The UK Democracy Fund (the Fund) is a pooled Fund set up by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) in the Spring of 2019 and supported by a group of committed funders. The Fund is independent and non-partisan, and works to build a healthy democracy – one in which everyone can participate and where political power is shared fairly.
In February 2022, the Fund launched its new funding framework, with an ambitious aim to support a million more people from lower propensity voting groups to register and vote in the next General Election
You can also find out more about the Fund’s recent events and publications here.
The electoral participation challenge
In 2019, up to 9.4 million people in Great Britain were missing from electoral registers, a number that has been steadily growing. These people are not evenly spread across the population. They are predominantly young, from ethnic minorities, born overseas, renting their homes or living more precariously.
Why does it matter? Governments are less responsive to the concerns of those who do not vote. The result is political inequality and chronic voicelessness of significant parts of the population. And it does not stop here. Political inequality entrenches other inequalities shaping peoples’ lives. This undermines trust in our political system and makes our democracy profoundly unfair.
Our ambition and goals
The UK Democracy Fund has developed an ambitious strategy anchored around the core aim of delivering one million new voters from under-represented groups at the anticipated 2024 General Election. We cannot achieve this alone and want to work with partners across the democracy sector and beyond to achieve a step change in voter participation. Our work will build on our learning to date and will be informed by evidence of what works.
We have three broad goals:
1. Enabling everyone to vote. Building support for reforms to ensure a simple, seamless and accessible voting system fit for the 21st Century.
2. Extending the franchise. Advocating in support of expanding the franchise for 16 and 17 year-olds and settled UK residents from overseas.
3. Increasing participation of everyone in our elections. Making an effort to raise the turnout of low propensity voters to improve fairness in our democracy.
Since inception, the Fund has awarded over £1million to pursue these aims. This has included: making grants supporting approaches to encourage the participation of key under-represented populations in elections; commissioning research on reform of the electoral system and extension of the franchise; as well as building the evidence base for what works and disseminating learning.
How does the UK Democracy Fund operate?
The Fund operates on an independent and strictly non-partisan basis. It does not seek to influence the outcome of an election.
The Fund is operated and managed by JRRT.
JRRT directors make decisions on which applications contribute most effectively to the Fund’s desired outcomes.
The Fund is open to contributions from a range of sources, charitable and non-charitable. JRRT ensures that charitable funds are used for charitable purposes, and that all funds are allocated in line with electoral law.
An advisory group has been set up to invite insights, information and ideas that support the work of the Fund.
We recognise that there are others working to improve the health of our democracy, and aim to contribute to an ecosystem of donors, activists and others keen to engage everyone in the voting system.
If you would like to support the work of the UK Democracy Fund, please contact: DemocracyFund@jrrt.org.uk
Current contributors to the UK Democracy Fund
The following are current contributors to the UK Democracy Fund: Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust (Company No. 2608087); Barrow Cadbury Trust Ltd (Registered Charity: 1115476.); Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (Registered Charity: 210037); Scurrah Wainwright Charity (Registered Charity: 1002755); The Tinsley Charitable Trust (Registered Charity: 1020294); Unbound Philanthropy and the Family Office (Company No. OC384120); Blagrave Trust (Registered Charity: 116402)
JRRT contributes directly to the Fund and additionally provides the grant management, office and finance services.