Mission statement

To support community organizers, advocates, and activists working year-round in places traditionally under-resourced, excluded, and ignored.

To invest in hyperlocal efforts that build sustainable political infrastructure, engage and educate voters, and build power for the underrepresented and disenfranchised.

To advocate for a more responsive and representative political system that can deliver justice, equity, and opportunity for all.

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Our Story

Groundwork Project began with a simple question: When it comes to creating sustainable and long-term progressive change, what is the most effective way to make an impact?

Over four terms in Congress, Joe Kennedy built a powerful network of supporters and volunteers across the country, as well as some of the largest digital platforms in the Democratic Party. After closing his Congressional career, he was determined to not let them sit idle but instead to redirect them towards a place where they could make a difference for years to come. A place where their support could be channeled to the people doing the foundational progressive work on the most pressing issues we face.

So we dug deep at home and across the country, connecting with local advocates, activists, and leaders fighting for the progressive movement’s futures, from Brockton, Massachusetts to Lincoln, Nebraska, to Jackson, Mississippi and a whole lot of places in between.

The answer to our question quickly became clear. Because it was the same, whether we were talking to someone from West Virginia, Florida, or Tennessee: The single most impactful place to direct time and resources is to local community organizers fighting year-round on the ground for change. The Black-led coalition in rural Mississippi doing deep canvassing to engage new voters in municipal races. The local faith leaders in West Virginia working to bring civic engagement to their parishioners.

That’s where change is happening.

If we needed proof, the 2020 election provided it. Across the country, we saw the limits of boom-and-bust campaigning, where massive amounts of money, attention, and volunteers parachute into certain states a few weeks before Election Day - only to dry up the day after, forcing local organizers to constantly stop, start and rebuild.

But we also saw a better way. From the decades-long effort by local organizers in Georgia to register new voters, to the long-term work of native organizers in Wisconsin and Arizona to turn out votes on tribal land, to the grassroots organizers in red states like Missouri that delivered Medicaid expansion for their families and neighbors: We saw what can happen when we let local organizers lead.

The message is clear: investing in year-round, local community organizing – led by trusted messengers on the ground– is the only way to build the durable civic and political infrastructure that sustainable, progressive change requires.

That’s where Groundwork Project was born.

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Team Members

Joe Kennedy

Position: Founder
Joe Kennedy has dedicated his career to social and economic justice. A former Congressman, legal aid volunteer, and assistant district attorney, he founded Groundwork Project to address pervasive disparities in the American political system and to help build a Democratic Party that is more inclusive, representative, and fair.   
Over four terms in the House of Representatives, Kennedy built an impressive legislative record around civil rights, health care, and economic policy, emerging as a national figure in some of our most pivotal political debates. From his headline-making fights for affordable health care and compassionate immigration policy to his legislative leadership on issues like mental health parity and transgender equality, he has become one of this generation’s most powerful voices for moral clarity.  
In addition to Groundwork Project, Kennedy now serves as a senior advisor to the Emerson Collective, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the National Association of Community Health Centers and appears on CNN as a political commentator.  He also serves on the boards of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.   
Prior to serving in Congress, Kennedy was an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. He attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where he was an active member of the Legal Aid Bureau, and spent two years in the United States Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. The grandson of former United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and former Senator Ted Kennedy, he is married to Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Villages, a leading childcare advocacy group. They live in Newton, Massachusetts with their two young children, Eleanor and James.

Joe Kennedy has dedicated his career to social and economic...

Joe Kennedy

Founder

Julia Hoffman

Position: Senior Advisor

Julia provides political fundraising strategy to candidates and elected officials who are building districtwide, statewide, and nationwide reputations as they seek to become the next generation of inspiring and dedicated public servants.

Julia has experience advising and leading fundraising teams for nonprofits, political committees, several members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, as well as U.S. Senate and House campaigns across the country. In 2012, Julia directed record-breaking fundraising efforts for Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s successful campaign for Congress, and continued to envision and execute Rep. Kennedy’s fundraising strategy through five election cycles. Julia also served as a part of the fundraising team for Forward Majority, an organization focused on flipping state legislatures in states with Republican trifectas, with the goal of dismantling the systematic disenfranchisement of Democrats through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Julia is passionate about leveling the playing field to enable women to run for and win elected office. She helped spearhead the creation of a powerful political giving group in Massachusetts, which supports women candidates and elected officials, and educates women donors on the importance and impact of their political giving.

Julia provides political fundraising strategy to candidates and elected officials...

