On September 22, National Voter Registration Day, community centers, libraries and local schools will be abuzz with volunteers helping people register to vote. Generally, these activities will be organized by election officials, community organizations or partisan advocacy groups.
Nonprofits VOTE, a national nonpartisan organization, is working to make sure the nonprofit sector gets involved as well.
By partnering with local organizations, such as the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Nonprofits VOTE aims to mobilize nonprofit employees, which make up 10 percent of the total workforce in the nation, as well as the clients and communities they serve.
“Our mission is to work with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote,” said Lindsey Hodel, field director of Nonprofits VOTE. “We know that policy decisions are greatly influenced by who votes and who doesn’t.”
Nonprofits VOTE provides technical assistance and funding support to its network of state partners, who in turn provide support to more local organizations.
A 2012 survey by the market research firm Harris Interactive found that a majority of respondents wanted to see nonprofits have larger role in politics, as opposed to big businesses, lawyers, trade unions, and other commonly powerful political groups.
“As a non-partisan sector, we are also a trusted sector among our clients and within our communities,” Hodel said, which gives it unique access to underserved populations. “In fact, polling that’s done every year points to the fact that people trust nonprofit organizations that are rooted in their communities and offering services year round.”
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The Harris survey also found that it was nonprofits’ nonpartisan status — not endorsing specific candidates or political parties — that has garnered this trust.
So how do nonprofits get politically engaged without crossing that line? Hodel said it’s a matter of getting behind issues and policy ideas, particularly those that matter to their clients.
Some of the issues that Nonprofits VOTE and its partner organizations are pushing for include raising the minimum wage, ensuring funding for social services, and removing barriers to voting, such as bans on same-day registration.
“As we head into 2016, it is a really important year for the nonprofit sector to make sure they are not sitting on the sidelines,” Hodel said.
Image via Flickr User Mortimer62-30-
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