NDRN Commits to a Fair and Accurate Census in Census Counts Coalitions

March 19, 2020
NDRN Commits to a Fair and Accurate Census in Census Counts Coalitions

NDRN is working alongside Census Counts Campaign, a diverse, nationwide coalition, to ensure that the census is fair and accurate for everyone living in the United States. Census Counts, a collaborative campaign led by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, mobilizes participation at the state and national levels to guarantee we count everyone in the 2020 Census, especially those communities that are hardest to count. The campaign works to educate stakeholders and the public about the importance of a fair and accurate census to our communities, families, and children—and to make sure that the Census has the money and leadership to do the job right.  We are working together to make sure that the 2020 Census is fair and accurate—and to prevent people from being missed in the 2020 Census—so that communities do not miss out on the political power they deserve and the resources they need.

Members of the Census Counts Campaign have together produced a Get out the Count toolkit to provide community-based organizations, public officials and other key stakeholders with information on the importance of the 2020 Census and tools to help ensure the 2020 Census is fair and accurate. Community-based organizations play an invaluable role in educating, mobilizing, and assisting people to participate in the census. In addition, new technology creates an opportunity to deploy new technologies and strategies.

This toolkit provides you with information, ideas, and strategies you can use to partner effectively with local public officials, community leaders, and other organizations to get out the word.

Access the toolkit below, or get the full Get Out the Count toolkit at censuscounts.org.

Background

The Importance of the 2020 Census

The census—a once-every-ten-years head count of every person living in the United States—is as old as the nation itself. It is required by our Constitution and is the basis for fairly allocating political power among the states and within each state. It has been estimated that 16 states will see a shift in reapportionment (losing or gaining seats in Congress) as a result of the 2020 Census.

In addition, census figures are used to determine where hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money—and billions more in state and private sector funds—are spent every year on infrastructure, health care, schools, factories, stores, and more.

Every state and every community has a stake in making sure that everyone is counted. Communities that are undercounted could lose political influence as well as resources that contribute to individual well-being and thriving communities, like health clinics and public transportation options.

The census is a huge and complex undertaking. Historically, some communities that the Census Bureau defines as “harder to count” have been at greater risk of being missed in the census. These include young children, renters, people living in poverty, people of color, and people with limited proficiency in English.

Vulnerable people and communities are most at risk of being harmed if they are missed in the census, which is why the Census Bureau works with community partner organizations to support outreach campaigns that educate people about why it is important to be counted, encourage them to get counted by completing a census form, and provide assistance in responding to those who might need it.

Getting a fair and accurate count in the 2020 Census should be a shared, nonpartisan national priority. But the 2020 Census has already faced significant challenges, including underfunding that forced the cancellation of some field tests and controversy over the Trump administration’s misguided attempt to force a citizenship question onto the questionnaire at the last minute, without the ability to test its potential impact on response rates. Fortunately, the citizenship issue has been resolved by the Supreme Court and respondents will not be asked to identify the citizenship status of people in their household, but confusion and concern generated by the public controversy could still discourage some people from participating.

Get Out the Count Outreach and Best Practices

Five Important Best Practices for Any Get Out the Count Campaign

  1. Recruit trusted messengers. A get out the count (GOTC) campaign is a persuasion effort, designed to convince people to participate in the census and encourage others to do the same. That requires trusted messengers who are considered safe and credible by the people they are engaging. If you are mobilizing to encourage participation by members of a community that has been historically missed in the census, your messengers should come from that community. These messengers are essential to having the information you share heard and accepted, and they can help dispel fears or disinformation that might prevent a successful count.
  2. Utilize digital tools and tested messages. Utilize digital tools and tested messages to reach undercounted communities. The messaging and media outreach section of this toolkit includes broad and community-specific messaging research; the section on digital tools can help you make the most of social media and other online opportunities; and the section on field outreach can help you plan your grassroots outreach plans.
  3. Identify your targets. Use tools like the CUNY hard-to-count map to identify where households most at risk for being missed in the 2020 Census are located. Note that your targets will expand from existing get-out-the-vote (GOTV) or issue-based efforts. This toolkit can help you identify additional data sources for phone and canvass targeting. Census outreach is a great way to engage members of your community who might not normally receive any outreach—like a knock on their door—inviting them to participate in our democracy.
  4. Create an integration plan for GOTC with other civic participation activities. Get out the count (GOTC) outreach activities can be incorporated into other nonpartisan civic participation outreach, like voter registration activities. Stakeholders should be careful to educate community members on the different eligibility requirements for voting and census participation: the census invites everyone in the United States to participate, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, while voting has stricter eligibility requirements, such as age and citizenship. Under no circumstances should census outreach efforts be combined with partisan GOTV outreach. However, it is important to note that many organizations will be planning separate efforts encouraging participation in the 2020 election; consider both census and electoral timelines in your planning. Please see the legal guidance section for guidance on the legal guidelines for this outreach and GOTC field guidance for additional best practices.
  5. Train the Trainers. Support your network by enhancing the number of census experts in your community. Do this by participating in “train the trainer” activities that are planned ahead of the 2020 Census. Many of the authors of this toolkit and other census hub organizations will be providing “train the trainer” programs. The purpose of these trainings is to pass along education and advocacy tools for census organizers, from grassroots to volunteers, so that everyone can help support the census.

Building a GOTC Plan

A GOTC plan for your state or community should include:

  • Background:
  • Audience Targets:
    • Identify who you are trying to influence with your outreach plan.
    • Include information about the specific hard-to-count (HTC) communities being targeted by your campaign
  •  Coalition:
    • An overview of the coalition: Consider doing a power-mapping exercise. Are stakeholders reaching the defined audience? Are there gaps?
  • Goals and strategic objectives for your GOTC plan:
    • Try to build SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound) goals into your plan.
    • Build in time to review your goals and objectives as you move through the plan.
    • Develop tactics for outreach during the 2020 Census.
  • Plans for monitoring and measuring your GOTC efforts in real time:
    • The CUNY Hard-to-Count map will provide regular updates on self-response rates. For more information on how to track the census count in real time, see the Census Counts webinar: “How to Monitor the Count in Real Time” (Recording + slide deck).

