VOTE! More specifically, #914NonProfitsVote! Voting has been promoted as a good thing for as long as I can remember. Whether it was to exercise my right as an American citizen or to stand and take action for what I believed in, I felt it was my moral duty to get out and go vote…every four years.
I was not always engaged in local or county elections until I moved to New York three years ago. Although I “knew” that it was important to vote, for a long time I did not know how MY vote mattered. I feel like a sentiment exists around voting that makes it seem as if an individual vote can only go so far, and then factor in local and county elections in comparison to presidential elections. Presidential elections bring so much hype and awareness on a macro scale, that it can make local and county elections feel like less of a force under a big national shadow.
Making Voting a Priority for Myself
As the Program and Policy Associate at WCA (and Westchester County resident), I understand why it is important to vote this election year, and how it relates to the bigger picture in the work that I do. It is in our mission is to keep Westchester’s children at the top of the public agenda, so it directly correlates with electoral advocacy. Working at a nonprofit with a mission focused in advocacy makes electoral advocacy a part of my day-to-day work. I now reflect on my times before WCA, as a member of the nonprofit sector for over 6 years, my thoughts on electoral advocacy were not as strong as they are now. When I worked in direct service, voting in local and/or county elections was not a priority AT ALL. In fact, it was rarely a conversation because our focus was on the direct work with clients. There was little to no priority on voting within my workplace so I had to make it a priority for myself. It made me wonder if this is a common thread within other nonprofits, and if so, how can organization employees become active participants in electoral advocacy?
A Force to be Reckoned With
Luckily, Westchester County is in good hands because we have joined Nonprofit Westchester’s alliance to help increase voter engagement efforts in nonprofits throughout the county. This includes a non-partisan voter engagement training to nonprofit staff to learn the basics of 501(c)3 electoral advocacy guidelines and voter registration. I could go on about why it is important for those in the nonprofit sector to vote, but to keep it simple I will list the reasons that resonated with me for this election year. The populations directly served by nonprofits are ultimately affected by the decisions elected officials make. If that is not a reason to vote, imagine how those decisions directly affect nonprofit employees’ jobs and personal lives. There is also major power that exists with numbers as a sector. According to Nonprofit Westchester, the nonprofit sector makes up the largest portion of Westchester’s workforce at 13.6%. Imagine if there was great voter turnout from each nonprofit organization in the county. Now that is a force to be reckoned with!
The benefits of nonprofits actively participating in electoral advocacy comes full circle. Whether it is looking at the impact on the populations served, the employees, the organization, or the sector as a whole, there are many ways an individual can find a personal connection to voting in this year’s election. It may take some time and effort, but it is well worth it! Every voter should be an educated voter, stay tuned for our release of the 2017 Candidate Survey responses in October! Below are some links that further explain the importance of voting in general and the nonprofit sector’s impact on Westchester County. There is also an article that speaks to young voters on why their vote is needed more than ever. What I am trying to say to my nonprofit friends out there is get out and VOTE!
For me, voting is a sacred civic duty. Having the privilege of living in a democracy, I believe that failing to use my right to vote is like repudiating that privilege and the idea of democracy itself.