This Year is Pivotal for Civic Engagement

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

With the new year upon us, many nonprofits are resetting their fiscal years and their annual plans. Even for those who aren’t, January is a time getting things in order for the year to come. This year is special. We are entering a new decade, and a number of big events are around the corner.

 The first is one of the most important for nonprofits. Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau performs a decennial census, counting every person in our country. For Oklahoma, this data is absolutely crucial in helping inform decisions about commercial business, healthcare, education, infrastructure, voting districts and so much more. Unfortunately, the last Census in 2010 produced a significant undercount of people living in Oklahoma. That meant lost federal funding for Oklahoma affecting everyone in our state, especially children.

For the next four months, I am urging all Oklahomans, epically nonprofits. to make the Census a number one priority. We need to talk about the Census (April 1, 2020) in our businesses and workplaces, congregations, civic clubs and nonprofits. Ask questions such as “Do you know the Census happens in April?” or “Do you need any help filling out your Census questionnaire?” For nonprofits, make it a staff training, post signs, talk to clients and even set up computers to aid in filling out the form.

 Now is the time to make the Census part of your workplace culture. The more we count, the more we benefit.

 Of course, 2020 is also the year of a major general election. At the local, state and federal levels, Americans will be going back to the polls. While nonprofits do not endorse candidates for office, we must be participating in voter engagement.

 First and foremost, let’s start the process of voter registration. At the Center, we keep voter registration forms handy for those who need to update. At every Advocacy Connection we provide, or every round of Standards for Excellence, my staff asks the important question “Are you registered?” We can provide that form to anyone there and we’ll even spring for the stamp!

Secondly, nonprofits should be talking about good policy. Whether you’re involved in children’s welfare, healthcare, criminal justice reform, education, science, arts or another mission, educating voters about good policy is something we all should be doing. We call it “The Seatbelt Story.” Seatbelts save lives – but how do we educate voters and policy makers of how laws and policy can help make that happen.

It’s a big year ahead. Our legislative session starts in a few short weeks. We will all be setting forth on new fundraising goals. But now is the time to really dig into those important opportunities we have (such as the Census and the elections) make a difference through civic engagement and policy work.

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