Timeline

Stakeholders will need to adjust outreach strategies and tactics at different points during the 2020 Census. See the census milestones document for a full timeline. Below are some key milestones and suggested tactics by phase. Stakeholders should customize based on the needs for their community.

  • January through March—Education and Awareness:
    • Census Bureau ad campaign goes live.
    • Census Bureau begins enumeration in Remote Alaska in January 21.
    • Stakeholders educate communities about the census and how they will be invited to respond (educational events, town halls, census awareness promotional content focusing on hard-to-count neighborhoods). Events will include a focus on encouraging eligible households to respond during the self-response period.
    • Stakeholders deploy and educate communities about their GOTC plan (e.g., where census kiosks will be, how you are supporting communities, and what they can expect from you).
    • Stakeholder groups will have “census weeks of action” for specific communities (calendar forthcoming).
  • Mid-March through April 30: Self-Response Operation: (*PEAK CENSUS OUTREACH EFFORTS*)
    • Census Bureau ad campaign drives a “respond-to-the-census” message.
    • Census Bureau mails or hand-delivers census materials to almost all households, which will have an opportunity to respond online, by telephone, or using a paper questionnaire. (See the operations section of this toolkit for more information.)
    • April 1, 2020 is Census Day—a reference date for the enumeration.
    • Census Bureau enumerates group living facilities and transitory locations.
    • Stakeholder groups will be focusing on inviting hard-to-count neighborhoods and historically missed groups to self-respond.
    • Stakeholder groups may be going door-to-door in your community.
    • The Census Bureau’s ROAM map and the CUNY hard-to-count map will display daily self-response rates by census tract.
    • Stakeholders may provide devices or internet access to support people filling out their census questionnaire.
  • Mid-May through July: Nonresponse Follow-Up (NRFU)/Census enumerators go door-to-door:
    • Census Bureau ad campaign drives “reminder, return your form” message
    • Census Bureau enumerators going door to door.
    • The Census Counts campaign does not encourage stakeholder groups to canvass door-to-door during the NRFU phase, so as not to interfere with on-the-ground efforts of Census Bureau enumerators or create confusion among households.
    • “Reminder” outreach to key hard-to-count neighborhoods.
    • Census education about what enumerators look like and why they are going door-to-door.

Example of GOTC plan:

In Pennsylvania, the Keystone Counts coalition, which is focused on getting a complete count in the 2020 Census, is being staffed by the Pennsylvania Voice table, an existing network of service providers, membership, community, and grassroots organizations, and policy, advocacy, and legal partners. Here’s how their GOTC plan describes the stakes and identifies its specific HTC targets:

The Pennsylvania Voice partnership identified the 2020 Census count as a key priority because of the significant and far-reaching consequences the census would have for communities of color, immigrants, and other communities it serves—for an entire decade. In order to prioritize our outreach and engagement work across the Commonwealth, we looked at the areas of the state that experienced undercounting in the 2010 Census, along with demographic growth since 2010 in the at-risk populations of people of color, immigrants, and children under 18. Using Census Bureau data, we identified 24 priority counties across the Commonwealth that are most at risk of an undercount, and created tiers by severity of risk:

Priority Counites and at risk households An image of counties in Pennsylvania marked as priority counties for Census 2020.

Some coalition partners will have more expertise and capacity to mobilize for different aspects of a field plan; those with more expertise and capacity can train others to organize or participate in different aspects of a field plan: event canvassing, door-knocking, relational organizing, phone-banking, mailers, and text-banking. Other coalition partners may be able to support social media, communications, and language assistance.

The Keystone Counts campaign has identified 1.2 million households least likely to respond to the census and is planning to reach these households through at least one of these methods of engagement.

In Language Support and Training

An estimated 25.9 million people, or nearly 1 in 12 U.S. residents, had limited English proficiency in 2015. Many hard-to-count communities face language access barriers that could discourage or complicate participation in the census. The Census Bureau is providing English and Spanish bilingual forms to a subset of households. In addition, full questionnaire assistance in 12 non-English languages is available online and by phone. The Census Bureau will provide resource guides and glossaries for 59 non-English languages. (See the Census Bureau’s language support plan for details on language availability.)

The Census Bureau language plan does not include all languages that may be spoken in the community you are trying to reach. That is why several advocacy organizations are translating census information into many of the languages not covered under the Census Bureau plan. (See AAJC/ NCAI…, etc.) Census Counts partners have already prepared census materials in multiple languages that you might be able to use. To learn more, visit the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance website.

As much as possible, your organization should provide written, visual, and verbal materials in multiple languages that are appropriate for the needs of people in your community. If necessary, work with a translation service and review the materials with community members to ensure that the translated terminology aligns with local vernacular and avoids unfamiliar phrasing. Use plain language as much as possible, but avoid oversimplification that would flatten nuances from the original English materials.

How to organize an event

One way to raise awareness or build energy and enthusiasm for your campaign is to organize a town meeting, panel discussion, or more informal event like a block party that you can use to share information with people and sign them up to take part in other activities.

Tips for organizing an event:

  • Know the Ground Rules: If you are going to hold an event in a public space, determine what kind of permits you might need, how far in advance you need to reserve space, and other requirements for setting up tables or a tent on public space.
  • Be Accessible: Identify a location that is convenient for people you are trying to reach and is accessible for people with disabilities. Consider whether the location feels like neutral or common ground rather than being associated closely with one leader or group.
  • Be Creative: Create engaging visuals, such as banners, signs, and recognizable T-shirts for your volunteers.
  • Be Informative: Prepare fact sheets, flyers, palm cards, and postcards.
  • Be Engaging: Offer candy, stickers, or other small giveaways to draw people to your table.
  • Ask everyone who comes to your event to share their contact information (with appropriate privacy safeguards). Give everyone something simple to do before they leave the meeting, such as signing a petition, postcard, or pledge, or volunteering to distribute information.
  • Budget: An event doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to produce, especially if you have access to rent-free space and equipment. But producing an event will take some resources. Plan for the cost of space, food, materials, promotion, sound system, staff time, and parking.
  • Media and Communications: Consider inviting the media to cover your event by sending out a media advisory ahead of the event or a press release after the event.

