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request for proposals:
gender parity in state legislatures



The Ascend Fund seeks proposals from state and local based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations in Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington that are working to empower women to seek elected office or become leaders in their community or are interested in beginning this work. Selected organizations will work together with support from The Ascend Fund to build state-based coalitions. The coalitions will train and recruit diverse women to run for office on both sides of the aisle to increase the number of women serving in the state legislature.

The Ascend Fund will provide project funding in the form of multi-year, general operating grants.  Applicants may apply for funding up to $50,000 annually, and typical awards will range from $15,000-$30,000 annually.

Applications are due Friday, August 13th at 5:00PM PST.  Click here to apply for support. 

Join us on Tuesday, July 13th at 1PM ET/10AM PT for a Q&A session to answer any outstanding questions you have about the funding opportunity and grantmaking process. Please RSVP here. 

The Ascend Fund prioritizes applicants committed to addressing the unique barriers faced by underrepresented and marginalized communities. Additionally, we strongly encourage joint applications among organizations to leverage and share skillsets, experience, networks, and resources. Strong applicants will also indicate if your organization has the capacity to dedicate additional resources – staff time, existing relationships, funding, etc. – to the project.

Preview Application


While women are 51% of the U.S. population, they still make up less than 30% of our country’s elected leaders – even accounting for recent and historic gains. Yet we know that when women run for office, they have the same chance of winning as men. And when women win, they influence meaningful changes in our society.

So why haven’t women achieved equal representation in U.S. politics? For many women, the current pathway to elected office is often unclear, riddled with barriers and diversions, or worse, altogether inaccessible.

The Ascend Fund seeks to accelerate the pace of change toward gender parity in U.S. politics. We pool philanthropic capital and make mission-driven investments in nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that break down the barriers preventing women from running for office and winning. Our approach is simple:  

  • Establish a pathway for more women to see themselves as candidates and normalize women’s leadership.

  • Bridge the gap by providing women with the tools, training, and resources to successfully run for office.

  • Transform the system by dismantling roadblocks so elected officials reflect the diversity of the population.

Funding Opportunity

The Ascend Fund’s strategy for achieving gender parity in politics starts with the states.

Critical policy decisions are made at the state level, so it is imperative that elected officials reflect the diverse population they represent. With 7,353 statehouse seats, in contrast to only 535 congressional seats, the opportunity exists to elect a larger number of women, while simultaneously building a bench of highly qualified candidates for leadership positions and other elected offices. 

The Ascend Fund seeks to fund local and state-based organizations that will build a creative coalition of organizations in each state that will work together to build a pathway for women to public office. We encourage organizations with backgrounds and experience in, but not limited to, civic engagement, leadership development, coalition building, advocacy campaigns, grassroots organizing, racial justice, or gender equity to apply.

Proposals should focus on approaches to make state legislative seats more accessible to women, including but not necessarily limited to:


Build state coalition of like-minded groups that share a commitment to gender parity, racial equity, and reproductive rights.


Identify common and unique barriers hindering women’s success in reaching state elected office and develop strategies to remove, reduce, or circumvent those barriers.


Increase the number of women running for the state legislature through targeted, coordinated, community-based recruitment.  


Provide women with the training, tools, resources, and support necessary to successfully run for the state legislature.


Highlight women’s underrepresentation and normalize women’s leadership through public messaging campaigns.


  • Applicants must be a 501(c)(3) organization or be fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)(3) organization, and in good legal standing with the IRS.


  • Applicants must be nonpartisan and not endorse any particular candidate(s) or political party’s agenda.


  • The Ascend Fund generally does not provide funding that exceeds 25% of an organization’s annual budget, except under extenuating circumstances, though organizations are encouraged to apply for up to $50,000 annually.


  • State and local organizations, as well as national organizations with staffed, state-based chapters are eligible to apply. 

selection process

  • Applications are due Friday, August 13th at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

  • Proposals will be evaluation based on focus, potential for impact, organizational readiness, and overall impression.

  • We highly encourage all applicants to review the scoring rubric before beginning their application. 


  • This is a competitive grant process. Submitting a proposal does not guarantee funding. Panorama Global and The Ascend Fund assume no responsibility for applicants’ costs to respond to this RFP.


  • We anticipate disbursing grant funds on or around Friday, October 15th and funded organizations should plan to attend a virtual convening on Tuesday, October 26th.

review committee:

The Ascend Fund is committed to achieving a truly representative democracy, in which elected officials reflect the diversity of the population. Our work to accelerate the pace of change towards gender parity in U.S. politics is strengthened and improved by multiple perspectives. Proposals will be reviewed and scored by a diverse committee of experts in gender parity and women's political representation. 

ready to accelerate the pace of change toward parity? 

Questions may be submitted to: [email protected]. We strive to respond to emails within 48 hours of receipt.

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