2020 Annual Report

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Letter from the Founder and CEO

Bradley Tusk
Founder & CEO
Tusk Holdings

Tusk Philanthropies is focused on making sure people who are hungry have enough food to eat and on fixing our democracy by making it exponentially easier to vote.





Our Team

Bradley Tusk
Founder & CEO
Tusk Holdings

Shelia Nix
Tusk Philanthropies

Michaela Balderston
Head of Communications
Tusk Ventures

Joshua Brandt
Public Affairs Associate
Tusk Strategies

Meaghan Collins
Chief of Staff
Tusk Holdings

Dani Frese
Communications Associate
Tusk Strategies

Kristina Howard
Managing Director
Tusk Ventures

Aileen Kim
Senior Consultant
Tusk Strategies

Rachel Livingston
Communications Associate
Tusk Ventures

Abby Ottenhoff
Managing Director
Tusk Strategies

Sam Polstein
Head of Digital
Tusk Ventures

Kate Preziosi
Vice President
Tusk Ventures

Our Partners



Solving Hunger

In 2020, we secured

$31.1 million+

to provide school meals regularly for over

220,000 children.

1. CA | Nourish California
Nearly 40 percent of Californians over the age of 60 are food insecure. Food insecurity has significant negative impacts on older adults, especially their health. SNAP (known as CalFresh in California) is a proven public health intervention and powerful economic stabilizer. Yet California ranks last in the nation in enrolling eligible older adults in CalFresh. We worked with Nourish California on a campaign that resulted in the state submitting a request to the USDA to streamline the application and certification processes for SNAP so more Californians over the age of 60 can easily apply for and keep their benefits.

2. MD | Maryland Hunger Solutions
Over the summer, hundreds of thousands of Maryland students lose access to the free and reduced-price meals they rely on during the school year. The Summer Food Service Program is an important tool in the effort to eliminate childhood hunger, but in early 2020, the state of Maryland did not submit a state-wide request to participate in the program, making it one of the few states in the country and the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region to not do so. We worked with Maryland Hunger Solutions on a campaign to push the state department of education to submit a request and successfully secured $145,000 in federal funds to provide 43,000 children meals over the summer when school is not in session.

3. MA | Project Bread
Massachusetts law requires high-poverty schools to provide breakfast to eligible students, but because breakfast is typically offered before the school day begins, just 40 percent of eligible students participate. We worked with Project Bread on a campaign to pass Breakfast After the Bell legislation, which leverages $25 million in federal funds to provide an additional 150,000 children with school breakfasts after the start of the school day.

4. UT | Utahns Against Hunger
Utah has the lowest rate of breakfast participation in the country. Out of all the students eligible for free or reduced meals in the state, fewer than 40 percent receive school breakfast. We worked with Utahns Against Hunger on a campaign to pass Breakfast After the Bell legislation, which successfully secured over $6 million in federal funds to provide an additional 35,000 children with school breakfasts after the start of the school day.

5. VT | Hunger Free Vermont
Universal School Meal programs allow all students to access meals so that no child is singled out as unable to afford lunch and no families end up in debt to the meal program at the end of the year. Since we began our campaign with Hunger Free Vermont in 2020, the state has begun offering Universal School Meals due to the pandemic to ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals whether they are learning remotely or in-person. Will will continue our campaign in 2021 with the goal of making that change permanent. If successful, our Universal School Meals campaign would provide school breakfasts to 24,000 children and lunches to 19,000 children, while eliminating $1 million in school meal debt and leveraging $10 million in federal funds.


In 2020, 330 jurisdictions in eight states deployed mobile voting. Of those, 104 jurisdictions across four states were funded by Tusk Philanthropies. Jurisdictions deployed mobile voting to allow a mix of UOCAVA voters and voters with disabilities (and in one pilot case, all registered voters) the ability to vote securely and independently.

Looking Ahead

Understanding that the COVID-19 pandemic will extend well into 2021 and will have long-term impacts on our vulnerable communities, Tusk Philanthropies has committed to doubling the number of grants it will award in 2021. Next year, we will be supporting anti-hunger campaigns addressing universal school meals, college hunger, and SNAP in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Texas.

