This week’s Election Day was a municipal election cycle where citizens elected local officials such as mayors, city council members, school board members, judges, and township trustees. While there were some statewide and congressional races, the majority of those races happen in even years, such as next year’s 2022 mid-term elections.
Voter turnout is a major factor in all elections, especially municipal elections. According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, 201,428 out of 865,220 eligible voters (23%) voted in this week’s General Election.
To have only one-quarter of the electorate making local decisions is significant. By comparison, the state of Ohio had a record-setting 74% turnout for the 2020 presidential election.
From government funding to policies that impact constituents served, local politics has a significant impact on the work of nonprofits. As a result, it is critical for nonprofits to advocate for their missions with local elected officials.
The following guide can assist nonprofits in engaging locally:
- Promote voter registration efforts. Civic organizations often need partners to assist with voter registration drives, which could be done at your location. Voter registration is not a political activity because there is no candidate or issue endorsement, rather, it is a public service for your constituents.
- Allow employees to take time off work to vote or to serve as poll workers on Election Day. Consider adding Election Day to your PTO policy so that your employees are encouraged to engage in the election process.
- Support employees who run for office. Many positions are part time, which means government relies on an active citizenry. School boards are the most well-known part-time roles and were some of the most newsworthy races this year.
- Encourage employees to serve on boards or commissions. Local government has numerous roles such as planning commissions, architectural review boards, boards of zoning appeals, parks districts, and many more entities that require the volunteer service of its residents.
- Actively engage those within appointed seats on your governing board. Elected officials often have requirements for board placements at certain agencies, especially if those agencies receive significant public funding. If your organization is one where local government has the power to appoint members on your board, then proactively make your needs known, such as the profile you are seeking or board expectations. Also, be certain to have a robust onboarding process to support those appointees in their service to your mission.
- Add government relations to a position’s job description. Whether it is the chief executive or another member of your leadership team, someone needs to be accountable for engaging with elected officials, for understanding what funding and/or policy debates may affect your organization, and for communicating your organization’s impact in briefings and in public meetings.
Your nonprofit’s mission is critical to meeting the needs of the community, and your organization’s engagement with local elected officials is fundamental to our democracy. When you engage and serve, you offer a unique voice and perspective that adds to representation and informs decisions.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO