Reaching over 300 million people in more than 100 million households is not something that any one group, agency, organization, or individual can do on their own. No matter how effectively we strategize, no matter how deeply our messages resonate, no matter how many doors we can knock, this is an all-hands-on-deck effort.
One way to leverage our limited resources to reach a larger number of historically undercounted people and households is to work in partnership with other people, organizations, and networks in our community. This section of the toolkit will provide you with the information and tools you need to enter into effective partnerships with:
- The Census Bureau
- State Elected and Appointed Officials
- Faith Leaders and Organizations
- Tribal leaders
The Census Bureau
The Census Bureau is investing significant time and resources in engaging partners to help Get Out the Count. The Bureau’s Partnerships Program has three main components: the National Partnerships Program, Census Open Innovation Labs, and the Community Partnership and Engagement Program. All three programs focus on partnering with organizations and groups that can best reach historically undercounted communities, like very young children, people experiencing homelessness, people of color, and people with disabilities. Each program has also designed strategies to reach LGBTQ people, people in rural areas, renters, veterans, and “young and mobile” populations.
Community Partnership and Engagement Program (CPEP)
What is it?
CPEP works with community partners and grassroots organizations to reach out to historically undercounted groups and engage those people who are not motivated to respond by the national campaign.
What type of work do they do?
CPEP runs 18 distinct programs, but the three you’re most likely to interact with are Complete Count Committees, Partnership Specialists, and the Mobile Response Program.
- Complete Count Committees are networks of individuals and organizations at the state, local, or regional level, that are tasked with ensuring a complete count in their area.
- Partnership specialists are tasked with getting community partners and grassroots organizations on board with Get Out the Count work, supporting community GOTC events, and ensuring that partners have the materials they need to engage on the Census.
- Mobile Questionnaire Assistance (MQA) is a new program the Census Bureau will deploy in 2020. The Census Bureau will deploy Census Response Representatives (CRR) to events serving communities with low self-response rates or areas that have not yet returned their census questionnaires. CRRs will be equipped with a tablet to take responses to the census questionnaire and provide questionnaire assistance. Census Bureau partnership specialists will be identifying the events and partners to deploy Census Bureau staff.
How to get engaged?
If you are not yet connected to a Census Bureau partnership specialist, reach out now. You can find your Census Bureau partnership specialist by contacting your regional office at www.census.gov/about/regions
National Partnerships Program (NPP)
What is it?
The National Partnerships Program enlists and engages national-level organizations and leaders to support the Census and encourage their audiences to respond to the 2020 Census.
What type of work do they do?
NPP staff organized a number of “Census Solutions Workshops” to help groups figure out how best to reach historically undercounted populations. They also attend, make presentations, or exhibit at conferences across the country, and work with national partner organizations to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to Get Out the Count.
Sign up to become a Census Bureau 2020 Census partner here: https://www.census.gov/partners/join.html
Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL)
What is it?
Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL) works to modernize how the Census Bureau works with partners by bringing digital organizing and creative networks to the virtual table. COIL “leverage(s) the networks, talents, and expertise of companies, organizations, and individuals outside [Census Bureau] walls and encourage(s) disparate groups to innovate together.
What type of work do they do?
COIL manages four major initiatives, “Census Accelerate,” “The Opportunity Project,” “Human-Centered Design Training,” and the “Civic Digital Fellowship.”
Census Accelerate create-a-thon events pair creative professionals with organizations leading Census outreach efforts in historically undercounted communities to create census outreach materials. Find a calendar of upcoming create-a-thon events, gallery of census content, and toolkit to plan your own create-a-thon event at creativesforthecount.org.
The Opportunity Project brought together tech industry partners with community members to solve challenges related to the 2020 Census in a 2020 Census sprint. The challenge was to bridge the digital divide, increase digital literacy, promote 2020 Census jobs, and reached hard-to-count communities. Find out more about the sprint and the products created at opportunity.census.gov/sprints.
Mobilizing the Faith Community to Be Counted
Faith leaders are among the most trusted messengers in many of our communities and are positioned to play a key role in ensuring that everyone is counted in the 2020 Census. People of faith believe in the divinely given dignity of every person: everyone counts in the eyes of God and so they should count in the eyes of our government. When we answer the Census and encourage our neighbors to do so too, we declare that we are part of “We the people…” and refuse to be excluded from the critical funding and political representation all people deserve.
Check out Faith in Public Life’s toolkit: Mobilizing Faith Communities to Be Counted for resources, faith talking points, FAQs, and opportunities to get your faith-based network involved. This toolkit is intended to be shared broadly with faith leaders. Here are highlighted ways to you can activate your networks to join in:
- Join the Faith Council. Faith-based organizations working to inform their network about the 2020 Census are invited to join the Faith Council to engage in coordinated, strategic outreach. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.