Post-2020, we will continue to support mobile voting pilots in partnership with the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) to promote implementation of mobile voting, election security best practices, and broader election innovation, while expanding the constituencies of voters beyond UOCAVA voters and voters with disabilities. We will also continue to shape the narrative around mobile voting and serve as an effective counter to voices that seek to stamp out innovation and preserve the status quo in our election systems. Our base building and advocacy will go on throughout the year to lay the groundwork for mobile voting legislation. Our work to develop a secure, accessible, and scalable mobile voting solution will continue in parallel so that the technology is ready to be deployed as voters’ demand for mobile voting grow.

If you have an interest in helping us on any of this work, have ideas for us to consider, or simply have follow up questions, we are happy to schedule a meeting or call. Please email info@tuskholdings.com and one of our team members will follow up with you.

Thank you for your interest and support.


Advancing Mobile Voting

Our campaign to promote mobile voting made significant progress in 2020. After two years of funding pilots, conducting audits, building support amongst Secretaries of State and election officials, and pushing back against opponents, we had 330 jurisdictions across eight states implement mobile voting in the 2020 election cycle. Of those, Tusk Philanthropies funded 104 jurisdictions across four states.

This year was the first time that we were able to conduct a pilot where all registered voters were offered the option to cast their ballots electronically. The King Conservation District, a local conservation agency serving the Seattle area, provided a mobile voting option to all of its 1.2 million registered voters and successfully doubled turnout, with 94% of voters opting to return their ballots electronically.

This year was also the first time that a mix of Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters and voters with disabilities had the option to receive, mark, and cast their ballots on their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices in a Presidential Election, when the stakes and scrutiny are arguably the greatest. Despite evidence of attempted interference by Russia and Iran, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS CISA) issued a statement that the 2020 General election “was the most secure in American history” and that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”2 Third-party post-election audits of all our pilots confirm this assessment and show that the 10,000+ votes that were cast electronically during the Primary and General Elections were not compromised in any way.

The success of this year’s pilots not only provided further proof that mobile voting is a viable and secure way to conduct elections, they also showed how mobile voting can protect voting rights and increase turnout. Pandemic restrictions on in-person gatherings, disruptions to international and domestic mail service, natural disasters like the wildfires in the western and mountain regions of the country, and threats of intimidation at polling places all highlighted the need for safe, secure, and convenient remote voting options like mobile voting to ensure voters are not disenfranchise.

In addition to our pilots, we successfully launched the second phase of our mobile voting campaign, which entails building our own technology, connecting our movement with others, and passing legislation. This past summer, we released a Call for Submissions for a secure and scalable mobile voting solution and dedicated $10 million towards its development and deployment. We had 25 companies submit and are working with a core group of supporters and critics to vet the proposals. In the fall, we retained NEWCO Strategies to to assist in growing our base of supporters and building a broad-based coalition of military/veteran, disability rights, civil and voting rights, progressive, youth, and climate organizations to push for legislation to allow for the widespread adoption of mobile voting.

Joint Statement from Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & the Elections Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees (November 12, 2020). https://www.cisa.gov/news/2020/11/12/joint-statement-elections-infrastructure-government-coordinating-council-election

Image Source: Hunger Free Vermont

1 The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity (October 30, 2020).


© Tusk Philanthropies


We’ve made mobile voting happen in the United States, advocating for, funding and helping conduct the first 18 mobile elections across 330 jurisdictions where either deployed military or people with disabilities could, for the first time in U.S. history, vote on their phones. Each election was independently audited by the National Cybersecurity Center and found secure. Turnout, on average, doubled. We are the only foundation working on this. And mobile voting, in our view, is the only way to solve the problems destroying our democracy.

We’ve passed legislation to allow mobile voting, we’ve aggressively lobbied election officials to approve mobile voting, we’ve brought the issue into the forefront publicly (links to some of the coverage on the issue and our work to date are on page 12) and we’re now trying to both build our own mobile voting technology and build a movement itself.

We’ve funded and run campaigns in 14 different states to pass bills mandating and expanding funding for universal school breakfast, summer meals for kids, free meals for seniors, reducing requirements to qualify for free meals and more. In total, this has helped create a regular source of free meals for over two million people (mainly children) and counting.

