AlabamaCounts5

#AlabamaCounts: Nonprofits Collaborate for Complete Census Count

Ensuring a complete census count in 2020 is critical for Alabama. Due to stagnant population growth, an undercount could result in the loss of two congressional seats in the House of Representatives, in addition to millions of critical federal funding dollars for community service providers across the state.

Fortunately, local nonprofits have banded together to prevent an undercount. In January 2019, Voices for Alabama’s Children (VOICES), the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ), Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Blackbelt Community Foundation (BBCF) came together to form the Alabama Hard-to-Count (HTC) Collaborative.

About the Alabama Hard-to-Count Collaborative

The HTC Collaborative’s goal is to ensure that historically hard-to-reach populations – children aged 0-5, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and African immigrants, African Americans, low-income and rural populations – are represented accurately in the upcoming census.

To that end, the collaborative is pursuing a multi-pronged census outreach strategy designed to make the most of each respective organization’s strengths and streamline advocacy efforts.

Education and Assistance

Recognizing the difficulty of establishing relationships in the community from the ground up, the HTC Collaborative has opted to layer census outreach on top of existing community service programs. For example:

  • Greater Birmingham Ministries hosts presentations from social justice organizations about the importance of census participation as part of its weekly grocery assistance program;
  • BBCF sends out letters to applicants for its Head Start program to inform and motivate parents to participate in the 2020;
  • ACIJ and ¡HICA! incorporate census education as part of their immigrant assistance and civic engagement programs to make sure their constituents know how to complete the census form.

Targeted Communications

Tailored messaging is central to the HTC Collaborative’s census outreach strategy. They are active on Facebook where they post census-related information relevant to undercounted populations. In addition to social media, they are leveraging radio, video, and billboard signage to spread the word. By using a diverse range of media platforms, including those in Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese, the collaborative reduces the risk of missing any audiences because of or internet access.

Utilizing Foundations as Conveners

Jay Williams, state coordinator for the HTC Collaborative, notes that engaging community foundations has proven to be a particularly effective form of census outreach. Given the established partnerships that these funders have with their grantees, they are able to act as conveners in their communities, bringing together a diverse range of local nonprofits and them around ensuring a complete count in 2020. Key funders of the collaborative include Alabama Giving, the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.


Macro-Advocacy

Through their nonprofit networks across the state, the HTC Collaborative has also been able to engage in census advocacy at the state and federal level. , a children’s advocacy organization, has played a critical role in these efforts because of its strong connections with state agencies, including the Alabama Board of Education and Department of Mental Health, which have the power to bolster census outreach through funding and policy change.

Long-Term Vision

Although the HTC Collaborative is set to disband in July 2020 after the conclusion of the census, collaboration between its members will almost certainly continue. As the bedrock of social justice in Alabama, these nonprofit organizations will keep supporting their communities, and this experience has underscored how advocacy can be more powerful when organizations work together and tailor their efforts around their respective strengths.

Want to know more about what your 501(c)(3) can do to support a complete census count in 2020? Feel free to contact Bolder Advocacy’s technical assistance hotline at 866-NP-LOBBY or [email protected], or check out our blog post. With bolder advocacy, we can achieve a complete and accurate census count in 2020!