When you think about the midterm elections, you probably think about political parties and partisan groups that focus on getting you to vote to a particular candidate.
But political groups aren’t the only ones with a roll to play. Nonpartisan nonprofit organizations have a unique opportunity to make an outsized impact on turnout.
Unlike campaigns that spin up every cycle, nonprofits are already integrated into their communities — and are trusted providers and messengers.
Because they already do community-facing work, nonprofits are set to reach people where they already are.
A new report from Nonprofit VOTE shows nonprofits have a particularly large impact on underrepresented voters — like people of color, young people and low-income people.
Not only are nonprofits are not only more likely to reach these groups, people were more likely to vote than people from the same groups who weren’t engaged by nonprofits.
Because of their massive footprint (there are 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the US!) there is potential to reach 10s of millions of Americans.
As of now, approximately 20% of nonprofits say they conduct voter engagement activities either “occasionally,” “frequently,” or “almost all the time.”
Want to see that percentage and impact grow?
Here are three ways to incorporate voter turnout into your nonprofit work:
1. Tie voting to issues members care about
It’s often hard for people to see how voting impacts their everyday lives. This is especially true for underrepresented voters, who politicians don’t tend to talk to and whose most important issues are often not elevated in policy.
As a result, some people don’t vote because they don’t think it matters. You can make a big impact on participation by clearly connecting the dots between voting and the issues your community cares about.
Tying voting to specific issues can help you can create urgency around an election by highlighting the impacts of voting.
For example, in the last presidential election Conservation Land Foundation (a 2020 Motivote partner) ran their first voter turnout program, “Your Future, Your Vote,” to encourage their members to vote in order to protect public lands.
Think about the issues that matter most to your community — and tie that to your messaging.
- Work on education? Talk about how elected officials decide education policy or the impact of schools boards on curriculum.
- Run food banks? Connect elections to food security and access to social services.
- Provide community health care? Share how elections have affected health insurance access or price transparency.
2. Incorporate voter registration into the work you’re already doing
The first step in helping people vote is to make sure they are registered at their current address.
But you don’t need to conduct a separate voter registration drive to make this happen. Instead, add voter registration into the work you’re already doing.
Colleges and universities have shown that this strategy works. Adding voter registration to course registration and orientation has shown to increase registration rates.
Think about the ways that you can emulate this strategy in the ways you’re already interacting with your community.
- If you provide volunteer tax preparation services, train your volunteers to ask clients if they’re registered to vote and how to help them fill out forms.
- If you hold cultural community events, ask everyone who attends to register to vote.
- If you help immigrants prepare to become citizens, help them register to vote after their naturalization ceremonies (bonus points if you attend and register them there!)
3. Go beyond registration, to planning
Getting people to cast their ballot takes more than just getting them to register to vote. Research shows voters are up to 2x more likely to follow through on voting if they have a concrete plan.
Up until your state’s voter registration deadline, focus on getting people registered. Then: switch your messaging to plan-making.
At the same touchpoints where you incorporated registration prompts, start asking people to make a plan.
When you talk to your community about voting, prompt to think through the logistics—will they be voting by mail, early, on election day? When will they be voting? How will they get there?
Motivote automates these prompts and walks voters through the plan-making process, step-by-step.
You can also help connect voters with groups focused on needs like: taking time off work, finding a valid voter ID, or getting a ride to the polls.
- VoteRiders for help with voter IDs, including getting one
- 866-OUR-VOTE for help with election protection issues
- Lyft (and other ride-share services) for discounted rides to the polls
Research shows that “get out the vote” efforts have the biggest impact in the final few weeks before an election, when Election Day details are more top of mind. If a voter makes a plan too far ahead of time, they may forget it. So ramp this up as the election gets closer.
Also consider hosting celebrations for “civic holidays” like National Voter Education Week or Vote Early Day—which are conveniently planned in the weeks leading up to major election deadlines. It’s easy to incorporate pre-made resources and messaging for these holidays into your existing operations and communications plan.
Need additional help? We have a platform for that!
Motivote empowers causes, colleges, and companies to run high-impact voter engagement programs that help people navigate the voting process. Our proprietary framework is proven to increase turnout with the same behavioral strategies that help us go to the gym, save money, and learn new skills.
Contact us to learn more!