United Way of the Columbia Willamette is committed to a fair and accurate census count and acknowledges the best chance to achieve this is through targeting Hard to Count (HTC) communities. HTC communities are a demographic group that is at risk of not being counted in the census and may require costly follow-ups to ensure they are counted. These groups include but are not limited to: people of color, tribal communities, children under five, renters, people experiencing homelessness, households with limited or no internet access, recent immigrants, limited English proficient people, people living in remote census tracts, and more.

Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon (CEFCO)

The Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon (CEFCO) is a collaborative of philanthropic organizations working to reduce the undercount in the 2020 census by raising $10 million of public and private funding to support community capacity for census engagement. We recognize the critical nature of the census to all the populations we aim to serve in our individual organizations, particularly (though not exclusively) because census data will affect the allocation of State and Federal resources to those populations for a decade or more. And we know that 2020 will be unlike any recent census.

Funders have been meeting informally since January 2018 to learn about public, philanthropic and nonprofit plans to engage in the 2020 Census. We have heard from US Census staff, City and State partners, state-based and national philanthropic partners across the country and community-based nonprofits. 

We formalized as CEFCO in August 2018 with the sign on to our Statement of Principles and launched a RFP in November 2018 to hire a Statewide Census Equity Coordinator to manage a Hard to Count (HTC) outreach campaign and continue efforts into 2021 to support redistricting and build community capacity for advocacy. In January 2019 we hired Dancing Hearts Consulting, LLC for this role.

Why the Census Counts

The decennial census is a constitutionally mandated count of all residents of the United States, including immigrants (documented and undocumented), refugees, and Tribal members, and dictates State and federal funding allocation and congressional representation. Many key safety net programs are funded via the census data including SNAP, school lunches, section 8 housing, Head Start, Pell grants, short-term rental assistance, medical assistance programs, and more. According to the Census Bureau, Oregon’s population has grown by 8.1 percent since 2010. If the current population estimates hold, Oregon stands to gain increased federal assistance and an additional congressional seat in if we are able to achieve an accurate count.

A Historic Census

The 2020 census has a set of unique factors that will create challenges and barriers for Oregon’s hardest to count. These include:

  • The first ever digital census, reinforcing a digital divide when almost 20% of Oregon households do not have broadband internet.
  • Reductions and delays in federal funding.
  • The potential inclusion of a question about citizenship. Almost a half-million Oregonians live with a non-citizen, and 78% of those living with a non-citizen are people of color.
  • Growing fears among immigrants due to the current political and social climate.
  • Increasing public distrust of government.
  • Concerns regarding security of personal and online information. (census project blog)

What is CEFCO Doing?

Given this unprecedented census, CEFCO is partnering with public agencies to raise Oregon funds and implement an equitable Hard to Count (HTC) Campaign through a pooled and aligned Census Equity Fund, administered by United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.

Our total goal of $10 million will support coordinated, statewide, culturally-relevant engagement, including door-to-door, community-based and in-agency outreach and communications. 

CEFCO has raised nearly $1 million in private match from philanthropy and leveraged our commitment toward $8.1 million in public funds from the State of Oregon and the City of Portland.  

Dancing Hearts Consulting

Dancing Hearts Consulting was selected through a competitive RFP process in January 2019. Dancing Hearts, led by founder and CEO, Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett, is a values-driven political consulting firm of innovative thinkers who bring on-the-ground experience to bring a more reflective, responsive and accountable American Democracy. Esperanza has spent the last 17 years building political power for working class, immigrant, and communities of color in Oakland, around the state of California, and across the country. Her unique role and work at the intersection of progressive politics, the social justice movement and progressive philanthropy has earned her dozens of awards including the 2010 Redford Center Art of Activism Awards, the Oakland League of Women Voters’ Democracy Award 2014, and the Alameda Labor Council’s Community Organization of the Year 2015.

Since February 2019, Dancing Hearts has been working with a coalition of community partners from across the state to develop and implement a comprehensive campaign plan targeting Hard to Count (HTC) populations across Oregon. They will continue working through the implementation of the plan in 2020. Read the full HTC campaign plan, #WeCountOregon, below: 


  Key Activities Funding
November 2018 Release REP for Statewide Equity Census Coordinator CEFCO raises funds for coordinator
January 2019 DHC selected as Statewide Equity Census Coordinator   
February-June 2019 HTC campaign plan development (completed June 30) Continued fundraising
July-December 2019 Education: continued planning and public awareness Initial round of funding to active community partners and RFP
January - March 2020 Motivation: implement activities through trusted messengers  Potential second RFP. Additionally fundraising as necessary. 
April - August 2020 Enumeration: Get Out the Count Final distribution of resources 
December 2020 End of census count - enumeration delivered to President of the United States by December 31st  

Ways to Get Involved

Now is the time to get involved, to support our communities and uphold our democracy by ensuring a fair and accurate census. Here are several ways that you or your organization can get involved:

Participate – Get involved by attending the Census Equity Fund meetings to keep up with census developments around Oregon.

Invest - Contribute to the Census Equity Fund of Oregon and support the goal of raising $10 million for census engagement in “Hard to Count” communities across Oregon. We're proud to have created the only fund in the county pooling private and public dollars together for census success—and you can be part of this innovative cross-sector collaboration, too.

Connect – Engage your colleagues, peers, and friends in census activity and outreach. We can use your help in building out our network; convene a group of stakeholders and we will come present on our work. Or, connect with us for one-on-one networking.

To Participate, Connect, or Invest, please contact Lauren Gottfredson, Community Collaborations Manager at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, at laureng@unitedway-pdx.org.

Washington State Census and What Other States Are Doing

Philanthropy NW Washington Census Equity Fund 

Helpful Links to Learn More

CEFCO Statement of Principles 

Census 2020 Now

Oregon Complete Count Committee website

Below are the current CEFCO partners. For more information on CEFCO or how to contribute to the pooled fund, contact Lauren Gottfredson, Community Collaborations Manager, at LaurenG@unitedway-pdx.org