Study: Nonprofits Have Big Impact on Voter Turnout

Does your association run a get-out-the-vote campaign during election seasons? They can be hard and tedious work, but the results of a new Nonprofit VOTE study show that you’re making a difference.

Nonprofit voters—clients, members, and staff whom a nonprofit urged to vote during the 2012 general election—turned out in greater numbers across every demographic group, according to a recent study. Nonprofits were especially successful at getting traditionally underrepresented groups to participate in an election.

In its Track the Vote program, Nonprofit VOTE tracked 33,741 individuals who were registered to vote or signed a pledge to vote at one of 94 nonprofits in seven states. The nonprofits represented a variety of organizations, including health centers, family service agencies, multiservice organizations, and community development groups.

“Using demographic and voting history data, we were able to determine who the nonprofits reached and at what rate contacted voters turned out to vote in the 2012 general election, as compared to all registered voters in the seven states involved,” the group said in a summary of the report. “The results showed the impact of personal voter outreach by nonprofit service providers in raising turnout rates among those least expected to vote and in closing gaps in voter participation across all demographics.”

Overall, 74 percent of voters contacted by a nonprofit went to the polls, a turnout rate six points higher than that for all registered voters, despite the fact that the nonprofit voters came from demographic groups typically regarded as less likely to vote.

The highest impact within a specific demographic was seen among Latino voters, where nonprofit voters had a 72 percent voter turnout compared to 54 percent of all registered Latino voters. Nonprofit voters also had significantly higher turnout among voters under age 30 (68 percent vs. 53 percent) and voters with household incomes under $25,000 (68 percent vs. 53 percent).

Nonprofit VOTE conducted interviews with 27 of the nonprofits that participated in the program to better understand what motivated them to engage voters and what challenges they faced throughout the process.

“The top reasons nonprofits cited for conducting voter engagement were to advance their organization’s mission and empower their clients,” the group said. Some get-out-the-vote efforts were hampered by challenges with “staffing their voter registration and pledge activities, in part due to insufficient planning. The most successful agencies were able to assign voter engagement activities to staff who had compatible workloads and schedules, such as outreach and marketing teams or those signing clients up for benefits.”

The most identifiable success factors, the study found, were a motivated staff and volunteers as well as strong support from a state or national partner through training and materials.

Does your association urge members to vote around election time? Share your story in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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