Stronger Democracy Award

Funding Agency:
Lever for Change

While we have reason to celebrate the highest voter turnout in U.S. history in the recent presidential elections, the fundamental components of democracy—fair elections, trust in institutions and public servants, and an orderly transition of power—have been eroded by partisan politics. We need to seize the momentum generated by high voter interest and turnout to invest in ideas that strengthen our democratic systems.

To this end, the Stronger Democracy Award seeks bold solutions that will drive structural reform to help our government fully and effectively represent its citizens. Proposed projects will address systemic barriers and advance structural reforms in one of three areas: voting and elections, policymaking, and/or civic engagement. The objective of the Award is to incentivize our government to be more responsive to the broader electorate and ensure that it is staffed with high quality, high-functioning institutions and people.


  • Duke Internal Deadline: May 7, 2021
  • Sponsor Registration Deadline: June 22, 2021
  • Sponsor Proposal Deadline: July 22, 2021

Please see eligibility and internal deadline information below. Owing to the sponsor’s restrictions (only one applicant per university department/unit and no overlapping projects or team members), Duke’s Office of Foundation Relations is coordinating a review to prevent any potential conflicts. PIs must submit an internal project overview as described below. Please contact Alex de Havilland ( with any questions. 

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The Stronger Democracy Award will grant a total of $12 million to proven, scalable, and game-changing solutions that address one or more of the following key solution categories:

Voting & Elections: Implement structural reform around voting rights and access, redistricting, voting architecture, and campaign finance.

Policy Making: Strengthen legislative processes and tools to improve bipartisan relationships among politicians, increase access to policy expertise through nonpartisan think tanks and research engines, and promote the passing of policies representative of the broader electorate.

Civic Engagement: Improve civic education and participation to support citizens, communities, and society as they inform policies and hold representatives accountable.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible lead applicants must be based in the United States and include:

  • Nonprofit 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) or (2) organizations, including but not limited to nonprofit organizations with fiscal sponsors/agents and/or pending federal tax exemption status.
  • Civic leagues, social welfare organizations and other entities under section 501(c)(4).
  • A private foundation under section 501(c)(3).
  • A public or private college, junior college, university and other similar educational entity under section 501(c)(3).

Lead applicants who are 501(c)(4) organizations are required to include a 501(c)(3) organization as part of the project team that is eligible to receive funds from a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). While individuals, for-profit entities, and government agencies are not eligible to apply, these entities may be members of the applicant team led by an eligible lead applicant. Use the Organizational Readiness Tool to find out if you’re a good fit for the Award, refer to the Rules for a complete set of eligibility requirements, and please contact us with any Award-related questions.

Funding Type





Social Sciences

Internal Nomination

By May 7, 2021, interested faculty should submit a 500 word project overview that addresses the following through the Office of Research Support.

  1. Project Overview —This should include:

    1. Title
    2. Abstract:  1-2 paragraph project description
    3. Duke PI Name
    4. Duke PI Contact Information
    5. Duke PI Affiliations: List departmental, center, or other unit affiliations
    6. Duke Project Team Members:  List team member names
    7. Partners: List organizations or team members outside of Duke


Review Process

Duke’s Office of Foundation Relations will review all internal submissions to insure compliance with Lever for Change eligibility requirements and will respond to all PIs by TBA.

Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal (Code ILN):

Instructions for both creating an account (if you don't already have one) and submitting your materials can be found here:

Internal Deadline

May 7, 2021

External Deadline

July 22, 2021