Nonprofits are rediscovering the power of the vote.
So many issues, so little time! Between the screaming headlines, the social media blitzes and the mountains of position papers, developing an effective advocacy strategy for your nonprofit—much less finding the time to implement it, can seem like an impossible task.
At the federal level alone, current issues surrounding charitable giving, unrelated business income (UBIT), the 2020 Census, the Johnson Amendment and more are all important and worthy of attention. Add state and local issues to the list and it grows exponentially. With so many issues competing for our time and attention, how can nonprofits maximize our impact and effectiveness in the public policy arena? One place to start is by fully leveraging the most powerful advocacy tool we have – the vote.
Nonprofits today employ approximately 13.5 million people and rely on the services of more than 61 million volunteers. Perhaps most importantly, nonprofits provide services to millions of people who tend to be under-represented in the ranks of American voters. Many nonprofits are waking up to the notion that together these groups can be an incredibly powerful influence on public policy, and they are creating initiatives to leverage that fact.
While as nonprofits we are required to be nonpartisan (at least for now – read more about efforts to eliminate nonprofit nonpartisanship) – we must not be nonparticipants. Here are some things we can do:
- Start in-house – you have a ready-made voting bloc in your employees.
- Are they all registered to vote and have you made sure they know the deadline to register before the next election?*
- Do they know where their polling place is and how to vote early and/or absentee?
- Does your organization have a policy of giving time off to vote?Take advantage of already existing internal communications channels to share information and encourage every employee to vote. Make sure they are aware of the issues of importance to your organization. You can’t and shouldn’t tell them how to vote, but you can help them be informed voters and make sure they get to the polls. Don’t forget your board members! They are key influencers – encourage them to share their own insights about the importance of voting.
- Engage your volunteers – volunteers are passionate about your organization’s mission. Make sure they know that their vote, and their efforts to encourage others to vote, is another important way they can help.
- Reach out to clients and the community – many nonprofits serve a client base that may include a large proportion of people eligible to vote but who do not. Consider hosting a voter registration event and asking those who are already registered to sign a “Pledge to Vote”. Help them understand that their vote can be the most effective tool they have to advance their own interests.
- Make sure your representatives know what you are doing – let them know you are encouraging their constituents to be informed, engaged voters.
For more information and tools to start a voter engagement initiative in your organization, check out NonprofitVote.org – and get started now to leverage your most powerful advocacy tool!
*Deadlines for in-person Voter Registration for the November 6, 2018 Elections are:
Maryland: Tuesday, Oct. 16
Virginia: Monday, Oct. 15
District of Columbia: Same day registration available
More info at: https://www.voterparticipation.org/2018-election-dates/