Nonprofits have inherent characteristics that make them good at engaging voters.
• Providing a Reason to Vote
Voters turn out in greater numbers when something important at stake. A nonprofit’s call to vote in the upcoming election says to their communities the election is important to its issue and mission. Distributing sample ballots or inviting members to a candidate forum takes this further.
• Making Personal Contact
People vote when they discuss the election with family, friends or someone they trust. Nonprofits and other civic entities have daily contact with millions of Americans – many of whom may not get contacted by a campaign or discuss politics at home. While many would-be voters are skeptical of political campaigns, they trust community nonprofits.
• Lowering the “Costs of Voting”
The information or logistical costs of voting make a difference for many, especially new voters and those with the least resources. Nonprofits can help their staff or constituents navigate the voting process. Check their registration. Find their poll. Vote early. Or just remember the date. Nonprofits interact all the time with low-income, infrequent voters who are often ignored by political campaigns and with populations that are often otherwise hard to reach, including language minorities and people with disabilities.
• Addressing Barriers; Supporting Fair Elections
Outmoded voting practices that vary in all 50 states still disenfranchise hundreds and thousands of interested voters in national elections. Nonprofit communities can join efforts to address election practices that make it harder to participate and narrow our choices on the ballot. We can urge our communities to become poll workers. We can remind people where to call for help on Election Day. We can support election day registration, nonpartisan redistricting, and other ways to encourage free, fair, competitive elections.
• Encouraging Other Kinds of Civic Engagement
Any form of civic engagement creates a more likely voter. Throughout the year nonprofits can incorporate civic engagement activities that signal to their members their issue concerns and interest in government. Activities work both because they might encourage voting and civic engagement and also provide opportunities for people to get involved witht the civic activities and in other efforts to improve their community.