Census Equity Fund of Oregon: Funding an Equitable 2020 Census Count

United Way of the Columbia Willamette (UWCW) 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. 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.

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. With 1.3M Hard-To-Count (HTC) people living in Oregon’s 36 counties, weak census participation could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for services Oregonians depend on.

CEFCO and United Way’s role

UWCW is serving as the fiscal agent for the Census Equity Fund, working with a collaborative of philanthropic organizations forming the Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon (CEFCO). CEFCO is committed to reducing the undercount in the 2020 census by raising $10 million of public and private funding to support community capacity for census engagement.

UWCW is managing $9.6M raised to date through private and public funding. As the backbone agency, UWCW coordinates the strategy for the CEFCO Steering Committee, leads relevant RFP processes, manages contracts with funders and community-based organizations as well as coordinates reporting of the ongoing We Count Oregon census campaign and the Census Assistance Centers (CACs).

Of the dollars raised to date, the State of Oregon is the largest contributor at $7.5 million. This is a first-of-its-kind investment from the state, and, along with $600,000 from the City of Portland, makes this the only fund in the country where public and private dollars have been allocated toward a coordinated statewide effort to reach the HTC populations.

About We Count Oregon (WCO) campaign

In February 2019, through a competitive RFP process led by UWCW, Dancing Hearts Consulting was selected to develop and implement a comprehensive campaign targeting HTC populations across Oregon. The We Count Oregon (WCO) campaign is currently underway. The campaign involves coordinated strategies for field outreach, communications, culturally specific training and education in multiple languages, and, focuses on community based outreach. The campaign spans across all 36 counties in Oregon.

Through a comprehensive RFP process, Census Assistance Centers (CACs) have been selected and set up across the state to support outreach. These are physical locations frequented by members of HTC populations where resources and assistance related to the census are available.

To be part of this campaign: Text to count "Oregon" to 33339 on your cellphone, take the Pledge to count, or find an event close to you by vising WCO’s website:


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the deadline for completing the census to October 31, 2020.

In response to the pandemic, WCO has pivoted its strategies to ensure continued focus on HTC populations. This includes suspending door-to-door operations and focusing more on phone, text and digital strategies.

Campaign goals and accomplishments:

As of July 2020, the campaign has trained 11,072 people, established partnerships with 100 community partners, and has contacted over 158,000 people from the HTC population, including 3,400 that CACs have been able to call statewide.

Highlights from the CACs:

"Several of the HTC populations shared that it was extremely moving and encouraging to know that eventhough they are undocumented, they are important enough to be part of the Census count. They felt they did not exist but being counted has shown them they are important to the community."

                                                                                                         - Next Door May Report

"I am excited to be counted for the first time because now this is my country too!" - A client from IRCO

How 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.

Make a pledge

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.

For more information on how to get involved, please contact Lauren Gottfredson, Community Collaborations Sr. Manager at UWCW, at laureng@unitedway-pdx.org.

Additional Resources:

Washington State Census and What Other States Are Doing

Philanthropy NW Washington Census Equity Fund 

Helpful Links to Learn More

CEFCO one-pager (755.89 KB)


Census 2020 Now

Oregon Complete Count Committee website


CEFCO partners:

CEFCO partners logos

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