Julia Hoffman

Senior Advisor

Emily Kaufman

Position: Senior Advisor

Emily is a political strategist, storyteller, and team leader with a deep resume of  communications experience across highly-contested federal races, state government, and Capitol Hill. From national prime-time addresses to viral digital moments, she specializes in developing simple, persuasive narratives that cut through the noise. 

 

For the last ten years she has served as Joe Kennedy’s communications director and chief speechwriter. Emily is passionate about progressive policy reform and supporting women who want to run for office, overthrow the patriarchy…or just take a nap. She’s the oldest of three girls and loves the ocean, her two little kids, and Dolly Parton, probably in that order.

Emily is a political strategist, storyteller, and team leader with...

Emily Kaufman

Senior Advisor

Tracey Lewis

Position: National Engagement Advisor

In 2020, Tracey returned to Georgia to lead her third statewide election as State Director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and then continued on as the senior advisor for the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Senate Runoff Coordinated Campaign for Senators Ossoff and Warnock.  Tracey has experience working on campaigns at all levels including five national presidential races and has campaigned in seventeen states from New Hampshire to Mississippi. Tracey started organizing as a volunteer in Boston, Massachusetts and would eventually become the first African American to manage a coordinated campaign in Massachusetts.  Tracey grew up in Syracuse, New York.

In 2020, Tracey returned to Georgia to lead her third...

Tracey Lewis

National Engagement Advisor

Matt Kearney

Position: Massachusetts Engagement Advisor

Matt is an experienced political organizer from Massachusetts who has executed a diverse array of voter engagement campaigns at the local, state, and federal level. Last cycle he worked on Joe Kennedy’s campaign for the U.S. Senate as well as for the Democratic nominee for Governor in Montana. Matt grew up in Scituate, Mass., loves to sail and can usually be found spending time with his (very large) extended family.

Matt is an experienced political organizer from Massachusetts who has...

Matt Kearney

Massachusetts Engagement Advisor

Frequently Asked Questions

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What does Groundwork Project do?

Groundwork Project supports local community organizers in the toughest political terrain for Democrats and progressives. We help them scale their efforts via financial assistance, digital amplification, capacity-building, and other forms of direct aid.

What entities comprise Groundwork Project?

Groundwork Project Action is a 501c4 organization that primarily focuses on supporting local community organizers working to build power in historically excluded communities.

Groundwork Project PAC is a federal political action committee that engages with candidates, campaign, and partisan activities aligned with our larger mission.

Where does my money go?

Your generous contribution supports Groundwork Project’s operations (like paying the staff that support our amazing partners on the ground) as well as assists us in providing direct financial assistance to our partner organizations, via the Groundwork Grants program. 

Groundwork Project Action supports both 501c4 and 501c3 organizations. Groundwork Project PAC supports candidates, campaigns, and partisan activities that align with our larger mission.

Where is Groundwork Project focused?

At this time, Groundwork Project is focused on supporting community organizers in three regions: Appalachia, the Deep South, & the Plains.

We’ve chosen these regions because we believe they have most acutely felt a lack of attention and resources from the Democratic Party. They tend to get written off as too tough or not worth it. We strongly disagree. It’s all the more reason these places need investment in long-term infrastructure building. And if they got it, they could change the trajectory of their state, our political map, and the entire country.

That’s why we are not focusing on traditional battlegrounds or emerging battleground states—the majority of organization-based, national, and high-dollar Democratic resources are already going there. We created Groundwork Project to show up where many others are not and to help fill a gap on the map when it comes to long-term, meaningful, and sustained investment in democratic infrastructure-building. Within our three regions, our first three partner states are Alabama, Mississippi, & West Virginia. We plan to roll out additional partner states in the months and years ahead, slowly building a deep and wide footprint across the “toughest” Democratic terrain.

Where is Groundwork Project located?

Groundwork Project was born in Massachusetts, where its founder is based. Staff members and advisors work remotely. While MA will always be home and a focus of our investment, we intend to build a national operation with a diverse and digitally-connected team.