- Recruit Faith Census Ambassadors to join Faith in Public Life’s network of faith leaders working to get out the count in their communities. FPL works directly with ambassadors to equip them with ideas and information to help their congregations get counted.
- Census Sabbaths: Encourage your network to integrate the Census into worship through preaching on the importance of being counted and what’s at stake for your community.
- Distribute flyers and bulletin inserts (English, Spanish) so your network can raise awareness about the 2020 Census.
- Share Census 101 presentation as a tool for faith leaders to inform their community about the importance of the census and details about how to be counted.
Business can play a critical role in helping to achieve a robust 2020 Census, and businesses should have a vested interest in a strong count. This document can help you engage in partnerships with businesses in your area.
What’s in it for them?
Let’s say there’s a local business in your area that you know would be a great partner on Census outreach, but they don’t fully grasp the importance of the census for their company. Try out these reasons for why they should get engaged:
- For most companies, data from the Census serves as the foundation for data-driven business decision-making.
- The Census provides businesses with crucial demographic information about their customers, the workforce, and the economic landscape.
- While companies may rely on private, commercial databases to make strategic decisions, those databases rely on the Census as a benchmark to ensure their accuracy.
- The Census is used to allocate funding for programs that support local businesses and grow the economy–like transportation, education, and workforce development programs.
- The Census determines how many seats in Congress are allocated to each state, and how political power is distributed within each state, helping to ensure that business owners have their voices heard.
Before reaching out to a local business person, first try to get an introduction through an existing partner, which increases the likelihood of a response. Nonprofit boards of directors can be helpful. When you do connect, keep the interaction short and focus on the economic argument for a strong count. Before you speak with someone, make sure you have a plan for how they can help and specific steps you’d like them to take before you speak with them.
What’s in it for you?
When you think about partnerships, businesses might not always be at the top of your list. But when it comes to Census organizing, they are a group that shouldn’t be overlooked. Think about it. Businesses interact with historically undercounted groups every day. In fact, a working mom with two very young children may be more likely to see a poster about the Census at the grocery store than on the website of a non-profit organization. A low-wage worker with limited low internet access might never see a Census meme that has taken Instagram by storm, but he’ll see the Census flyer in the breakroom at his job every day at lunch.
If we truly want to reach historically undercounted communities, we have to meet them where they are, and for many people that may mean where they work and where they shop.
For more resources, see business engagement resources developed by The Council for Strong America, including a toolkit on how businesses can contribute to an accurate 2020 Census, examples for how businesses are supporting the Census, state-specific toolkits for business owners, posters, and email templates for employee engagement.
Consider pitching these census activities to a business partner:
- Use the Business’s Digital Media. Post messages, videos, and a link to the official 2020 Census web page on company websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube encouraging participation. These are cost-effective activities.
- Directly Encourage Employees and Customers to Respond.
- Display posters, flyers, and information about the 2020 Census in stores, staff offices, parades, festivals, and other community events.
- Include messages promoting the Census on customer receipts and in bills, statements, or other correspondence with customers.
- Encourage employees to complete their Census questionnaires and potentially allow them to do so at work in a private common area equipped with computers or tablets.
- Run promotional messages (possibly in multiple languages) in weekly store circulars or other customer publications.
- Support State and Local Efforts.
- Sponsor or speak at local, state, and national events about the importance of the Census to build awareness among the business community and the general population.
- Participate in a public Census kick-off event publicizing the 2020 Census and encouraging residents in a given region to complete their Census questionnaires.
- Contribute financially or offer volunteers to local and state-based efforts promoting the census.
If your state or community includes Indian Country, you should be working with tribal leaders to get out the count.
When the tribal community is undercounted, political boundaries may not accurately represent reality. Undercounting results in Native peoples being denied a full voice in policy decision-making. As a result, their community’s different needs may not be represented or prioritized according to their real share of the population. In particular, Native reservations are considered “communities of interest” in many states’ redistricting policies, meaning it may be especially important to keep intact when redistricting. Undercounting Native peoples in the 2020 Census could also impact how federal funding is allocated to states and localities. Today, there are 326 reservations and 567 tribes recognized by the federal government, each with distinctive health, housing, education, and financial needs.
- Find resources to engage tribal communities at the Indian Country Counts campaign The campaign is an initiative launched by the National Congress of American Indians to ensure all American Indians and Alaska Natives are accurately counted in the 2020 Census.
