Nonprofit VOTE and Independent Sector are partnering to bring you a new blog series, Mission Possible. This series will explore the different ways a variety of nonprofits are embedding voter engagement into their work. We believe that even limited voter engagement can help you enhance your mission and drive positive change for your communities and the people you serve. But don’t take our word for it, check out these examples. Each month, Mission Possible will feature one organization and the unique way they are mobilizing their communities.
Welcome to Mission Possible: Our ongoing series highlighting nonprofits, foundations and other organizations who partnered with us to execute nonpartisan voter engagement.
Founded in 1970 out of New York City, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) starts with both feet running as it worked to ensure food safety for the poor across the country. Recognizing how economics is tied to access to food, FRAC has engaged in a decades-long struggle to make sure that citizens are fed. Over the years they’ve published reports highlighting how race and food access affect infant mortality rates, hosted dinners with representatives across the political spectrum and much more.
It may not seem that nonpartisan voter engagement would be a natural fit, FRAC but Alex Ashbrook, FRAC’s Director of Special Projects and Initiatives, sees a clear fit for the organization and it’s stated, robust mission and explains why working with Nonprofit VOTE was crucial.
Q: While everyone agrees that voting and voter engagement is important, how did you tie that to your organization’s core mission? FRAC works to end poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. In a country as wealthy as ours, we could eradicate hunger if we galvanized the political will to do so.
FRAC believes that building the political will to solve hunger requires identifying poverty and hunger as key issues, and electing leaders who are dedicated to creating and implementing transformative policies needed to solve hunger. Imagine what our country could achieve if we invested in leaders — from Capitol Hill to every state house to every school board — who are committed to eradicating hunger!
FRAC is also aware that too many people — especially people of color and low-income people struggling to afford basic needs, such as food — feel disconnected from the political process. By engaging in activities, like voting, those who have experienced hunger, poverty, and other related forms of oppression (e.g., racism) can use their civic power to lift up issues and candidates with solutions that can help to eliminate hunger.
Q: Tell us about the decision to create a co-branded voter engagement toolkit and webinar series — why did that seem like a good, first step? Nonprofit VOTE is a respected expert in the voter engagement sector. For FRAC, it made sense to leverage that expertise by partnering with Nonprofit VOTE on creating voter engagement materials relevant for anti-hunger stakeholders.
FRAC’s network of key partners are eager to engage in voter registration efforts from diverse starting points: some organizations seek guidance on rules for registering voters at public assistance agencies, while others need help expanding their bandwidth to accommodate voter engagement efforts. The resources created by FRAC with Nonprofit VOTE serve as critical roadmaps for those in the anti-hunger space looking to contribute to voting and voter engagement work.
Q: What advice do you have for other nonprofits who that are eager to do nonpartisan voter engagement but for whatever reason haven’t started yet? Get involved! Whether your organization has a day to devote to these efforts or full-time staff dedicated to such work, nonprofits can engage in several 501(c)(3)-permissible election-related activities, including voter engagement.
Diving right into this work is important because addressing racial, economic, and other inequities is linked to improving voter engagement. Ensuring that the voices of communities impacted by hunger, poverty, and other adverse conditions are heard is essential to mitigating the impact of past (e.g., Jim Crow laws) and recent (e.g., restrictive voting laws) efforts to harm the most vulnerable. A cornerstone of engagement in — and integration into — a democracy is exercising the power of voting.