About PACE:

PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement) is a community of funders that invests in the sustaining elements of democracy and civic life in the United States.  Its 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.  PACE believes that American democracy will thrive when all of its people are informed and engaged in the process of creating it.  

PACE’s mission is to deepen and enrich philanthropy’s practice and support of democracy and to amplify the importance of philanthropic investment in civic engagement. 

Its goals are to: 

  • build a philanthropic network that encourages participation and inclusion in community, civic, and political life, 
  • inspire and incubate strategic collaborations within philanthropy that bring together policymakers, nonprofits, business, and the media to support active citizenship, and
  • increase the quantity and quality of philanthropic investment in civic engagement. 


PACE is launching a pilot initiative to invest in and promote engagement at the intersection of faith and democracy. 

We recognize faith as a practice of religion or spirituality, whether organized through a formal congregation or not. We recognize democracy as encompassing the breadth of civic life, including individuals’ participation in both the process of ensuring representative government and the practice of self-governance.  This initiative is about exploring how engagement in civic life can contribute to people's faith in democracy as a system, as well as the ways faith influences how people contribute to civil society.

PACE will provide catalytic support to advance initiatives that elevate how faith can support democracy and civic life. This pilot is intended to inspire engagement by people and communities of faith in supporting the well-being of democracy, and to consider the ways in which faith can serve to ease divisions that plague our political, civic, and social processes. 

PACE embraces the experimental nature of this pilot as an opportunity for innovation in funding and in learning. To maximize that potential, in addition to funding 5-7 projects from across the country, PACE will organize and support a learning community for the pilot’s grantees, funders, and advisors. The Learning Community will be a laboratory to test our framing questions (below) and a vehicle to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills, relationships and networks. It will also support thoughtful evaluation of the pilot’s value and success.

Pilot values:

This pilot is rooted in PACE’s organizational values: diversity, equity, and inclusion; cross-partisanship; relationship-building; collaboration and learning; humility, curiosity, and honesty; fellowship and learning that leads to action. It is also motivated by the values of empathy, respect, dignity, and love of humankind.

We’ll seek evidence that these values are shared by funded grantees. We’ll also seek evidence that their work is driven by both intellectual knowledge—theory, data, and metrics—as well as by the wisdom of the heart—courage, compassion, patience, and the teachings of lived experience. 

Pilot questions:

Given our interest in learning from projects in addition to funding them, PACE is articulating some questions we hope this initiative will help us explore. The central question is: How can faith be a means to bridge divides and foster respect and cooperation in our democracy? 

Additionally, we seek applications that will help us examine these interrelated questions:

  • How do communities of faith, religion, and/or spirituality prepare and train leaders to support democratic values and civic institutions?
  • What would it look like to have an effective multi-ethnic, religiously pluralistic democracy?
  • How can intra- and interfaith dialogue lead to actions that enhance civic life? 
  • How do leaders reach “beyond the choir” to include participants who are not comfortable with or amenable to talking across difference?
  • How does faith intersect with other identifiers such race, class, and gender, and how do those identities taken collectively influence participation in civic life? 
  • What means, methods, and tools have faith, religious, or spiritual communities used successfully to bridge difference and foster cooperation and civic engagement?


  • Qualified applicants must be (or be fiscally sponsored by) 501(c)(3) public charities that do not participate in partisan political campaigns and do not conduct substantial lobbying activities. 
  • Grantees will be asked to designate a project lead to participate in the project’s Learning Community, comprised of other grantee representatives and PACE partners and advisors. 
  • The objectives of the Learning Community include creating an environment of mutuality where all participants are both teachers and learners, probing central questions in this initiative (see section 1 above), building relationships and mapping connections within this emerging field, and supporting thoughtful evaluation of the pilot’s value and success.   
  • This will require 2-3 days (including travel) away from grantee’s own community twice during the grant year—on November 5-6, 2019 and in September or October 2020. A stipend to cover both time and travel expenses will be included in the award. 


