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.
Now over 100 years old, Goodwill Industries is synonymous with everyday altruism – it is the brand name of citizens helping others. But in 2018, Goodwill needed some assistance of their own and reached out to us at Nonprofit VOTE with a task – help them integrate nonpartisan voter engagement into their standing mission and invigorate their leadership staff to implement it across the country.
To get more insight into the partnership between Goodwill and Nonprofit VOTE, we turned to Laura Walling, Goodwill’s Director of Advocacy and Legislative Affairs for this quick Q&A that should help nonprofits of any size and mission get an idea on how to start their own voter engagement work:
Q: While everyone agrees that voting and voter engagement is important, how did you tie that to your organization’s core mission?
A: Our mission is to “enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.”
We feel that nonpartisan voter engagement, including voter education, is important to strengthening communities particularly since decisions made by policymakers have direct impact on the individuals which local Goodwill organizations serve.
Q: Since nonpartisan voter engagement is not your core mission, how did you convince leadership of its importance and were there any concerns about allocation of resources?
A: There were no concerns from Goodwill Industries International (GII), however, local Goodwill organizations have limited resources — staff, money, available space. So, the GII government relations team worked to promote efforts that could be easily applied to activities that local Goodwills were already conducting. For example, if a local Goodwill was conducting a participant intake assessment, they could ask if the individual is registered to vote and if not, provide them with the information needed to register.
Q: Tell us about the decision to doing a co-branded voter engagement toolkit — why did that seem like a good, first step?
A: Co-branding with NonprofitVOTE added an element of legitimacy and third-party evaluation/validation to the materials that GII’s government relations team was promoting.
Q: What were some of the immediate and/or long-term benefits of the toolkit — did it achieve the goals you set for it?
A: The toolkit was made available to roughly 8,000 members via our intranet where we saw a number of downloads. Now that we have the toolkit readily available, we are able to incorporate it into a more intentional plan going forward regarding ways in which our members (local Goodwills) can be more engaged in these efforts.
Q: What advice do you have for other nonprofits who are eager to do nonpartisan voter engagement but for whatever reason haven’t started yet?
A: See if there are other nonprofits in your area who have conducted such efforts which can help bolster the argument made to leadership. Once you have buy-in from leadership, create an engagement plan. Start small and you can build upon the success. For example, do you want to focus on voter registration? Can you then build on that and push GOTV efforts? Can you then add a focus on voter education and host candidate forums or issue-based town halls in your community? Finally leverage all of the great resources provided by NonprofitVOTE at nonprofitvote.org and their staff.