Democracy Under Duress and the Role of Philanthropy


The majority of Americans—55 percent—see American democracy as weak, and two-thirds of Americans believe it is getting weaker, according to The Democracy Project, a national survey jointly commissioned by Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. How did we get here, and what role should philanthropy play in building and strengthening American democracy?

Join your fellow AGF members to hear from Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz and Chief Development Officer Nicole Surber who will highlight key findings drawn from 10 focus groups across the country including Arizona and place United States democracy in a global perspective.

Together, we will delve into philanthropy’s role in reinforcing the values of democracy, discuss how we define democracy building and civil society, and explore how AGF members support these areas.

Staff at all levels from AGF member organizations that currently fund or are interested in funding issues related to democracy and civic engagement are encouraged to attend.


Michael J. Abramowitz | President | Freedom House
Before joining Freedom House in February 2017, Michael was director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education. He led the museum’s genocide prevention efforts and later oversaw its public education programs.

He was previously national editor and then White House correspondent for the Washington Post. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former fellow at the German Marshall Fund and the Hoover Institution. A graduate of Harvard College, he is also a board member of the National Security Archive.

Nicole Surber | Chief Development Officer | Freedom House
Nicole brings more than 20 years of nonprofit fundraising experience to her role at Freedom House. Most recently, she served as senior director of philanthropic partnerships at the Pew Charitable Trusts. At Pew, Nicole managed a portfolio of her own and was responsible for a team of 14 frontline fundraisers representing all of Pew’s core programmatic areas (environment, domestic policy programs and the Pew Research Center) with annual philanthropic revenue of more than $50 million.

Prior to Pew, Nicole worked as the inaugural director of partnerships at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Nicole has a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in religious studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

About Freedom House
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. Freedom House analyzes the challenges to freedom, advocates for greater political rights and civil liberties, and supports frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.

Thank you to Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust for making this AGF program possible.

If you are an AGF member located outside Maricopa County interested in participating in this program via teleconference, please contact Director of Member Engagement and Operations Kalisha Bass.