For more tips on successful organizing, see the Leadership Conference Education Fund’s Grassroots Toolkit.

Working in Coalition

A coalition is a group of organizations that agree to work together toward a shared goal. Many states have active coalitions preparing and implementing plans to ensure a complete count. National and state organizations have joined efforts to create the States Count Action Network. This large coalition represents smaller state coalitions, organizations, and local complete count committees dedicated to ensuring their communities are counted in the 2020 Census.

Sample Coalition Strcture. A diagram of how to structure a coalition including media, grassroots, research and fundraising task forces.

Find active census GOTC coalitions in your state by clicking on the state by state map. The Census Bureau has created an online map of Complete Count Committees (CCC). If there’s not an active GOTC coalition or CCC in your community, organize one!

How to Organize a Coalition

Identify potential coalition partners by making a list of organizations whose missions are aligned with the goals of your campaign. When it comes to the census, think broadly, because every organization that is working to benefit your community or specific constituencies in your community has a lot at stake in ensuring an accurate count. GOTC coalitions can include agencies that provide direct services, school boards and teacher organizations, business groups, community foundations, and more.

Start by reaching out to people you know personally; once you’ve enlisted their support, ask them to suggest other participants. Approach potential partners with a short written description of the coalition’s goals and objectives.

Give people different ways to be involved; if they can’t serve on the steering committee, perhaps they can name a staff liaison to the campaign. If they can’t commit to long-term participation, maybe they can co-sponsor a single public event. Some organizations may have to follow a formal process before signing on. These are opportunities to make new allies and sharpen your ability to make a compelling case for your campaign.

Your coalition may need some structure to keep things moving forward. You may have a small steering committee or working group that can make decisions as needed. But be sure that all your partners understand the decision-making process and have an opportunity for input. You may want to have specific working groups or committees to take on specific assignments and tasks, such as media outreach or event organizing.

Potential Impact of Citizenship Question Controversy

The 2020 Census will not include a citizenship question. However, people in immigrant households and communities may have heard about the Trump administration’s attempts to include a question about citizenship and legal status on the 2020 Census at the last minute. That effort was opposed by members of the Census Counts coalition and other groups who believed that such a question, especially in a climate of hostility toward immigrants, could discourage participation.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court stopped the Secretary of Commerce (who oversees the Census Bureau) from moving forward with the citizenship question, finding that the administration’s justification for asking the question was not credible.

This was a major victory, but some advocates worry that the controversy has already harmed the credibility of the 2020 Census, particularly in Latino, Asian, and other immigrant communities. The NALEO Education Fund’s ¡Hágase Contar! (Make Yourself Count!) Campaign is operating a toll-free bilingual hotline 877-EL-CENSO (877-352-3676) as part of its national effort to overcome the effort to suppress the count of Latinos.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Cybersecurity Best Practices For Organizations with Census Kiosks

The 2020 Census will be the first high-tech census and will be the first time there will be a widely available option to respond online (households will also be able to participate in the 2020 Census by phone or using the paper form). Stakeholders can feel confident that the Census Bureau is implementing the most up-to-date safeguards to protect households’ responses. But, for organizations setting up census kiosks, there are also steps you can take to increase your own cybersecurity before you respond. This guide is designed to help stakeholders, households, and individuals take steps to protect themselves and their communities when completing the census form—and whenever they go online.

The following four sections offer some background and recommendations for increasing your cybersecurity. Section 1 reviews general hardware security. Section 2 reviews Wi-Fi security while taking a high-level look at the differences between private and public networks. Sections 3 and 4 review browser security and general information about phishing, respectively.

Personal Cybersecurity Practices

Section 1: Hardware Security

Hardware refers to the physical elements of technology—your cell phone, laptop, monitor, mouse, keyboard, and the electronic chips inside the devices you use. Software refers to the computer programs that run on your devices and that you interact with when you use technology (you wouldn’t just want to stare at a blank screen all day!). Firmware is a specialized bit of software that helps your device carry out a specific purpose.

Hardware works along with firmware and software to run your devices, and it’s important to make sure that the firmware and hardware are running well and up to date so that the software can function well and securely.

Use two-factor authentication on devices. Authentication is the act of securing hardware and systems from unintended users. Common authentication practices use passwords, fingerprint scans, face recognition, and external USB keys. Two-factor authentication means requiring two different kinds of authentication for a use to be granted access into the system. For example, you might set up your email system to require both a password and a verification code sent to your cell phone. Two-factor authentication makes it harder for malicious actors to access your devices.

Use hardware that is currently supported by the manufacturer. Older devices become less secure when they are no longer “supported” by manufacturers—which means that users are no longer provided with system updates and patches that respond to newer security threats. Devices that are less than four to five years old are usually still supported, but you can check with your manufacturer to be sure. For example, this link provides a chart by Statista that shows how long Apple has supported different models of iPhones.

Install and activate antivirus, malware, and ransomware protections. Most devices come with these protections installed but often users don’t activate them. These services protect devices from all-too-common attacks. Check with the manufacturer (for example, AcerAsusAppleDellHPLenovo, and Microsoft) to see what protections they recommend for your system.

Install any outstanding manufacturer security updates. Make sure to keep security protections up to date. When you are notified about updates, don’t put off installing them! When patches and updates are released, it often means a security “hole” has been identified. This means the period after a new patch is released is a common time to be targeted by malicious actors, because the security hole is common knowledge and bad actors know many users have not yet installed the update.

