By Alex McHenry, Community Resource Center, Denver
RQI’s “Why Vote?” Tool proved to be an invaluable resource this election season for Community Resource Center’s (CRC) Participation Project.
The Participation Project provides training and resources to nonprofits across the state of Colorado to elevate their nonpartisan civic engagement efforts. We partner with human service organizations like community health clinics, food distribution centers, COVID-19 protective housing sites, and organizations supporting individuals experiencing homelessness, whose clients often face systemic barriers to voting.
Our program reaches those individuals that are often missed and do not have a voice at the table. In 2019, our voters were made up of 49 percent people of color and 71 percent women, and our list was 90 percent unique, meaning that nearly every person on it was not being reached, registered, or engaged by any other 501(c)3 nonprofit in the state. Many of our participants this year were first-time voters — whether it was a 70-year-old woman who had never voted before in her life or a homeless 19-year-old who had just been released from prison. We know we are making an impact in the lives of these individuals and building towards a more just future for all.
This year, CRC provided RQI’s “Why Vote?” Tool to over 30 of our nonprofit partners as a way to deepen engagement during their nonpartisan voter outreach. We printed and laminated the “Why Vote?” Tool for our 16 field organizers to have on their clipboards in the field, and it was adapted as a way to start conversations with folks about why (or why not) voting is important to them and their communities. The clear layout of the tool made it easy to have these nonpartisan conversations, and the icons and visuals made language barriers much easier to overcome.
The “Why Vote?” Tool gave our organizers a way to engage more deeply with communities about voting and civic engagement, bringing a deeper understanding of the barriers that folks from marginalized communities often face when voting. The “Why Vote?” Tool also helped make connections for voters about what exactly is at stake in our elections, creating an opportunity for dialogue and education surrounding the importance of civic engagement. Lastly, we were able to use the tool’s question, “What questions do you have about being able to vote in the next election?” as a way to gather input from participants across Colorado to better inform our get-out-the-vote outreach strategies and materials.
Our partner, Nonprofit VOTE introduced us to the RQI tool. We were grateful for the opportunity to learn about and use this tool, as it aligns with our goal of registering new voters and authentically engaging people to draw connections for themselves about the importance of civic engagement. This is core to our work and has been for the last 10 years. This was the perfect tool to prompt those conversations and provide a visual resource for folks we engaged. We look forward to continuing to integrate the “Why Vote?” Tool into our program in future years and finding new ways to utilize it in group settings once it is safe to resume in-person gatherings.
Community Resource Center believes in the power of the nonprofit sector to affect change and support thriving communities. We build the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities through leadership development, education, and resource programs to create stronger and more sustainable organizations that are better able to meet their missions and achieve community impact. We provide opportunities, tools and strategies to develop nonprofits and community groups to strengthen Colorado.