- Ensure you are using trusted messages by reviewing message research conducted by the National Congress of American Indians:
The census and philanthropy
Across the country, hundreds of philanthropic institutions are mobilizing to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census, with a focus on historically undercounted communities. This includes unprecedented engagement from national, state, and community-based foundations and philanthropy-serving organizations who are pooling resources, engaging in the federal regulatory process, establishing statewide funder collaboratives, and more.
Accurate census data is critical for funders, their partners, and grantees. Census data helps foundations understand the issues they care about (e.g., education, public health, food and housing access, environmental justice, civic engagement, etc.) and the communities they serve, establish priorities, inform stronger evaluation, and monitor progress. At stake is not only accurate data, but the fair distribution of federal resources and political representation.
How philanthropy is engaging around the Census
Nonprofits may consider funders only as a source of financial support for their programmatic work, but philanthropic institutions can be valuable partners beyond that. Consider philanthropic institutions’ engagement toward a fair and accurate 2020 Census within the broader framework of participate à convene à invest.
- Participate: As a trusted voice within the nonprofit sector, philanthropic institutions can leverage the networks of their staff and the influence of their trustees to elevate the importance of the census. They can help to educate policymakers and Area Census Office staff or participate on Complete Count Committees.
- Convene: Foundations can use their convening power, platforms, and communications channels to marshal support for the 2020 Census. Funders can convene their peers, their grantees, and help facilitate cross-sector planning and mobilization by bringing together government, business, faith-based, and nonprofit leaders.
- Invest: Foundations can support planning, organizing, and other Get-Out-The-Count activities, as well as advocacy, technology, communications, technical assistance, rapid response, and evaluation. Funders deploy resources through multiple methods, including general operating support and add-on grants directly to their grantees. Funders also do grantmaking through statewide or regional funder collaboratives, using pooled and aligned funding strategies.
How to deepen philanthropic engagement around the Census
- Help educate funders about the interconnectedness of the issues they traditionally support and the Census. This includes how your organization plans to engage around the census and why it is important to your organization’s mission.
- Help funders understand how Census investments have a decade-long impact on representation and participation in our democracy.
- If there are funders in your network looking for resources about how to engage in census efforts, build support for the census within their institution, connect with funders across the country, or stay in the loop on the latest census policy, operations, and funder updates, they can join the Funders Census Initiative.
- Our partners, the Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup and the United Philanthropy Forum, are also excellent resources.
- For more information about FCI or how to partner with funders, contact Jocelyn Bissonnette, Director of the Funders Census Initiative at Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) at [email protected].
- Visit the Funders Census Initiative website at FCI2020.org to access resources, including: 2020 Census Milestones, 2020 Census Funder Milestones, and 2020 Census Messaging Testing Results.
Unions can be excellent and effective partners in local GOTC operations. Unions are a critical platform through which workers can collectively bargain and shift the balance of power toward greater economic justice. Unions have been key to securing the eight-hour workday, employment benefits, and worker victories that help families and communities achieve foundational to economic stability. In addition to traditional unions, there are six constituency groups which focus specifically on union members with marginalized identities: Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition for Labor Union Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and [email protected] Consider also reaching out to worker centers such as Adhikaar, Restaurant Opportunities Center, and others which organize workers in industries that do not have access to unions.
How does Census engagement benefit unions?
Unions have a critical role to play in reaching hard-to-count populations such as low-wage workers and immigrants who often have limited time to participate in other community spaces. Many unions hold relationships with their members, and with other employees at organized workplaces, which are built on mutual trust and collective action. Thus, they have a unique opportunity to reach folks who would not be contacted by traditional outreach methods, and an opportunity to align Census engagement with pre-existing electoral and mobilization activities.
If you are seeking to partner with a local union on Census outreach, it may be helpful to highlight the importance of the 2020 Census to unions:
- The Census determines how $8900 billion of federal funding is spent. This impacts a wide variety of public and private sector jobs. For example, Census data informs Medicare and Medicaid funding, which can heavily influence impact the number of healthcare, education, and construction jobs in a particular city or region. The Census similarly impacts education jobs, construction jobs, and federal grants for community investment
- If the Census undercounts the number of people in a certain area, then funding for public-sector jobs decreases and workers could see their hours cut, nurse-to-patient and teacher-to-student ratios will increase, and it will be harder for them to do their jobs well.
- If hard-to-count populations—which include immigrants, the elderly, disabled folks, low-income people, young children, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and other marginalized groups—are not counted accurately in the Census, then their political power of their communities and state will be weakened.