Replacing/fixing broken devices. Be sure the place you get your phone or computer fixed is a trusted or authorized retailer for your system. Check with the manufacturer (for example, AcerAsusAppleDellHPLenovo, and Microsoft) to find a trusted or authorized retailer to repair your system. Faulty chips or hardware parts can also be used to breach your system.

Never leave hardware unlocked in public places. Don’t leave your devices unlocked in public even for a few minutes.

Do not plug any unknown device into your device. Never plug in an unknown USB flash drive or external phone into to your personal computers to see what’s on it. Avoid using promotional USB flash drives that are distributed at events or by untrusted entities. This is an easy way for malicious code to get on your machine.

Section 2: Wi-Fi Security

Private Wi-Fi Networks

Private Wi-Fi networks, such as home or work networks that are password-protected, are more secure than public, no-password-required networks.

Authentication protocols: When a device identifies a Wi-Fi network, look at the network’s properties to find out what type of security it uses, specifically a version of Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), WPA2, or Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). The most secure and recommended protocol is called WPA2, which addressed a security concern with the older WPA system. WPS is the newest security method but has a major security hole and, even though it is newer, WPA2 is still the recommended protocol.

Wi-Fi Passwords: When setting up a Wi-Fi network, make sure you change the password from the default password, because those defaults are available online.

A strong Wi-Fi password:

  • Has a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Is as long as you can possibly remember. It is recommended to be at least more than 8 characters and ideally more than 12. A long phrase or sentence you can remember, with numbers standing in for some letters, may be a good way to go.

In addition:

  • Change your password regularly. Set a schedule for how often you want to change your organization’s passwords. Changing your organization’s Wi-Fi password in March 2020 is the recommended minimum for the census.
  • Do not reuse passwords. Wi-Fi passwords should not be used for anything else.

Service Set Identifiers: The service set identifier (SSID) is the name you see when connecting to a Wi-Fi network. When setting up a Wi-Fi network, change the default name to make it less likely that someone will connect to it by mistake, or that a malicious actor is able to guess it. Change it to something unique so that nearby users (or yourself) do not get confused on where to connect. For example, if your organization is near others and your network is “workwifi,” some neighbors may use similar names and think your Wi-Fi network is theirs—or vice versa. Your device will try to connect to “workwifi” and if the first one it sees is not password protected it may connect to that essentially public wifi.

Your SSID should also be unique so that hackers won’t be able to spoof or pretend to be your organization’s network. If you leave a device’s Wi-Fi on while out and about, it will look for networks to connect to. If a bad actor spoofs what a generic or out-of-the-box network looks like, they make be able to connect to your device.

Other General Tips for Private Networks: 

  • Enable your firewall.
  • Keep your router’s firmware up to date.
  • Turn off remote administration if you enabled it.
  • Mac addresses can be spoofed and easily obtained if the device has ever connected to a public network. Therefore, it is not enough to tell your network to only allow certain Mac addresses.
Public Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi networks do not require a password. These are often found in places like coffee shops, airports, or public spaces. In general, these networks are not secure and not recommended.

If possible, switch to your data plan and avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. Your cell phone may also have a setting that allows you to use it as a secure Wi-Fi hot spot, which can be a good alternative in public settings.

If you are going to use a public network for completing the census questionnaire—or in general-—here are some security tips:

  • Make sure the open Wi-Fi you are using is being provided by the establishment.  Attackers can set up a public Wi-Fi with an SSID (see above) that seems legitimate to trick people into connecting to them.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if on public Wi-Fi. A VPN creates an encrypted connection on a public network. If you think of public Wi-Fi as a highway, using a VPN creates a tunnel for your data that is protected from the rest of the network. There are many VPN apps available for you to use.
  • Use larger, well-known Wi-Fi networks, such as a large chain, rather than a small establishment’s individual network.
  • Read the terms and conditions when connecting to Wi-Fi. Make sure you know what data and permissions you are allowing the provider to get in exchange for letting you use their networks. Most “free” things are not truly free.
  • Don’t set your devices to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi. When you enable automatic connection your devices broadcast the connections it is looking for, which makes it easier for bad actors to spoof networks to gain access to you.
  • Use all hardware and browser security tips found in this resource.

If your organization is setting up a network to assist your community in responding to the census, use the hardware and browser security tips found in this resource.

Section 3: Browser Security

When going online to use the Census Bureau’s Internet Self Response portal to complete the census questionnaire, please use supported browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome or Firefox. Check to make sure the version you are using is up to date. If you are not sure or if you need to update your browser, you can use the following links:

Internet Explorer:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/internet-explorer.aspx

Safari:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204416

Chrome:

https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95414?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Firefox:

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/update-firefox-latest-release

URL: Know the right URL, or website. Check 2020census.gov for the correct URL to complete your form online. Make sure you are checking the Top Level Domain (TLD) too! Just because the domain is the same (i.e., “censuscounts”), if the Top Level Domain is different, it is a different website! Look for .gov on the URL, it is the only TLD that the Census Bureau will use.

A screenshot of a websitr URL explaining parts of a URL

http vs https: Hypertext transfer protocol is more than just the beginning of a URL. It specifies how the device transfers information. Https stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure and means that data coming and going from the site is encrypted. Even if the data is accessed by a third party they won’t have the key to decrypt it. It is generally good advice to only use websites that are https not http. If you know a site is usually https and you are seeing http, you may be part of a person-in-the-middle attack and should leave the site immediately.

Search Engines and Social Media: Whenever you search for census-related materials on any site (search engine or social media), be sure to notice whether the results you are getting are advertisements. Often the first few items you see are paid ads (see images 1 and 2), and the actual results and websites you are looking for may show up below those ads.

Digital Ads: Before clicking any link from a digital ad, hover your mouse pointer over it to see the URL it links to (shown in the lower left-hand corner of the window). Use the URL information above to determine if that is the correct site you wish to visit.

Screenshot of a Google ad with a yellow circle around it

Example of paid advertisement on Google.

Example of paid advertisement on Google.

