Friday, September 21, 2012

Vote With Your Mission

A big surprise for many people, and certainly for me when I first learned it, is the sheer size of the nonprofit sector. About $1.4 trillion goes through 1.9 million organizations just in the United States every year. People who work for nonprofits are about 10% of the workforce. But we are not a major factor in elections and this year, the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits) has started a program to change that.

Called “Vote with Your Mission”, the effort is to get 100% of nonprofit staff, board and volunteers to vote. We know that our sheer numbers would make a big difference in the outcome of elections.

To sign on, nonprofits must commit to doing two of the following six things:

1. Ask all staff, board members, volunteers, and constituents to vote.

2. Adopt the slogan, "Vote with Your Mission," with the tagline, "Nonprofits are led by ideals and values for changing the world. Vote with the ideals and values that lead you."

3. Provide on-site nonpartisan voter registration materials for staff, board members, volunteers, and constituents.

4. Add to the organization's list of responsibilities for its board of directors: "Voting in every election while you are on the board."

5. Allow up to two hours of paid staff time to vote on Election Day. For non-voters, the time can be used to help co-workers or neighbors get to the polls, or to participate in "get-out-the-vote" activities (for any cause or candidate).

6. Post the Vote with Your Mission poster in your lobby, on your door or window, in your clinic, in your newsletter, and elsewhere, or create your own poster.

To me, there are two simple ones that don’t require any effort: #1 because how hard is it to ask people to do something, and #5, which is the law. Surprisingly, the fact that giving people time off to vote is the law has come as a big surprise to many executive directors!

As my colleague pointed out in the last blog post, Sept 25 is National Voter Registration Day. The people who have designed it are hoping it will become to September what Earth Day is to April. A good friend of mine says, “voting is the gateway drug” and I really agree with this analogy. Voting is certainly not everything and, in some ways, it isn’t even that much when measured one vote at a time. But every vote is important, and once you vote, you tend to be more involved in many other ways.

If the “47%” that Mitt Romney so easily dismisses, or even the larger 99% that he is very clearly not part of, ever want to take back our country, one of the first steps will be taking back the ballot box.

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