PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement) is a member-centric philanthropic laboratory for funders seeking to maximize their impact on democracy and civic life in the United States.  Our members share a belief that America will be healthier and more successful, resilient, and productive, if democracy is strong and the office of citizen is treated as central to how it functions.  We believe that American democracy will thrive when all of its people are informed and engaged in the process of creating it. 


Americans are informed and empowered to contribute to the health and vibrancy of the country’s democracy and civic life.


PACE is a philanthropic laboratory for funders seeking to maximize their individual and collective impact on democracy and civic life in America. The PACE community achieves this through learning, experimenting, collaborating, and modeling vibrant civic space.

PACE announced this mission and new strategic direction as a philanthropic laboratory in early 2020. One year in, we reflected on the value and design of a philanthropic laboratory and engaged Members in the process of determining what our philanthropic laboratory does. We will continue to adapt and iterate these plans in accordance with our principles, to be supportive to the needs of our Members, and to be responsive to the world around us. 


The following reflect our statement of core principles, and associated the actions and commitments we employ to ensure that the principles manifest in our work:

  • The Power of the Collective: the PACE community can do more together than individual members can do alone.
    • We support and curate the PACE community so that foundations see the value of and actively take part in shared learning and collaborative efforts.
  • Experimentation: the PACE community actively experiments together, seeking to counter philanthropy’s tendency to get mired in habits and antiquated models of what works – and to embrace philanthropy’s unique ability to take risks at the leading edge of social change.
    • We strive to be a platform that showcases, seeds, and supports collective experiments, humbly learning from these experiments and the insights they reveal.
  • Learning Outside of the Bubble: the PACE community has to transcend the “usual suspects,” as staying within one’s bubble significantly hinders learning, experimentation, and ultimately, the power of the community to advance civic philanthropy.
    • We craft shared experiential learning opportunities because we believe this to be the best way to get out of comfort zones and to cultivate relationships, deepen learning alongside those doing the on-the-ground work in communities, and seed unlikely collaborations.
  • Responsible Philanthropy: philanthropy can easily get wrapped up in its own power and reinforce the systemic inequities it is trying to address. PACE must actively recognize and strive to address the power imbalances that exist in philanthropy.
    • We strive to be aware of, foster discussions around, and address inequities within the systems and structures of philanthropy and of the broader society, including ones that disenfranchise or discriminate by race, gender, class, or other identities. We do this by activating this lens throughout our work, including through intentional curation of discussion content, assessing whose voices are included, determining the types of experiments we pursue, and being intentional about how we learn from them as well as how we communicate those learnings. [Our working commitment to racial equity.]
  • Diversity: a diversity of voices and actors is critical to enriching the conversation, sparking innovation, and addressing the most critical challenges in civic engagement and democracy.
    • We strive to populate our membership and leadership with diversity that spans identity, geography, ideology, and types of foundations. Where we fall short on this, we bring in thinkers and doers outside of the community to expand our perspectives.

Programmatic Vehicles (How We Work)

PACE has five primary vehicles for impact, three of which focus on our membership, and two that are targeted to both our membership and the wider civic philanthropy field: 


  • Community Curation: PACE actively cultivates relationships between funders of diverse identities, geographies, and political perspectives through in-person and virtual forums. 
  • Learning Labs: PACE curates on-site learning experiences to allow members to collectively wrestle with and learn from civic engagement models, drawing through-lines from history and place to current experiments in civic engagement in America. 
  • Collective Experiments: PACE seeds and coordinates initiatives that pool funds or galvanize other collective efforts, and publicly shares learnings from these experiments. These Collective Experiments are initiatives members commit to in order to advance the practice and/or impact of civic philanthropy.

Membership + Civic Philanthropy Field

  • Civic Philanthropy Research: PACE conducts and partners on occasional research on the state of the civic philanthropy in America. This research allows PACE to take stock of civic philanthropy, explore where funding is going, and highlight under-addressed and/or under-resourced areas.
  • Learning Out Loud: From writing about take-aways and recommendations resulting from our Learning Labs and Collective Experiments, to highlighting what individual members are learning through their grantmaking and programming, PACE actively, consistently, and iteratively talks about what we are learning in a public fashion. These efforts aim to seed conversations, learning, and action among anyone who has an interest in civic engagement and democracy in the United States.

Goals and Objectives

PACE has four objectives related to the impact we seek to have on the world, which we advance through engagement with our membership and in the wider field of civic philanthropy.

  • To increase and deepen relationships within and beyond the “traditional” civic philanthropy and democracy community
  • To enhance and evolve philanthropic practice, influenced by research, learning, and experiments
  • To bolster knowledge of the landscape, grantmaking practice, and experiments within civic philanthropy
  • To increase collaborations within and beyond the PACE network aimed at creatively addressing gaps in the field of civic philanthropy

Where We’ve Been

PACE’s strategic direction for 2020-2022 (articulated above) builds on our strong tradition of cultivating fellowship and learning, and deepens it by facilitating collaborations that make our learning an active, participatory, and actionable process — both for our members and for the field of civic philanthropy.

Since our founding, PACE has provided member services and programming that allow foundations to build relationships that support and further their work and leadership. This includes convening member meetings and events, and working collaboratively on special projects of interest to our members. Over 80 philanthropic institutions have been directly involved in the PACE membership network to date, including national, family, community, and operating foundations located across the country.

We also seek to reflect the learning of our members more broadly so that more foundations may see civic engagement and democracy as fundamental to their strategies. PACE has published more than 15 studies, research, papers, and special events that aim to elevate understanding of the value of civic engagement and democracy within the philanthropic sector.

PACE was originally known as the Grantmakers Forum for Community and National Service, and operated as such in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We evolved to our current name and operating structure in 2005. We are a 501c3 nonprofit.