Section 4: Phishing Hints

“Phishing” is an act of tricking users to give away their information or create an entrance point for malware. This is done in many different ways:

  1. False emails that ask you to click a link or download something
  2. Fake phone calls asking for information
  3. Attachments that give bad actors access to your data

Bad actors are essentially “fishing” for your data and it’s important to protect yourself when you are online. That’s one reason to be sure you’re at the correct URL. But also be aware of the questions you are being asked. The Census Bureau will not ask for things like Social Security numbers, bank account, or credit card numbers—online or over the phone.

If you encounter a phishing scam, please report it! You can report it to the Census Bureau.

An Accessible GOTC Plan

This guide is designed to help community-based organizations ensure that their census advocacy and outreach campaigns are accessible to everyone.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 56.7 million people with disabilities in the U.S., totaling approximately 19 percent of the U.S. population not living in institutions. Some believe that number is closer to 25 percent—one in four Americans. Nearly 20 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. live in neighborhoods that are considered hard to count (HTC) by the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau has stated that the 2020 Census will be fully accessible to everyone. The Bureau has stated that it will be conducting checks to ensure that all of its electronic and information technology systems comply with the law, including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. There will be an American Sign Language video guide available to help people who choose to respond online. In addition, Braille and large-print guides will be available to assist with self-response by mail. The Census Bureau’s telephone contact centers will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology at 844-467-2020 to conduct interviews and answer questions by phone. For more information about filling out the census questionnaire, please go to the “Assistance with filling out the form” section of this Toolkit.

Include Everyone, Count Everyone

The Census Bureau is making sure the 2020 Census is accessible. It’s up to stakeholders to make outreach efforts and materials are fully accessible as well.

For example, consider whether a 2020 Census event is being held at an accessible location or whether it will be inaccessible to those with mobility issues. Ensure 2020 Census handouts be available in accessible formats (for example, large font, Braille) and be accessible to people who are visually impaired. Do not use language that assumes someone with a developmental disability cannot complete the questionnaire without someone else completing it for them.

Physical Accessibility

Be sure to host any 2020 Census event at an accessible location. If parking is provided, wheelchair-accessible parking should be available with an accessible entrance to the facility (for example, if there are stairs to the entrance be sure ramps or lifts are available). Within the facility, be sure to have an accessible room and an accessible path to the room, along with accessible microphone stands or microphones that participants can use.

Auditory Accessibility

When hosting 2020 Census events, use microphones when speaking, and ask participants to do the same. Face participants when speaking, so people who read lips can understand you. If an individual uses an interpreter, speak clearly and provide time for the interpreter to sign, and don’t forget that when conversing with someone who uses an interpreter, speak directly to the person, not to the interpreter. Also consider hiring an interpreter to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees can fully participate.

Videos

All 2020 Census outreach videos should have captions in order to be accessible. There are several ways to provide captions, including open captions, those that are burned in or embedded onto the video itself, accessible transcripts of the videos, or even simple YouTube captions, but make sure they have been edited for accuracy first. If you want to learn more about how to caption videos, check out the Rooted in Rights video “Captions in a Couple Minutes” here.

Visual Accessibility

Stakeholders might want to share documents with people to encourage them to participate in the 2020 Census. These documents should be available in various accessible formats, such as standard size font (12 point), large size font (18 point), Braille, and perhaps even electronic versions for people who use screen readers. Consider having flash drives available for anyone who might need an electronic copy or offer to email them a copy directly. You should use a sans serif font, such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Verbena. Please note that Times New Roman is not an accessible font.

Word and WordPerfect

Most documents created in Word or WordPerfect are accessible to screen readers if they only contain text (that is, no photos, graphs, or clip art). The use of any non-text media in an accessible document makes the document inaccessible. This can be resolved by including a text description to any non-text media (for example, alt text).

PDFs

Documents converted to PDFs are not always accessible. To check whether a PDF is accessible, click on the “Select Text” icon. If you can select the text with your mouse, then the document is accessible. If you are unable to do so, it’s not accessible.

Website Accessibility

Be sure to make any 2020 Census website accessible. People should be able to navigate all your website’s menus and all of its interactive functions without a mouse and be able to use assistive technology such as a screen reader. Create content with clear layouts that make it easy for users to see and hear content. Also be sure the website can be accessed and read with various assistive technology devices that people might use such as screen readers. Try to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

A Word about Language

“People-first” language is generally preferred when talking about disabilities. This approach was developed to prevent people from being described in dehumanizing ways. Examples of “people-first” language include: “an individual with a disability,” “a person who has a cognitive disability,” “people [living] with mental illness,” and “persons who have a psychiatric disability.” But it’s also good to be aware that there is a growing push among some advocates for “identity-first” language. For example, some believe that “autistic person” better reflects the fact that autism is central to a person’s identity and the way they interact with the world than “a person with autism” does. If you are not sure what term to use, by all means, ASK.

Census Legal Considerations

Legal Considerations for Stakeholders Planning Get Out the Count Activities

NOTE: The below includes guidelines and considerations to think about as you create your get out the count plans. As you develop your plan, you should consult your own counsel and advisors before engaging in any outreach. This section will be updated with additional guidance, as necessary.

During the census, trusted community voices are tasked with having conversations with our most vulnerable populations about the importance of the census. Fears about the confidentiality and safety of the census are nothing new. Historically, some census respondents have feared that their responses might be relayed to housing authorities, landlords, the police, and others. In addition, there are laws guiding census and field outreach that stakeholders will need to keep in mind when planning their outreach.

Census stakeholders have compiled many resources to help educate communities on legal safeguards that are in place to protect the confidentiality of responses. This section will help stakeholders quickly identify topline messages and frequently asked questions about census data confidentiality and guidelines for Get Out the Count activity.