Proposal review criteria: 

While this pilot is exploratory and our parameters for applications are intentionally broad, we seek projects that are:

  • Bringing people together in inter-faith and/or intra-faith contexts;
  • Using democratic values, teachings, and practices—potentially in parallel to values, teachings, and practices of faith or spiritual tradition(s)—to bridge a line of difference (political, racial, religious, community, etc.); AND
  • Promoting action, collaboration, and/or cooperation which makes a contribution to the civic life of a community.

Funded proposals are meant to catalyze innovation and discovery for PACE to share with our members and our field. Because of the pilot’s experimental nature and limited scope, we’re looking for grantees who have already demonstrated success in their communities, and to equip them to do something different than they’ve done before. Efforts with at least a modest proven track record are poised to help us identify promising directions for future investment and models/learnings to disseminate to the field.

We are interested in two kinds of impacts: 

  • Action impacts—behavioral change for engaged participants and institutions, and 
  • Learning impacts—grantee exploration, training, and network-building to enhance future work. 

For further detail, see proposal organization and requirements below.

Exclusions and priorities:

We will not fund:  

  • programming not hosted or sponsored by a 501(c)(3) public charity, 
  • organizations that exclude classes of people based on religion, gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, political beliefs, or disabilities, 
  • organizations that use or promote hate speech, 
  • programming focused on issue advocacy or partisan politics,  
  • inter- or intra-faith dialogues that do not yield evidence of cooperation/action, 
  • facilities construction or remodeling, capital equipment, or fundraising, 
  • direct grants to individuals, and organizations that do not comply with all government laws and regulations, or
  • institutions represented on the PACE Board or the Faith in/and Democracy Advisory Committee are not eligible to apply or serve as fiscal sponsor of applicants.

Note: Interested organizations with questions about if/how these exclusions relate to their work should contact Uncommon to discuss their qualification before applying (PACErfp@uncommon.partners) and/or attend an informational call (see below). Institutions represented on the PACE Board or the Faith in/and Democracy Advisory Committee are not eligible to apply or serve as fiscal sponsor of applicants. 

We will prioritize:  

  • organizations that demonstrate a history of collaboration and partnership, 
  • programming co-designed with and demonstrating leadership from the communities served and engaged,  
  • programming that helps us answer our framing questions, 
  • programming that addresses issues of marginalization and inequity, and 
  • organizations that demonstrate a track record of fiscal responsibility.

Application process and awards

Proposals will be evaluated by PACE staff and the pilot’s Advisory Committee, including PACE’s staff, contributing funders, faith leaders, and practitioners from the field with support from PACE’s program consultant, Uncommon Partners. Final grant decisions will be made by PACE. The size of the pool is $300,000, and we anticipate 5-7 awards. The size of each grant will be variable with an anticipated range of $20,000 - $50,000. 

We ask applicants to request the amount they need and provide justification in a project budget. PACE may make a funding offer lower than the requested amount and, if so, will negotiate a funding level and agreement-specific terms on a case-by-case basis. Even if a project is awarded funds, PACE reserves the right to withdraw funds and reallocate them to another project if a project doesn’t meet participation requirements. 


How and when to submit

Organizations interested in applying to this pilot must submit a proposal that addresses the values, criteria, and instructions above. Proposals must be submitted electronically by 5 pm PDT July 1, 2019. No partial applications will be considered. 

PACE will make final awards based on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. Once applicants are notified, they will be invited to enter into an agreement with PACE. Awards will be paid according to milestones delineated in the agreement. 


Questions and resources

PACE’s primers on democracy and civic engagement may provide helpful definitions, illustrate a range of civic engagement activities, and offer insight into PACE’s ethos.

To answer inquiries about submissions, Uncommon will hold two information sessions on June 5th at 12 pm EST via Zoom and on June 11th at 12 pm EST via Zoom.  You can also email pacerfp@uncommon.partners with additional questions.