Mission and History


Democracy Matters, a non-partisan campus-based national student organization, works to get big private money out of politics and people back in. Offering paid internships to undergraduates, Democracy Matters mentors the next generation of leaders dedicated to strengthening our democracy. Students organize actions and projects connecting pro-democracy reforms to issues of environment, civil rights, education, health care, foreign policy, and more.

Democracy Matters, was founded in 2001 by NBA basketball player, poet, and activist Adonal Foyle and his parents, Joan and Jay Mandle, both of whom are Colgate University professors and life-long organizers. Our mission is to strengthen democracy by: (1) training young people how to be effective grassroots organizers and advocates, and (2) supporting public financing of election campaigns (“fair elections”) and other pro-democracy reforms.

Student activism is essential to achieving the political reform that our country needs. Our national network of Campus Leaders and Democracy Matters Chapters mobilizes student ideas and enthusiasm to energize the national movement for campaign finance and democratic reform.

With paid internships (Campus Leaders) on university and college campuses, Democracy Matters chapters across the country work to remove the corrosive and corrupting influence of big private money in the political process. Our vision is a democracy that includes and is accountable to all voters – not just big campaign contributors. The fight for “fair elections” affects all the issues about which young people care: environment, health care, education, economy, civil rights, poverty, foreign policy, media ownership, and more. Fair Elections systems like those now working in ME, AZ, MN, NC, CT, VT, and Portland, Oregon give all citizens a voice. Fair Elections is a “gateway” issue that connects the problems we face with a practical, real solution that deepens democracy.

By focusing on money in politics, Democracy Matters organizes around a critical flaw in our democratic process. Through education, grassroots organizing, national conferences, political action and civic engagement, we are revolutionizing the way our democracy works and bringing power back to the people.

Democracy Matters students work with citizen activists as well as with other campus and community groups.

Democracy Matters works with faculty and students to bring issues of democracy into the classroom. We offer service learning models, course components, and an extensive list of resources for students and faculty interested in addressing issues of democracy in the classroom.

The organizing experience that students derive from participating in Democracy Matters programs nurtures a lifelong commitment to civic action and social change. It prepares students for political involvement and leadership in a wide range of civic activism – from campaign finance reform, to social justice, civil rights, workers rights, and environmental reform.

The Democracy Matters Institute is supported in part by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, San Francisco Foundation and others. We would also like to thank Adonal Foyle and our many individual donors for their generous support.

The Democracy Matters Institute, Inc. is organized and operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The materials posted on this website are educational in purpose. The problems cited therein are with the electoral finance system. The Democracy Matters Institute does not intend to target any specific politician or party.

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