What makes Groundwork Project unique?
  • A focus on the “toughest” places: The vast majority of dollars and attention from national groups funding community organizing goes to traditional battleground states. We focus on regions that others don’t, committed to systemically tackling the three toughest spots on the map for progressives: the Plains, Appalachia, & the Deep South.
  • A commitment to multi-year investments: We are focused on ten-year plans, not two-year plans, because creating infrastructure requires sustained, year-round organizing which requires sustained, year-round resources.
  • A deference to local leaders: Our job is to give the best local community organizers the additional resources and support they need to do more of the good work they’re already doing; not tell them how to do that work. We are partner-led and listen to what they need, rather than assuming we know.
  • A depth of work. We show up and go deep. We don’t just write checks and move on. We build relationships in our partner states and work tirelessly to understand the local landscape, build trust with local leaders, and become valuable partners on the ground.
How does Groundwork Project specifically support its partner states and organizations?

We offer support via direct financial assistance and grantmaking, donor cultivation and introductions, grassroots digital fundraising, social media spotlight, volunteer support, leadership training, and other capacity-building assistance we may be able to provide.

Groundwork Project prioritizes sharing the stories of our local partners via our digital platforms in order to help familiarize the national Democratic community with the work being done on the ground in states that don’t typically get sustained attention – and inspire them to invest in this history-changing work.

How do I apply for a Groundwork Grant?

You can submit a nomination form here, for your group or a group you love. Here are some helpful criteria to get you started. You don’t have to meet all this criteria, but the more the better!

  1. Geographically based in Appalachia, the Plains, & the Deep South. At this moment, we are specifically focused on our first three states: Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
  2. Small, hyperlocal groups that are trusted messengers in their community 
  3. Commitment to civic engagement and organizing as a vehicle for power-building in disenfranchised communities
  4. 501c3, 501c4 or PAC status
  5. BIPOC-led, women-led
  6. Track record of success (even if it’s short!) & clear strategy for growth

Please note that Groundwork is in its very early stages and just getting the Groundwork Grant program off the ground. We will be making a handful of strategic investments this year as we build out our budget for additional grants in the years ahead.

Why can’t I just give directly to these local groups?

You can! If you need an introduction or advice on where best to directly send resources in our partner states, drop us a line and we will share with you everything we know. Connecting our partner organizations with funders directly is a big part of our work.

What we bring to the table is a commitment to multi-year investment informed by a holistic picture of the progressive organizing and infrastructure-building landscape across our partner states – and a well-informed, locally-sourced view of where the areas of greatest need and highest impact are. This is what drives the Groundwork Grant program.

Does Groundwork Project support groups that advocate on a specific issue or set of issues?

Groundwork Project supports groups doing the deep organizing that sustainable political infrastructure requires, no matter the issue or constituency. We recognize that there are different issues that motivate communities to organize. We follow the lead of local groups; for one group, that might mean advocating for environmental justice, for another it might be advocating for immigrant social services, and for another criminal justice reform. We know that in the partner states, organizers are intersectional by necessity, fighting on all fronts.

How is Joe Kennedy involved?

Former Congressman Joe Kennedy is our founder and deeply involved in the long-term vision for Groundwork Project. Over his years in office, Joe traveled the country extensively to help elect Democrats. This gave him a first-hand view of where our Party has not shown up as meaningfully as it should; and the consequences of that, not just for the political map but for people’s lives. After leaving office, he founded Groundwork Project to re-direct the networks, resources, and assets he built up during his time in Congress, towards the local community organizers who need support most.

Do you do work in Massachusetts?

Groundwork Project has an active presence in Massachusetts, our home state and base of operations. This work is its own unique track, separate from the ‘tough terrain’ that anchors our national footprint, but mirrors those efforts in focus and priorities.

In Massachusetts we are committed to supporting hyperlocal community organizers and organizations that are working to build power in working-class & BIPOC communities across the state. We know that deep and painful disparities exist in our so-called “progressive” state and hope to be active partners in remedying these inequities in political access, engagement, and infrastructure.

In particular, Groundwork is proud to support the Democracy HUBS, a group of six community organizing collectives across the state, working on integrated voter engagement in our Gateway Cities and other historically excluded communities.

To learn more about the work of the Democracy HUBS, please reach out to us at team@groundworkproject.com

Who can donate to Groundwork Project?

Only US citizens or Green Card Holders. Groundwork Project is a federal PAC and cannot accept contributions from foreign nationals.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Like other political contributions, contributions to GWP are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. If you are interested in directly supporting any of the 501c3 groups in our network, please reach out: team@groundworkproject.com.

How can I support Groundwork Project besides giving money?
  • Sign up for our email list to get all of our latest updates.
  • Follow us on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook to help us amplify the incredible work being done in our partner states.
  • Nominate an organization for a group you love that meets Groundwork’s criteria.
How can I get in touch with Groundwork Project?