We took on the task of lobbying Senate Republicans in Washington DC to support a 15% increase in SNAP funding in the most recent stimulus bill – and it actually happened. Is all of this different enough to merit a closer look? I hope so. And if you agree, I hope you enjoy this report. We’d be thrilled to talk more about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Thanks for your time.

Ensuring people have access to food is an immediate problem we tackle every year by funding, developing, and managing legislative campaigns to expand and strengthen school meal programs like Breakfast After the Bell and Universal School Meals. We have also worked campaigns to eliminate school meal debt and streamline application and certification processes for low income seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To date, we have helped secure over $176 million in federal funding to support school meals programs serving over 2.1 million food insecure children in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington.

Our anti-hunger work this past year was especially critical as the COVID-19 pandemic created a hunger crisis of unprecedented levels. According to Feeding America, the number of people experiencing food insecurity is estimated to have increased from a pre-pandemic 35.2 million to 50 million, and children who experience food insecurity is estimated to have increased to 17 million, up from 10.7 million.1 Our campaigns to pass laws that enable states to take advantage of existing federal funding for meal programs and nutrition assistance are even more important now as our nation comes to grips with the impact of the coronavirus on our lives and livelihoods.

In 2020, we ran campaigns in five states to increase access to food for children and seniors – California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Utah, and Vermont. While our work in Vermont will extend into 2021, our campaigns in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Utah have successfully laid the groundwork for them to leverage over $26 million in federal funding to support school meals for an additional 228,000 children and help over 1.4 million seniors apply for and retain their SNAP benefits. We were able to accomplish these victories despite legislatures going remote or being cancelled due to the pandemic. We would not have been able to achieve these wins without the dedication and drive of our partners on the ground: Nourish California (formerly known as California Food Policy Advocates), Maryland Hunger Solutions, Project Bread, and Utahns Against Hunger.

In addition to our state work, we provided federal advocacy support to our national partners to ensure food insecure households have the resources and support they need to weather the pandemic. In conjunction with Share Our Strength, the Food Research & Action Center, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, we lobbied the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congressional leadership, and Republican Members of the Senate to extend key school meal waivers that allow school districts maximum flexibility in distributing meals safely and effectively and include a modest 15% increase in SNAP benefits in the next federal relief package.

We embrace politics and use it aggressively to achieve specific results like new funding for hunger programs or giving people the chance to vote in elections on their phones. Our sweet spot is where change is achievable but needs some political force and know-how to make it happen.

We always try to combine our financial resources with our skill set – dealing with politics, media, regulators, influencers, advocates, unions and others – to achieve a much bigger result than we could just through making donations alone. Almost everything we do combines running campaigns for the causes we support with providing funding to the groups who support it.

We don’t take funding from anyone else, we try to have as little bureaucracy and process as possible (no board, no quarterly meetings), and rather than making sure we spend no more than 5% of our endowment annually, we spend our money on causes and campaigns as fast as we make it. If it runs out at some point, it runs out.

To anyone reading this:

I don’t know you, but it’s a safe bet that you’re pretty busy. Odds are, you have plenty of boxes still unchecked on today’s to do list. So why should you bother to leaf through our annual report? What’s so different about Tusk Philanthropies that makes us interesting? To me, the answer falls into two buckets: approach and results.

Dramatically increasing turnout in U.S. elections by employing mobile voting is a long-term initiative that we have been working towards since 2018. We all know our government and democracy is fundamentally broken. We believe the only way to fix it is by making politicians accountable to and representative of all voters, not just the handful who consistently vote in primaries or donate money. As of 2020, we have conducted 18 pilots in six states. Third-party audits of each of the pilots have come back clean, turnout has steadily increased in jurisdictions that have used mobile voting in multiple election cycles, and we have begun to develop the necessary technology and build the broad based coalition necessary to advance widespread adoption of mobile voting in the near future.

Pilot Highlight
In February 2020, the King Conservation District (KCD), a special purpose district in the Seattle area, implemented mobile voting for an open seat on its Board of Supervisors. The KCD pilot was the  largest U.S. mobile voting pilot and marked the first time mobile voting was made available to all eligible registered voters. There were 1.2 million registered voters in the KCD service area and results showed that turnout doubled from 2019. 94 percent of voters chose to return their ballots electronically, even given the option of mail-in or drop box alternatives.