This evening, Nonprofit VOTE released a new report that examines the impact nonprofits have when they engage the communities they serve in voting and elections. Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout is based on an analysis of 129 nonprofits that did voter engagement work across nine states in the 2014 election cycle. It makes a strong case for the role that nonprofits can play in narrowing the troubling gaps in voter participation – between low and high-income, young and old, and across ethnicities – that distort our democracy.
The findings of the report are compelling! To begin with, Nonprofits are very effective at reaching communities overlooked by campaigns. Over half the voters engaged by nonprofits were identified prior to the election as “low propensity” voters, i.e. voters not expected to vote in the 2014 midterm, and thus never or rarely contacted by political campaigns about voting. Compared to others in the same study states, those contacted by nonprofits were three-and-a-half times as likely to have incomes under $25,000, twice as likely to be under 30 years old, and four times a likely to new American voters – Latino and Asian-American.
The second key finding of the report is that once contacted by nonprofit staff and volunteers about voting, these prospective voters turned out at higher rates than other registered voters across all demographic groupings. Voter turnout was 5 points higher for Latino voters contacted by nonprofits compared to other Latino voters, 10 points higher for black voters, and 16 points higher for Asian American voters contacted by nonprofits. The largest impacts were seen among low-propensity voters who, once contacted by a nonprofit about voting, turned out at rates nearly two-and-a-half times higher than registered low-propensity voters in the same states.
Finally, by comparing top performers to others, the report identifies key “best practices” that were common to nonprofits with the most successful voter engagement campaigns. Practices like starting early, having buy-in from leadership and front line staff, adequate training and support, and use of techniques like “active tabling” were all highly correlated with top-performing sites. This gives us a blueprint for replicating such success at other nonprofits to bring the nonprofit service provider model of voter engagement to scale.
The full report, which was prepared by Nonprofit VOTE in collaboration with CIRCLE at Tufts University, is available for download here.