, New York State had a 4.2% population increase from 2010, with the largest population increase percentage-wise here Brooklyn, which had a 9.2% increase. Brooklyn’s Census self-response rate also increased to 59.1% in 2020 from 57.2% in 2010. 

Of Brooklyn’s 231,374 new residents, 75,121 are non-Hispanic white, 110,647 are non-Hispanic Asian, and 20,141 are Latinx–critically, the borough saw a net loss of 69,370 non-Hispanic Black residents. 

Only five counties in the state experienced a growth in their population of white residents. The largest increases in the white population, by percentage, occurred in Brooklyn (8.4%).

Read the full report here


A new report makes a strong argument for the impact of our investments and our advocacy on behalf of trusted community-based partners to “get out the count.”