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


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