A new conversation about civic engagement is emerging.

At PACE–a network of funders and foundations committed to civic engagement and democracy–we’ve seen the swell in interest and urgency around this work firsthand.  Funders are continuing to understand the civic engagement field and the role they can play in its future. We’re getting a lot of questions–things like:

    • What is civic engagement? How is it defined and what does it look like?
    • How might civic engagement relate to my work?
    • How do I get started? Who might I learn from about how to do this work?

We don’t have all the answers, but we do have this:


This Civic Engagement Primer is a resource designed to explore these questions, help funders assess their interest and understanding in civic engagement, and ultimately help them along their journey toward integrating it into their work. This tool is intended for:

  • Funders thinking about civic engagement for the first time
  • Funders that are not new to civic engagement, but have yet to invest in it
  • Funders that are already investing in civic engagement, but seek common language and shared tools

It should take users about 20 minutes to work through the Primer. At the end, we hope funders will:

  • Have a foundational understanding of civic engagement philanthropy
  • Know if pursuing civic engagement philanthropy might be right for them
  • Have resources at their fingertips to share with colleagues and explore further

To supplement this tool, we’ve developed three additional resources, illustrating key civic engagement concepts to further your conversation:

What is Civic Engagement? (pdf)

Approaches to Civic Engagement (pdf)

The Civic Engagement Spectrum (pdf)

We encourage you to use and share PACE’s Civic Engagement Primer, and join the conversation on Twitter at #PACEprimer.

PACE thanks our field colleagues, Amy Baker McIsaac and Cameron Blossom, for their support in creating this resource, as well as the many colleagues who helped inspire the idea and provided feedback during its development.

PACE acknowledges that there are many frameworks and orientations about how to define and engage in civic work; ours is one, and it offers an intentionally broad approach to include everything from political involvement and engagement with government, to voluntary service and dialogue in civil society. Another is the “Civic Engagement Typology” that was created in 2020 by our colleagues at the Funders Committee for Civic Participation. It offers a way to think about civic engagement as a strategy for political power-building with the goal of influencing public policy, culture, and government systems. 

If you have questions, feedback, or suggestion on how we can improve this resource, please email us at info@PACEfunders.org.