National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), held annually on the fourth Tuesday of September, was created to celebrate our democracy through helping everyone register to vote. This year’s NVRD will take place September 24. In 2018, NVRD brought in over 865,000 new registrations, contributing to the highest midterm turnout (47%) in over 100 years.
But why is it important for nonprofits to actively take part in this day?
For starters, nonprofits are highly effective in turning out voters, but nonprofits also benefit from engaging with our communities during elections. Independent Sector has already covered how nonprofits can engage in elections, and how nonprofits around the country are doing this through our new Mission Possible series with partner organization NonprofitVote, but there are some simple things you can do if you are ready to participate this September.
Here are five things your organization can do to get ready for NVRD:
1. Talk to your constituents or community about the importance of voting
Find out who isn’t voting, and why. Maybe they can’t, or don’t know that they’re eligible. Maybe they just don’t know how to get registered, where their polling place is, or what they need to take with them to the polls. Make a note of the reasons people give for not voting, or for being unable to register. Collecting this information will be critical in understanding whether your community is facing barriers to registering, or whether this is due to lack of motivation. To learn more about barriers that your community may face and what you can do to remove those barriers, check out some research Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project have put out earlier this year on policies that help and hinder voter turnout in each state.
2. Share resources with your constituents
This can be done electronically via email, website, or social media. Or it can be done in-person, sharing handouts or postcards at your organization’s office – wherever you are face-to-face with your community. There are plenty of resources out there for a variety of audiences. If you are an association or national organization, there are resources that list activities nonprofits can do. If you are a direct service organization, you can provide information like how to get an ID (VoteRiders and Spread the Vote are just two places that offer this service), find out what you can do on election day (League of Women Voters, VoteTogether), or even find out what legislation may impact elections (Rock the Vote, FairVote).
3. Do an in-house registration drive
Is this the first time your organization is doing some kind of voter registration drive? Maybe you want to focus on getting your organization’s staff, board, and volunteers registered. Chances are, most of them are already registered to vote, but if not, this is a good place to start. These are people who know and trust you. For more information about your state’s requirements, check out this free resource.
4. Host a voter registration drive for your community
There are several ways for your organization to take part in NVRD. Does your animal shelter have an adoption event, or does your food bank have a food collection drive? If so, these are great opportunities for your organization to set out postcards with information on how to register to vote in your state. These kinds of regular activities are great opportunities for your organization to engage your communities on the issues they care about. Through partnership with other nonprofits already doing nonpartisan voter registration, you can share information on registering to vote, putting together an election-day plan, or even just updating an address or a name change. These organizations offer a wide variety of resources – from shipping voter registration packets complete with forms, stickers, and other goodies, to sending a staff member (or more) to your event so you know there is an expert onsite to implement everything. In the past, this integrated approach to voter engagement has been called “bringing in the vote,” because it’s a great way for smaller nonprofit organizations to dip their feet into the cool and refreshing civic engagement water. Find out how to become an NVRD partner.
5. Make a plan and budget for 2020
If you’re unable to do any of the above, but want to make this part of your work, make a plan for next year. Find out what kind of activities 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in, attend a NVRD event, start talking with your leadership and board on why engaging in these activities is critical, create a timeline with what success means to your organization, and decide what activities your organization will do – whether it’s engaging voters in the election process or engaging candidates on your issues. No matter what you decide, there are resources out there to help your organization achieve success. So start planning now!