Confidentiality of census data

Census data are protected by the strictest confidentiality protections in federal law. The Census Bureau, the Commerce Department (which houses the Census Bureau), and their employees may not reveal a person’s data gathered through the census to anyone. That means they are prohibited from sharing your data with federal, state, or local government agencies, immigration authorities, law enforcement, or courts of law. Federal law also does not allow your personal census information to be used against you by immigration authorities, a court of law, local housing agencies, any law enforcement agency, or any other government officials, for any reason whatsoever. You are protected from harm or misuse of your personal information in many ways.

Advocates are committed to combat any actions by federal law enforcement agencies that rest on personal data from the census obtained in violation of the law or used to harm respondents in violation of the law.

Government workers who violate these privacy protections can be punished with fines of up to $250,000 and jail terms of up to five years, or both.

For more information about federal laws that protect census confidentiality, see the Brennan Center’s fact sheet. Asian American Advancing Justice (AAJC) and The Leadership Conference wrote a factsheet on confidentiality on the census and Japanese American incarceration.

Quick facts for organizers:

  • No one other than Census Bureau employees, not even officials from tribal, state, or municipal governments, should collect any census response information for the 2020 Census. Only data collected by census takers employed by the Census Bureau are protected under Title 13, U.S. Code. Census Bureau employees take a lifetime oath to ensure that respondent information is used for statistical purposes only and not for any other reason. Census Bureau employees cannot share information with anyone else, including law enforcement—not the FBI, ICE, or even local police and housing authorities.
    • Stakeholders should not attempt to collect 2020 Census data through websites or apps, over the phone, or in person.
    • Stakeholders should not go door-to-door to collect information for later entry on a census form.
    • Stakeholders should not encourage anyone to respond to the census on behalf of a household in which they do not live.
  • Organizations doing educational door-to-door canvassing should be extremely careful to avoid any action that might undermine Title 13 confidentiality protections. This caution also will help protect community-based groups from accusations, spearheaded by foes of an inclusive census, that they are somehow encouraging or facilitating false responses, or otherwise “manipulating” the count.
  • Organizations doing door-to-door canvassing should identify that they are NOT representing and do not work for the U.S. Census Bureau. Not doing so could cause confusion for households that have already responded and households who have not yet responded and must be interviewed by census takers. Additionally, confusion about canvassers can also discourage response by elevating concerns of a potential scam, intrusion, or other unlawful activity. A key component of the Census Bureau’s communications effort is to raise awareness of how to identify an official census taker.
  • Do not send any mailed material that could be confused with an official U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire or reminder, either on the outer envelope or through the contents. The Deceptive Mailing Prevention and Enforcement Act prohibits private entities (nonprofit or for-profit) from using logos, slogans, return addresses, and the like that would reasonably confuse the recipient into thinking it was official federal government mail. If your organization is developing census “pledge cards,” consider adding the disclaimer, “This is not an official mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau, and completion of this pledge does not substitute for participating in the upcoming U.S. Census.” The Census Bureau website includes resources on “avoiding frauds and scams.”
  • Get Out the Count (GOTC) activities can be incorporated into other nonpartisan civic participation outreach, like voter registration outreach. Stakeholders should be careful to educate community members on the different eligibility requirements for voting and census participation; the latter invites everyone in the United States to participate and the former has stricter eligibility requirements, such as citizenship and age. Under no circumstances should 2020 Census outreach efforts be combined with partisan GOTV outreach or activities. Consult with your counsel or relevant vendor to ensure you are complying with federal law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a citizenship question be on the 2020 Census?

No, there is not a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form.

Why did someone receive a form from the U.S. Census Bureau with a citizenship question on it?

The citizenship question will not appear on the 2020 Census form. However, some households may have received a test census form in the summer of 2019 that included a question on citizenship. The test was conducted to gauge the effect on self-response of the proposed citizenship question, which the administration ultimately dropped after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the decision to add it did not follow federal law.

Households also should be aware that a question on citizenship is included in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is sent to a random sample of 1 in 38 households a year on a rolling monthly basis. More information on the American Community Survey is available here.

Are census data protected by law?

All data collected by the Census Bureau (including data collected via administrative records sharing agreements) are strictly confidential under federal law. The Census Bureau is not allowed to release individual data or personal responses to anyone, for any purpose—including to other government agencies or law enforcement. See more information about the federal laws that protect census confidentiality in this fact sheet from the Brennan Center.

It is illegal for the Census Bureau to disclose census responses in ways that would identify an individual or household. Further, the Census Bureau cannot share census responses with other governmental agencies or use respondent data for nonstatistical purposes, such as sharing information for law enforcement or even national security purposes. The law prohibits any government agency, court of law, or other entity from using an individual’s personal information to that person’s “detriment” in any way. It is illegal for anyone to view individual census responses, except for Commerce Department (the bureau’s parent agency) and Census Bureau employees on an “as-needed basis,” who are sworn to secrecy for life and face stiff penalties for violating their confidentiality oaths.

Civil rights groups are monitoring the census process to protect against any efforts by the Trump administration, state governments, or other entities that would violate census confidentiality laws. In the event that any violations are found, census and civil rights advocates will pursue all available legal remedies to protect victims of such actions.

Working with Complete Count Committees

Creating and Working with Complete Count Committees

State and local advocates and community-based organizations can help make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 Census by helping to form Complete Count Commissions and Committees (CCCs), securing funding for CCCs to support outreach efforts, making sure hard-to-count populations are represented on these committees, and providing information to help make CCCs more effective.

What is a Complete Count Commission or Committee (CCC)?

The CCC model was developed by the U.S. Census Bureau to coordinate state and local efforts to get out the count. CCCs can be created by the state or local legislative bodies, by tribes, or by elected leaders at the state, city, or county levels. Nongovernmental CCCs can be set up by community members such as nonprofits, businesses, and foundations.

CCCs can help support get out the count activities by:

  • Researching the most important areas for census outreach;
  • Identifying particular needs and barriers that must be addressed to make sure all children and adults in the community that the CCC covers are counted in the 2020 Census, as well as strategies to address those needs and barriers;
  • Distributing allocated funding to local community groups and trusted partners to support census outreach efforts;
  • Designing systems and activities to facilitate robust census participation; and
  • Creating and implementing messages and tactics for persuading households to fill out the census and to count everyone in their residence; including young children, temporary residents with no permanent address, and other individuals often left off census forms.

