Going Face-To-Face, Not Online Got More People Out To Vote

When nonprofits offer their clients nonpartisan voting opportunities, their clients are three percentage points more likely to vote than demographically comparable populations who don’t interact with nonprofits, according to data in the Nonprofit Power Report, a new study from Nonprofit VOTE. 

That might seem like a small percentage, but given the pilot nature of the engagement program, as well as the narrow spread of key elections, it could prove to be critical in upcoming contests.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based voter participation organization based its findings on actions by 180 nonprofits in seven states – Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – that targeted underrepresented groups. Within the nonprofit client community, voters were more than twice as likely to be people of color or have annual incomes less than $30,000, and 1.6 times as likely to be between the ages of 18 and 24.

“We’ve always believed that our democracy works best when more people vote. And we know that nonprofits -- from food pantries to health centers -- can be at the forefront of ensuring the communities they serve are part of the democratic process,” Nonprofit VOTE Executive Director Brian Miller said via a statement.

The efforts to stimulate voting participation during 2020 went especially well when nonprofit staff members used face-to-face engagement tactics as opposed to various online channels. Voters who were engaged in-person were 70% more likely to have incomes less than $30,000 than those reached digitally. They were also 40% more likely to be voters of color.

Organization type played a role in program efficacy as well: nonprofits falling under the client advocacy category saw a six-point lift in voter participation and those described as education nonprofits generated a five-point lift.

These participation lift trends held among voter demographic groups. Hispanic voters engaged by nonprofits saw their turnout rates rise from 61% to 66%, Asian-American voter participation increased from 74% to 80%, young voter participation jumped from 58% to 63% and low-income voter participation increased from 51% to 58%.

The trends were even more pronounced among these demographic groups when other factors were included in calculations. Low-propensity Black voters engaged by nonprofits were 11 points more likely to vote than low-propensity Black voters that hadn’t been similarly engaged. Trends among low-income Hispanic voters followed that level, with ten percentage points more of these voters who had interacted with nonprofit participation programs voting, and there was a seven-percentage-point increase among non-college educated Asian voters. Among Black and Hispanic voters, the increases helped narrow the gap between voters of color and White voters with similar demographic characteristics.

The nonprofits participating in the 2020 outreach program engaged with 70,000 potential voters. Among these, the program generated more than 9,600 voter registrations and in excess of 30,000 voters received get out the vote and other election reminders. Thirty-six percent of those engaged hadn’t voted in either 2016 or 2018 elections.

Slides detailing the findings, methodology and other elements of interest are available here: https://www.nonprofitvote.org/nonprofit-power-report/