Nonprofits and foundations, time to ramp up our voter engagement and election work!

Written by Vu Le

Hi everyone, it’s my birthday this week (March 12). If you’d like to help me celebrate, please donate to organizations such as the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, and continue advocating for a permanent ceasefire, a restoration of UNRWA funding, and a free Palestine.

Meanwhile, if you’re free on March 28th at 11am Pacific Time, join me and Nonprofit VOTE for Rally the Sector: Nonprofits and Election 2024. We’ll be talking about nonprofits and the role we play in getting people to vote. It’ll be fun! Register here. It’s free, and automated captions will be available.

A while ago, I mentioned that if we’re going to solve some of these deeply entrenched problems in our society, nonprofits will need to focus on moving the levers of power. These levers include 1. electing more progressive women of color into office 2. changing the tax code so rich people and corporations pay their fair share, 3. reversing Citizens United and making other efforts to reduce the influence of corporations on politics, 4. changing the narratives and conversations people are having so they’re not so easily manipulated by misinformation, fear, and bigotry.

And 5. protecting and advancing voting and voting rights. This year is a particularly vital election year in the US (and, unfortunately, what happens in the US affects the entire world). It’s time nonprofits and foundations fully embrace our role in voter engagement and civic participation and increase tenfold our involvement in these activities.

I know there’s been a lot of confusion and trepidation out there regarding doing this type of work. For decades, nonprofits have been told they shouldn’t engage in politics, and many funders have not helped by advancing the idea that nonprofits should avoid advocacy, lobbying, and other “political” activities. We’ve also as a sector bought into this idea of “mission creep” where anything not directly related to an org’s main mission means they’re straying from the mission, which we’ve internalized is a very bad thing to do.

We all need to adopt a new mindset. It is NOT mission drift to do voter engagement. EVERY single nonprofit out there, no matter what its mission is, should be participating in voter engagement. This is because every issue we care about—from homelessness, to education, to the environment, to poverty, to the arts, to animal welfare, etc.—is related to the inequitable systems we’re forced to endure. And we can change these systems by ensuring our government at every level reflect its people and their will. And we do that by helping people vote and participate in democracy.

Nonprofits can and do play a significant role, and we need to embrace it. According to the Nonprofit Power report from Nonprofit VOTE:

voters who were engaged by nonprofits about voting were much more likely to cast a ballot than comparable voters – 10 percentage points more likely (56% vs 46%). The turnout boost was even higher among historically underrepresented groups. Younger voters (18 to 24) engaged by nonprofits were 14 percentage points more likely to vote than comparable young voters. People of color engaged by nonprofits were 12 percentage points more likely to vote. Low-income voters also saw double-digit boosts in turnout. These findings provide a compelling case for more nonprofits to engage the communities they serve in voting and elections.”

And there is wide public support of nonprofits doing voter engagement work. According to a survey conducted by Independent Sector, seven in ten voters say they support the idea of nonprofits engaging in voter support services, such as voter registration, reminding people of election days, and providing transportation for voting purposes.

Read full article here.

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About the author

Vu Le

Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the former Executive Director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Vu’s passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of nonprofit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. There’s tons of humor in the nonprofit world, and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting our field is and make a show about nonprofit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms.

Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Vu has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at NonprofitAF.com.