UK Democracy Fund

The UK Democracy Fund is an independent nonpartisan Fund set up by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to help build a healthy democracy in which everyone can participate and where political power is shared fairly.

Our focus is on voting, and we have three broad goals:

  1. Enabling everyone to vote. We will support reforms to ensure a simple, seamless and accessible voting system fit for the 21st Century.
  2. Restoring and extending the franchise. Advocacy in support of expanding the franchise for 16- and 17-year olds and securing voting rights for European citizens.
  3. Increasing participation of everyone in our elections. Efforts to raise the turnout of low propensity voters to improve fairness in our democracy.
    Up to 8 million citizens – around 16% of the adult population – may be missing from electoral registers, and this number is growing.

At a time when trust and belief in the efficacy of the political system is falling, this gap in engagement undermines the legitimacy of elections and how responsive Government is to the concerns of those who don’t vote.

These people are of course not evenly spread across the population. They are predominantly young, from ethnic minorities people born overseas, or people who rent or live more precariously.

Despite rises in voting levels and a historic high at the last general election, in 2017 only four in ten young people voted, and fewer than six in ten private and social renters and Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) citizens voted.

This makes our democracy profoundly unfair

The UK Democracy Fund is working so that everyone can participate in our elections and share political power fairly [Theory of Change]. The practical process of registering and voting plays an important and often decisive role in whether millions of voters participate in elections.

The Fund will support campaigning for reforms of the registration and voting system, targeted approaches to engage people from low voting groups as well as research and evaluation to build a ‘what works’ evidence base.

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:


How does the UK Democracy Fund operate?

The Fund is a pooled fund set up within the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) and operated and managed by JRRT.

JRRT directors make decisions on which applications contribute most effectively to the Fund’s desired outcomes.

The Fund operates on an independent and strictly non-partisan basis.

The Fund does not seek to influence the outcome of an election. It is committed to maintaining the integrity of the electoral process and will obviate the risk of any of its activities unintentionally threatening this principle.

In its first phase, the Fund will invite applications against its priorities. It does not currently accept unsolicited applications.

Applications to the UK Democracy Fund follow a similar process to applications made to JRRT, and should be submitted to the deadlines listed here: Important dates

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.


Grants Awarded by the UK Democracy Fund

All grants made by the Fund are listed on our Grants awarded page. Some examples are also included below:


Vote for Your Future

Campaign to increase youth participation in elections by targeting universities and by digital advertising and brand partnerships

Amount: £70,000

Theme: Increasing participation of everyone in our elections

Date: 2019



The 3 million
The3million campaigns for EU citizens in the UK to retain their existing rights after Brexit.


Campaign to protect and extend EU citizens’ voting rights in the UK.

Amount: £58,000

Theme: Restoring and extending the franchise

Date: 2019




Dr Toby S James and Dr Paul Bernal, UEA Consulting Ltd (project funding) 

Research on automatic electoral registration – to understand the potential trade-offs and choices available to policy makers, identify safeguards that could address concerns and examine how the UK could introduce various forms of facilitated, automated or fully automatic registration.

Amount: £9,490

Theme: Enabling everyone to vote


Contributors to the UK Democracy Fund

The following have confirmed contributions to the Fund: Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust (Company No. 2608087); Barrow Cadbury Trust Ltd (Registered Charity:1115476.); Betterworld Ltd (Company No. 03408967); The Tinsley Charitable Trust (Registered Charity: 1020294); Scurrah Wainwright Charity (Registered charity:1002755); Unbound Philanthropy and the Family Office (Company No. OC384120).

JRRT contributes directly to the Fund and additionally provides the grant management, office and finance support.