On the Frontlines of Democracy

Nonprofit Work is Never Done


The structural inequalities deeply embedded in participatory democracy have undoubtedly shaped our nation’s plight to becoming a more perfect union. These disparities are more apparent than ever as the most fundamental tool of our democracy has been challenged by the ongoing global health crisis. Constitution Week — a six-day observance that’s celebrated annually during September 17th-23rd, commemorates the anniversary of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. This year’s 64-year tradition will be celebrated with an array of patriotic ceremonies and activities that encourage citizens to safeguard the vested rights and civil liberties conferred by the Constitution.

As we reflect on the powers bestowed by this doctrine, we must consider the essential pieces of landmark legislation that subsequently followed to ensure that these freedoms were extended to everyone. Two hundred and thirty-three years after its adoption, the fight to uphold the principles and values upon which our foundation was established continues.

The anniversary of the proclamation’s ratification coincides with National Voter Registration Day — another nonpartisan holiday that’s recognized annually on the fourth Tuesday of September to observe our collective efforts to address barriers that serve as an impediment to civic participation. This year’s civic holiday will commence on September 22nd. Partaking in National Voter Registration Day allows nonprofit organizations to leverage their engagement assets and unparalleled reach to optimize participation among staff, volunteers, affiliate members, and the communities we serve. Both holidays recognize our commitment to uphold the constitutional system and acknowledge the requisite to defend it to ensure our nation reflects its ideals. Industries across all sectors are charged with the responsibility of precluding efforts that seek to threaten the integrity of our institutions or undermine the full promise of democracy.

But First, Register

Voter Registration Misconception: Voter engagement is a prohibited partisan activity for 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

Voter Registration Fact: Approximately 60% of eligible voters are never asked to register

Registering to vote is the first step to preparing for the 2020 general election on November 3rd. Participating in voter registration, whether in-person or entirely online, is the most effective way to broaden your audience, increase your total number of engagements, and expand your mobilization efforts nationwide. The inability to organize in-person registration drives amid COVID-19 doesn’t preclude nonprofits from participating in voter registration activities. Integrating voter registration initiatives into nonprofit services supports the following objectives:

  • Encourage voter widespread registration and raise awareness about voter registration options, requirements, deadlines, and procedures;
  • Recruit new and diverse allies to participate in the holiday to amplify the great work of partners;
  • Address capacity challenges by elevating reliable and trusted sources of information; and
  • Build excitement about the elections and civic participation to increase voter enthusiasm and turnout.

Be Informed, Be Involved

Voter Education Misconception: “Nonprofits are barred from conducting voter education activities.”

Voter Education Fact: Nonprofits may develop and distribute nonpartisan voting guides that provide information that is not always readily available, including information on when and how to register, where to vote, and ballot measures.

Robust voter education campaigns will continue to be a lifeline for voters as election administrators amend polices and develop new procedures that mitigate health risks to ensure voting processes nationwide are facilitated in a manner that is in compliance with public health guidelines. As their community’s most trusted source, nonprofits play a vital role in developing an informed electorate. By leveraging technology and the reach of our partners, the nonprofit sector possesses the ability to educate eligible voters about their state and local voting policies, how to register, early voting options, election reminders, mail-in ballot requirements, and more.

Don’t Just Vote, Volunteer

With each election, millions of volunteers dedicate themselves to sustaining the backbone of democracy. Nonprofit employees and organizations are uniquely positioned to offer solutions that address essential needs for the 2020 election, including the need for low-risk and diverse election workers to staff in-person voting locations and professionals to recruit and train volunteers.

Nonprofit Mission to Protect & Serve

Preserving the right to vote safely and securely is a nonpartisan issue. While the nonprofit community may be socially distanced, we remain united in our shared commitment to protect and serve the nation’s most vulnerable communities. Our democracy relies on ordinary people to not only ensure that elections are conducted efficiently, but to also guarantee that every constituent’s vote is counted.

Nonprofits’ Guide to the 2020 Election


Election workers are essential to ensuring that elections are a success. Maintaining safe and accessible voting options amid COVID-19 is critical for voters with disabilities, populations without reliable access to mail service, voters in need of language assistance, or for those who simply wish to cast their ballot in-person. Countless volunteer engagement and election management opportunities are at your disposal.

The following collection of resources serves as a guide to save the 2020 election:

Voter Registration: Encompasses a wide range of initiatives that expand awareness of voter registration opportunities to tens of thousands of eligible voters who may not register otherwise.

Poll Worker: While specific duties and compensation may vary, poll workers often serve as the face of voting locations to inform voters of election processes and procedures, assist with the use of voting equipment, prepare the polling location, verify voter registrations, issue ballots, and more.

Phone Banking: Phone Banking is a proven and effective method to virtually educate voters, expand civic participation, and increase voter turnout.

Election Protection Volunteer: The Election Protection Program is active in all 50 states with field programs and/or voter assistance hotlines to help volunteers discover various ways to support upcoming elections, including opportunities to monitor polling places, serve as a watchdog to report outdated or disinformation, or engage in community outreach to educate constituents about their voting rights.

Election Worker Compendium: A state by state compilation of election worker laws, regulations, and statutes.

Poll Watcher Resources: A collection resources for both election officials and poll watchers.
Share this nonpartisan voter engagement resource with your professional networks today to learn how your nonprofit can support your community’s needs during early voting and on election day. Additional voter engagement tools and resources can be accessed in the Independent Sector Election Center.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Rights, Civil Society, COVID-19 Response, Election, IS Member, IS Staff