Case Study

New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire.

Foundation Background and Mission

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. The foundation’s purpose is to help make New Hampshire a community where everyone can thrive. The foundation is committed to advancing equity and racial justice by prioritizing major areas of community work, mobilizing philanthropic resources, and aligning its internal operations.

Civic health and civic engagement have long been a focus for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and their latest 2022-2027 strategic plan, Together We Thrive, includes a priority to “work with partners to identify leverage points for the Foundation’s advocacy, communications, convening power, and grantmaking to address polarization, misinformation and other forces that threaten our democracy.” 

The plan also affirms that the foundation “will invest in efforts to expand leadership by and representation of Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and other people of color in our communities,” as well as a goal to elevate community voices, share decision-making power, and create solutions together. For the foundation, it has become increasingly clear that healthy, thriving civic infrastructure is instrumental to everything else that the foundation does. This orientation toward civic health was affirmed through a series of community listening sessions conducted by the foundation as part of the development of its strategic plan. In those sessions, community members raised civic health as an important element of democracy. 

The approach 

Over the last several years, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has supported multiple civic health efforts, including a number of voter engagement initiatives such as:

  • Citizens Count NH uses its website and communications to provide nonpartisan election information, candidate guides and tools for people to learn and vote about the issues and candidates in New Hampshire. It does not take positions on issues, endorse candidates, or stand for or against any elected official. Citizens Count developed a free nonpartisan Advocacy Toolkit with 12 tutorials including “Advocate for your cause,” “How do I vote using an absentee ballot,” and “How do I participate in a public hearing online?” The foundation continues to make general operating support grants to Citizens Count as an important part of strengthening nonpartisan voter awareness and education in the state.
  • NHPR Civics 101 Podcast is an innovative podcast by New Hampshire Public Radio. The foundation provided early underwriting support during its inception. On its debut on Inauguration Day 2017, it reached the sixth spot on the iTunes chart and has since been downloaded more than 6 million times. More than 250 episodes later, the podcast has grown into an informative civics and democracy podcast downloaded more than 18 million times by listeners all over the country. The podcast features simple, fact-based stories about how our democracy works, from the Electoral College and redistricting to the free press and the role of the U.S. Postal Service. The foundation continues to support NHPR with modest project support grants for Civics 101.
  • A newly launched voter outreach pilot program provides grants to community-based organizations for the purpose of increasing local civic engagement and participation in nonpartisan voter outreach activities, with a special focus on BIPOC and other historically under-represented populations. In 2022, the foundation invited grassroot groups to apply and supported eleven groups – some with no prior history of doing voter outreach. One example from their pilot year was a community-based organization that primarily provides after school sports programming and family and caregiver supports. With foundation funding, the organization, a trusted and known entity in the community, was able to add nonpartisan voter outreach work into their existing programming.

Practical tips for creating a voter engagement pilot program

Simplify application and reporting: The foundation sought to reduce the time and burden on organizations of grant seeking. A simplified one-page application, and convening groups to share their work and learning with each other and with the foundation in lieu of a written grant report, made the pilot readily accessible to small, grassroots groups. 
Test it out with modest grants: The first year, the foundation provided $10,000 grants, later increasing year two support for the initial cohort to $20,000 after confirming at the group convening that the work was unfolding well.  The foundation is also using lessons from this initial pilot to explore engagement of additional grantee participants. 
Offer training for organizations: The foundation hosted a virtual training in partnership with Bolder Advocacy, a program of the Alliance for Justice, to offer a primer on the array of nonpartisan work that 501 (c)(3) groups can do in and with their communities.