News & Views

A blog for those interested in what affects, motivates and drives the New York City Nonprofit Sector — written by CRE’s crackerjack consulting team. We hope you use this space to share your thoughts, ask questions and engage in conversations about our city, social justice and the nonprofit sector.

Every Vote Counts: Stepping Up Your Nonprofit's Role in Civic Engagement


By Louisa Hackett, Senior Managing Director - Community Resource Exchange is joining hundreds of other nonprofits across the country to promote National Voter Registration Day on September 25th. We support nonprofit civic engagement activities because we believe participating in our democracy furthers our mission of fighting poverty and advancing social justice.

Why should nonprofits promote civic engagement?

Nonprofits are connected to people: Nonprofits employ 13.5 million people, we rely on 61 million volunteers, and we serve and engage millions more. Nonprofits serve underrepresented populations who have a history of lower voter participation; 90% of nonprofits have a social and civic mission. Gaps in who votes undermine democracy and our missions and goals.

Over the last 30 years higher-income, older, and more partisan people have voted and been civically engaged. If the underrepresented registered to vote, were educated about the issues, cast their votes, ran for and were elected to office, how might the circumstances we face as a sector change?

Nonprofits are working under conditions often described as the new normal. But really, is it normal to have a country with such a wide disparity of income that 1% of the population has 99% of our nation’s wealth? It is normal for a society to allocate fewer and fewer resources to help people living and dealing with the consequences of poverty? Is it normal for service providers to work with reduced funding while facing increased demand?

I wonder how "normal" would be redefined if more individuals and organizations were civically engaged. I actually still believe in democracy and the role citizens can play in improving our communities. However, democracy can’t work without more people participating. One failure of our democracy is the 51 million eligible voters who are not registered. An even greater failure is voter turn-out: only 35% of eligible voters in New York voted in the last national election.

What are permissible voter and election activities for nonprofit organizations?

On a nonpartisan basis nonprofits can legally:
  1. Register voters
  2. Educate voters on the process (where to vote and election dates)
  3. Provide guides on candidates and ballot measures (from all political parties)
  4. Offer candidate forums (ensuring representation from all parties)
  5. Educate candidates about the issues your nonprofit/clients are most concerned about
  6. Encourage voting. Get out the vote!
How to begin?

Share these resources with your colleagues, clients, and friends:

National Registration Day:
Nonprofit Get Out the Vote:
New York Online Voter Registration through the DMV:
Student Voter ID Requirements, by State

NOTE: October 12, 2012 is the deadline to register to vote in New York City for the November 6th Presidential Election.

Join CRE and the Lawyers Alliance of New York for a webinar on civic engagement on October 3, 2012. Registration information is available at And don’t forget to check out CRE’s Conference Center if your nonprofit needs a meeting space to carry out its civic engagement activities this fall!

« Back to Blog Listings

Find us on:  CRE on Twitter CRE on Facebook CRE on LinkedIn 

News and Views  CRE RSS


Randall Quan Mark Light Pamela Dicent Fran Barrett case statement What is Core? Peter Block community Sector Research handling the unexpected website, resources, announcements nonprofit ownership grantmakers for effective organizations CRE News National and Community Service Interns Barbara Blumenthal Daring to Lead IT Rashid Littlejohn nonprofit management nonprofit accountability Louisa Hackett government Client News rockaways RFP Albany Coaching HIV/AIDS services providers Mohan Sikka executive transition record keeping Government Updates Huffington Post MAC AIDS Fund New York Times arts Stanford Social Innovation Review Jean Lobell President Obama Beth Kobliner NYS Budget Karen Erdos Ximena Rua-Merkin Funding Updates guest blogger NYCCCOC Needs Assessment proposal writing staff Barbara Turk hard times Governance as Leadership harvard business school New York City Government New York Foundation Useful Links Ero Gray Nonprofit Quarterly Featured Items postponed event Government News Michael Hickey nonprofit leaders Nonprofit Sustainability Philanthropic Collaborative Fran's Corner House Party tips fundraising New York Community Trust executive Bill Ryan mergers Maria Mottola Neighborhood Based Capacity Building Initiative Data Starved publications National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy Development Survey strategic alliances media civic engagement jobs evaluation Nonprofit Tools collaborations Pavitra Menon foundations New York Advocacy HR Without HR nonprofit mergers Nonprofit lower Manhattan computers capacity building board leadership Harvard Kennedy School announcment United Way of NYC Rona Taylor CRE POV internal controls leadership Jeff Ballow Hurricane Sandy I.T. without I.T. queens accountability Board of Directors CRE Executive Search Alliance for Nonprofit Management nonprofit start-ups Volunteers Holly Delany Cole 30th Anniversary Valyrie Laedlein grantmakers bookkeeping cre board and staff relations Nonprofit News generative Data CRE Tips