Find a CCC in your community

The Census Bureau maintains a map of committees with points of contact. You can add a CCC directly to the map. Your local Census Bureau partnership specialist may be able to connect you to your communities’ CCC. You can find information about your state or local partnership specialist and how to contact them here.

Find out if your state or locality has allocated census funding

The National Conference State Legislatures maintains a list of the states that have allocated funding to support census outreach.

How to Form a Complete Count Committee (CCC)

CCCs can be created by state or local legislative bodies and tribes. Community members such as nonprofits, businesses, and foundations, can create nongovernmental CCCs.

The Census Bureau has produced a guide on Complete Count Committees. Advocates should note that the guide suggests organizing the committee into subcommittees by type of participant, rather than by various hard-to-count groups. When the committee is organized into subcommittees along the lines recommended by the Census Bureau, advocates need to make sure that every subcommittee is educated about the ways to reach all the hard-to-count groups. Many states have developed different structures for their CCCs, so advocates will need to identify how their committee is structured and how they can best ensure that their committee and any subcommittees are considering all hard-to-count groups in their plans.

Committee members can include, but are not limited to: government officials; tribal representatives; representatives from hard-to-count groups; representatives from the early childhood community, K–12 schools and universities; business and regional associations; media; representatives of faith communities; libraries; the extension office; the health department; clinics and hospitals; community organizations; social service providers; nonprofits; and foundations.

Because we know that outreach to historically undercounted communities is most effective when it’s done by people from those communities, CCCs should actively recruit people of color, low-income people, parents of young children, recent immigrants, people with disabilities, and other trusted messengers who can speak directly to the lived experience of people whom the Census Bureau has missed in the past.

How Much Funding Does a Complete Count Committee Need?

The Census Bureau does not provide funding for state or local CCCs and does not provide any advice about how much funding CCCs should have. CCC costs will vary by state or community, since states and communities differ by population size, population diversity, numbers of hard-to-count areas, numbers of people living in hard-to-count areas, and media market costs, among other things.

Factors to consider in developing a CCC budget include:

  • Staffing costs
  • Committee meeting costs
  • Event costs such as press briefings and community briefings
  • State-specific message research. States may want to fund their own message research or may be willing to rely on the message research conducted by the Census Bureau and the research funded by national funders
  • Materials development, printing, and distribution
  • Translation and/or multilingual services both for outreach materials and for support to help fill out the census, particularly for states with large foreign-born populations
  • Media ad buys, including ethnic media and press targeting families with young children
  • Media grants for ongoing coverage and reporting
  • If a state CCC budget, financial support for local government efforts
  • Financial support for community-based organization efforts
  • Costs of setting up internet access sites for populations with little access
  • Costs of using census real-time data on the response rates by neighborhoods, and of providing this information and additional resources to outreach campaigns, to make their efforts more effective. The Census Bureau has confirmed that the 2020 Census website will have a page with real-time response rates by tract level
  • Compensation for the time of committee members from historically undercounted groups that are not participating in the committee as an organizational representative

Tools and resources

The Leadership Conference, the New York Fiscal Policy Institute, the Central University of New York, and State Voices have developed a budgeting tool to estimate community outreach costs. This will help you determine how much money a CCC will need to allocate to community-based groups in addition to the funding needed by the CCC for its statewide work.

The Census Bureau has contacts in all 50 states that are part of the Federal-State Cooperative Program for Local Population Estimates. They may be able to help estimate costs or recommend people who can work with the CCCs. The Census Bureau State Data Center Network (SDCN) is also a good place to get this kind of state-level information.  More information about SDCN members can be found on the Census Bureau website.

How to Work with a Complete Count Committee

Once a state or locality establishes a CCC, the next step is to make sure the committee members understand the specific challenges of reaching all the hard-to-count groups in the community. This can be accomplished by having representatives from these communities on the committee, or by reaching out to these communities to provide technical assistance and information.

Below are some of the activities that advocates should encourage and help Complete Count Committees to do:

  • Make sure counting hard-to-count populations such as young children and specific racial and ethnic groups is a priority. CCCs should develop specific strategies and activities to engage these groups, including a specific strategy for counting young children since families often leave them off the census form.
  • Identify areas in the state or community with high numbers of hard-to-count groups at risk of being missed. The CUNY Hard-to-Count map and the Census Bureau’s ROAM map can help identify hard-to-count neighborhoods.
  • Make sure CCCs use the best messaging resources (see the section in this toolkit on messaging).  Consider deploying earned or paid media campaigns in partnership with key partners.
  • Bring in allies that are trusted by the various hard-to-count populations to work with the CCC. Encourage trusted messengers and key stakeholders that support hard-to-count communities to engage in census outreach by providing resources and grants to local community-based organizations to conduct outreach.

Providing Assistance with the Census Questionnaire

Census stakeholders are encouraging communities to participate in the 2020 Census by returning their census questionnaire during the self-response phase (mid March through the end of April).

The Census Bureau will encourage most people to complete the questionnaire online, by phone, or using a paper form that will be mailed to most households in the fourth mailer. The Census Bureau will offer questionnaire assistance in-person, online, and by phone.

The Census Bureau has announced that it will not establish physical Questionnaire Assistance Centers, which in the 2010 Census counted more people than the population of Vermont. Instead, they will have a mobile response initiative (MRI), which will have Census Bureau staff moving to various locations during GOTC to provide assistance. That decision makes the work of Census Counts partners, especially in historically undercounted communities, even more  important. Community-based organizations (CBOs) should consider working with school boards, libraries, and community centers to create community-run Questionnaire Assistance Centers.

This section discusses the assistance provided by the Census Bureau and also includes information on language assistance resources and hotlines from Census Counts.

