By Yezdyar S. Kaoosji
As Americans, we pride ourselves at being the greatest democracy in the world, yet our voting habits leave much to be desired. Not all eligible citizens are registered to vote. Those among us who have registered to vote often fail to turn up at the polling places or neglect to vote by absentee ballot. The oft-repeated excuse for not voting is that politics is a turn-off and that voting does not make a difference.
The Vote With Your Mission campaign believes that by not participating in elections we abdicate our right to express our choices and opinions. By focusing attention on California’s nonprofit sector, we believe we can successfully challenge such excuses and enhance voter registration and participation in the democratic process. More than 13 million professionals and 61 million volunteers work for nonprofit organizations in the United States. The sector generated $1.5 trillion in revenues in 2009 and makes a significant impact on the nation’s economy (The Nonprofit Quarterly 2011).
Vote With Your Mission aims to galvanize the power of the nonprofit community and emphasize the importance of voting for the ideals and values that have brought each of us, whether professional or volunteer, to our nonprofit community benefit work. Too often, nonprofits hesitate or are afraid to join anything that is “political.” However, we have a duty—and indeed—a right to be heard. Encouraging our volunteers and staff to vote is a first step toward this important goal of citizen mobilization and participation in the political process. It is time to position the nonprofit sector as a significant segment of the voting public.
The California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits) designed Vote With Your Mission to encourage volunteers and professionals to match their voting to the ideals and values that brought them into the nonprofit sector. The campaign wants to ensure that 100% of the eligible nonprofit board members, volunteers and staff register and vote regularly in every election, local, state or national.
The campaign was launched on May 1, 2012, with more than 40 participating organizations from across the state. It is our hope that every nonprofit and community benefit organization in the state will join the growing list of California nonprofits (71 at press time) that have already signed on to Vote With Your Mission.
Signing on is simple: Nonprofits join by pledging to 1) ask all board members, volunteers, staff and constituents to vote in all elections, and 2) provide nonpartisan voter registration materials onsite. That’s it! An organization can make a greater commitment by signing up as a co-sponsor by inviting 15 other nonprofits to join the campaign.
For more information, visit the campaign Web site at www.votewithyourmission.org. Legal counsel has vetted the campaign and prepared a set of FAQs. These are on the Web site. The campaign coordinator, Leslie Hatamiya, is also happy to answer any questions or concerns (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you are a board member, a volunteer or professional staff, please take a lead to introduce Vote With Your Mission to your organization and use the resources provided to ensure your vote as a citizen and as a participant of a nonprofit organization is counted.
What does it mean to sign on to Vote With Your Mission?
When signing up to participate in Vote With Your Mission, a nonprofit agrees to do two or more of the following:
- Ask all staff, board members, volunteers and constituents to vote.
- Adopt the slogan, Vote With Your Mission, with the tagline, “Nonprofits are led by ideals and values for changing the world. Vote with the ideals and values that lead you.”
- Provide onsite nonpartisan voter registration materials for staff, board members, volunteers and constituents.
- Add to the organization’s list of responsibilities for its board of directors, “Voting in every election while you are on the board.”
- Allow up to two hours of paid staff time to vote on Election Day (a California law). For non-voters, the time can be used to help co-workers or neighbors.
- Place the Vote With Your Mission poster in your lobby, on your door or window, in your clinic, in your newsletter and elsewhere, or create your own poster by using the logo provided on the Web site www.VoteWithYourMission.org.
Yezdyar S. Kaoosji is a Board member of CalNonprofits. Based in Fresno, he consults with community benefit organizations and trains corporate and citizen volunteers to become effective nonprofit board members. Contact him at email@example.com.