- Marginalized people have often relied on unions to fight and win opportunities and financial stability. If people are left out of the Census, they could lose political power and lose important battles. Union victories have been built by and for these groups to bring everyone the same opportunity for financial stability. If we allow the Census to be interfered with unchecked, we will lose major fights to protect the middle class and expand economic justice for all.
- Unions have fought to ensure that workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace. Census data are used to enforce those agreements, but enforcement works best when the data is correct.
How do Census advocates benefit from partnering with unions?
Unions have built an infrastructure for outreach to low-wage workers and people of color that is unparalleled. Unionized workers are more engaged in democracy than their non-union peers because of the coordinated mobilization campaigns that unions oversee. Census advocates should connect with unions to coordinate outreach strategies and maximize contact with hard-to-count populations. Unions can reinforce messages that advocates are using and within the community, and simultaneously integrate messaging around jobs and economic justice that are more likely to be when it originates from the union.
Consider these engagement strategies for union outreach:
- Offer to provide Census messaging and templates that the union can integrate into their existing communication channels, such as member meetings, newsletters, and any member-to-member electoral outreach programs.
- Offer to host Census workshops and trainings for their members. If you have capacity and interest from the union, create targeted workshop content for specific populations like black, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), LGBTQ, and monolingual folks.
- Invite the union to host a table at future Census events or community festivals. Creating stronger ties between Census advocates and unions will help reinforce messages coming from both sources.
- Many unions have robust social media profiles as part of their digital organizing portfolios. Include them as strong partners for Twitter chats and other digital actions.
State Elected and Appointed Officials
What’s in it for them?
Here are a few reasons officials in your area should get on board:
- The Census is used to allocate 1.5 trillion dollars in federal funding and even more in state funding for the things your community needs most, like hospitals, schools, and roads. All elected or appointed public servants have a responsibility to ensure that their constituents have the services and programs they need to thrive. And in order to ensure those programs and needs are fully funded, it is the duty of every public servant to promote a fair and accurate count.
- Whether someone is elected or appointed, the regions and communities they serve are impacted by Census data. Census data determines the number of representatives each state is allocated in Congress and serves as the basis for drawing congressional and state district lines,
- State elected and appointed officials use data from the Census to make decisions about everything from the number of stoplights on a street to the number of teachers in your child’s school.
What’s in it for you?
Whether or not an elected or appointed official shares your politics, they can be an important ally in Census advocacy in the following ways:
- They have the power of the purse. Census outreach and organizing can be expensive; if state or local officials are committed to supporting that outreach, they can advocate for funding for Complete Count Committees, advertising, and other outreach efforts.
- They can take local action. Regardless of whether or not your state has allocated funding for Census outreach, local or not. Local elected officials can push for local Complete Count Committees to allocate county or city funding to support them, and do their part when the state legislature does not.
- Using their voice and seat to prioritize Census. Without strong voices advocating to prioritize the Census in the halls of power, the Census might get left out. And that means your community will miss out. Other issues may get prioritized. Whatever office they hold, from school board to state legislator, their voices matter. Regardless of what office they hold, their voice in numbers from school boards to state legislatures matter.
- Trusted voices. Some of our elected officials are trusted and respected leaders in our community, and may be among the most effective voices in our outreach. And because they’ve run campaigns, built coalitions, and developed a broad diverse base of supporters, they have networks and relationships that can help ensure that every hard-to-count community gets engaged and counted. Their relationships and networks span far and wide and are helpful to ensure that every hard-to-count community is brought in.
State and local officials are critical partners in ensuring a full count in the 2020 Census. They can be effective spokespersons, can mitigate challenges, and often know local communities well. Census Champions—a project of The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Census Counts Campaign—are state, local, elected, and appointed officials dedicated to a fair and accurate count, especially in historically undercounted communities. See the full list of Census Champions on the Census Counts website. Census Champions are committed to working to ensure a successful census and are a great place to start in your engagement of elected officials. They receive regular communications, updates, and information from the Census Counts Campaign. Encourage your elected official to join Census Champions by completing the form at censuscounts.org/censuschampions.
Resources and Engagement Strategies
Consider these engagement strategies when working with elected and appointed officials:
- Encourage them to sign on to be Census Champions.
- Encourage them to enact a local resolution in support of the 2020. Census.
- Work with them to establish a local Complete Count Committee.
- Provide them with information, data, tools, and resources to ensure they become effective key spokespeople for the Census.
- Remind them of the importance of counting every child in their community.
Refer to the following resources to engage state-elected and -appointed officials:
- Members of your state legislature:
- Mayors and city officials:
- County Officials:
- School Board Members: