Survey says…yes!

Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits (SVCN) polled 560 nonprofit staff members to learn more about the sector’s voting patterns. Respondents included 114 “executive and senior managers” and 446 “line-staff personnel,” described as mid-managers, caseworkers, program and clerical staff, etc.

100% of executive and senior managers reported being registered to vote, along with 92% of line-staff. Overall, nonprofit staff were 49% more likely to be registered than the average Santa Clara county resident, where the survey was conducted. In California’s 2010 midterm election, nonprofit staff turnout was 21% higher than the county average. In 2008 it was 12% higher.

In California’s 2010 midterm election–which featured gubernatorial candidates–turnout among nonprofit staff was 21% higher than the rate for all county residents. In 2008 it was 12% higher. These participation rates help make the case for the sector’s importance and impact, and it can also send a message to elected officials.

This study is exciting because there is almost no information on the voting habits of nonprofit staff. This data, along with other emerging research is building the quantitative case for what we already know anecdotally–that the nonprofit sector is a key player in the voter and civic participation field. Although the numbers are likely inflated due to an overestimation of self-reported behavior, Census surveys have found that the margin of error for voting questions is only a few percentage points.

Still, there are gaps to close within our ranks: respondents who identified themselves as Asian or Pacific Islander were about 12% less likely to be registered than other groups surveyed. Black respondents were about 29% less likely to have voted in the 2010 midterm election.

Nevertheless, it is safe to say that many nonprofit employees are already voting. While we often focus on the voting behavior of clients and constituents, your organization can also ensure all staff members are registered to vote by including a registration form in the paperwork for all new hires or adding a reminder to paycheck envelopes. Visit our website for materials and ideas.

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