The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation today announced that it will create a new program to strengthen its investments in America’s democratic institutions. What has been known until now as the Madison Initiative, operating as a time-limited, special project, will become the Hewlett Foundation’s U.S. Democracy program — an ongoing and steadfast commitment.

“Whatever the fallout from this pandemic, and whatever the outcome of the electoral battle in November, it is clearer than ever that we have long-term work to do to shore up and strengthen the capacities, norms, and values of our democratic institutions. It’s a challenge we cannot take lightly, because solving societal problems depends on healthy and functioning representative institutions,” said Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer.

Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law School and an expert in constitutional law and American history, launched this line of grantmaking in 2012, soon after taking the helm of the foundation. In the last several years, Hewlett has awarded nearly $130 million in grants to groups working to strengthen U.S. democracy in a time of unprecedented polarization, but the funding was set to expire in 2021.

The creation of a new program places Hewlett’s funding for nonprofits working to strengthen U.S. democracy on the same long-term footing as nonprofits working in conservation, performing arts, women’s reproductive health, and education — areas that the foundation has supported for more than 50 years. U.S. Democracy will be the first ongoing program launched by the Hewlett Foundation in a decade.

“The foundation’s decision to make a long-term commitment is a vote of confidence in the work that the nonpartisan organizations we support have underway,” said Daniel Stid, Program Director of U.S. Democracy, pointing to progress made by grantees to modernize Congress, make elections more representative, and combat digital disinformation. “In a time of unprecedented polarization, these groups are doing the spadework to strengthen democratic values and institutions, bridge divides, and find the common ground that will serve all Americans in the future. Their efforts will be aided by the kind of long-term, patient capital that we plan to provide.”

In 2019, the Madison Initiative awarded over $22 million in grants. A similar budget is envisioned for the initial years of Hewlett’s new U.S. Democracy program. Grants awarded by the program will support organizations working to strengthen Congress by modernizing it and rebuilding its capacity and culture; advocate for and uphold key values and norms of U.S. democracy; improve campaigns and elections processes; and combat digital disinformation’s negative impact on democracy and elections. The program will also continue the foundation’s support for research, data, media and collaboration to bolster the capacity of groups working across the ideological spectrum to bolster the health and resilience of American democracy.

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world. For more than 50 years, the foundation has supported efforts to advance education for all, preserve the environment, improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries, promote the health and economic well-being of women, support vibrant performing arts, strengthen Bay Area communities, and make the philanthropy sector more effective. Its newest program focuses on strengthening America’s democratic institutions. Learn more at

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Neha Singh Gohil