Census Bureau Mobile Assistance Teams

The Bureau has announced a Mobile Response Initiative that will include Mobile Assistance Teams.

The Bureau intends to retain 5,000 current staff for this Initiative to avoid the cost of going through another hiring process and retraining on the basics of the census. The staff of the MRI will be “highly mobile” and will attend community events to encourage people to fill out their census form. MRIs will be set up in various locations by April 1, 2020 and will end the first week of August 2020. Each MRI team will support regional work through each ACO.

While the plan for the MRI is still being finalized, CBOs should reach out to the Bureau to provide feedback on how to make these as impactful for historically undercounted  communities as possible. This includes feedback on the areas where the Bureau will have the MRI, how the Bureau will receive input on where to send these units during “get out the count,” and how to work with community partners to shape these plans.

Setting up a Census Kiosk

A census kiosk is any public device that is dedicated temporarily to providing a means for individuals to complete the census online. Kiosks may be desktop computers in a library or tablets set up at the post office, for example. Existing public devices may be converted into kiosks for the duration of the census, or communities can purchase or rent new devices to deploy at strategic locations.

Providing space for people to fill out the form is critical, and a way to provide that support is through providing census kiosks. For information and tips on setting up a census kiosk, check out Next Century Cities kiosk toolkit.

Libraries and Community Resources

Nearly all public libraries provide free public access to computers and the Internet (including Wi-Fi), which residents can use to complete the census online. Library locations are included on the Census 2020 Hard to Count Map. Check local libraries for hours and available resources. For more information about how community leaders can partner with libraries to achieve a complete count, see “Libraries and the 2020 Census: Vital Partners for a Complete Count.”

Some communities are establishing Internet kiosks or purchasing tablet computers for residents to use to complete the census online. Check with your local Complete Count Committee to see if your community plans any such activities. Kiosks may be placed in locations such as libraries, schools, and community centers. Note that the security of devices should be maintained to prevent the interception of census responses (see Cybersecurity Best Practices section for more information).

Language Access FAQ

What Language Assistance is Available Through the Census Bureau?

Phone: Phone support is offered in English and 12 non-English languages: Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. Through a dedicated toll-free Census Bureau phone number for each language, callers can get more information about  the census, ask questions, and complete their census form over the phone.

Online: In 2020, there will be a new option to complete the census form online. While the paper form is available in English and Spanish only, the internet self-response form is available in 12 non-English languages: Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

Language Assistance Resources: The Census Bureau is producing language glossaries, language identification cards, and language guides in 59 non-English languages to help non-English speakers complete their forms.

  • The language glossary contains commonly used census terms that are translated. This will allow for consistent use of terminology that matches what the census uses and minimizes the occasion for when someone needs to translate on the spot.
  • The language identification card is used by field interviewers. If a field interviewer knocks on a door and encounters a non-English speaker, they can show this card displaying a short message in 59 non-English languages. After the resident identifies the language they speak, the field interviewer can take this back to the office to find an interpreter.
  • The language guides, provided in video and print, walk through the online form and paper form. This will be housed on the Census Bureau’s website and will also be printed for Census Bureau partnership events.
  • The Census Questionnaire Assistance (CQA) phone numbers will be available to the public starting March 1, 2020 for assistance during the 2020 Census.

Census Bureau language assistance resources will be available on www.2020census.gov.

What Census Counts Language Assistance Resources are Available for My Community?

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

The Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation’s Count Us In 2020 Campaign has GOTC resources in 15 Asian languages: Chinese – Simplified, Chinese – Traditional, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Nepali, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Empowering Pacific Islander Communities has GOTC resources tailored for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community and translated into 8 languages: Chamorro, Chuukese, Hawaiian, Marshallese, Palauan, Samoan, Tongan, and Vakaviti. Translated factsheets, as well as additional resources for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, can be found at www.CountUsIn2020.org/resources. Call their census hotline at 844-2020-API for support in English and other languages.

Arab Americans and Arabic Speakers

The YallaCountMeIn 2020 Census campaign is creating materials in Arabic language to be shared online. The campaign’s bilingual Arabic and English website at www.YallaCountMeIn.org provides a way for non-proficient English speakers to engage in the campaign and get information that is necessary to encourage them to Get out the Count in 2020.

Latino and Spanish Speakers

The ¡Hágase Contar! Census 2020 Campaign is a national effort led and developed by NALEO Educational Fund. The campaign is focused on regions with significant Hard-To-Count (HTC) Latino and Spanish-speaking communities. Nationally, the ¡Hágase Contar! Census 2020 campaign will provide partners with a number of resources, including:

  • “Train-the-trainer” curriculum & training opportunities;
  • State of the Census 2020 briefings;
  • Campaign material, stakeholder toolkits, and promotional information;
  • Public awareness events and informational panels;
  • Digital and traditional media efforts;
  • Questionnaire Information & Assistance Centers;
  • National bilingual hotline – 877-EL-CENSO (877-352-3676);
  • Bilingual Informational Website: hagasecontar.org

The ¡Házme Contar! Campaign is a sub-campaign of NALEO Educational Fund focused on achieving a full count of very young Latino children (ages 0-5). The ¡Hazme Contar! campaign will include working with local and national partners, educators, school board members, childcare providers, and parent leader groups to ensure they have the tools, bilingual information, and resources needed to inform their community on the importance of counting all children in the household – including young children. The ¡Hazme Contar! campaign will feature a number of resources, including:

  • Comprehensive toolkit, sample curriculum, informational material, template presentation for educators and parents;
  • Template resolutions for school boards;
  • Earned media opportunities and digital media efforts;
  • Bilingual informational landing page: hazmecontar.org

Tribal Languages

National Congress of American Indians’ “Indian Country Counts” campaign has translated resources into many tribal languages. Find more at http://indiancountrycounts.org/.

Alaska Native Languages

Alaska Counts will be providing resources in Alaska Native language. Find more at https://alaskacounts.org/languages/.

Building Partnerships to Get Out the Count

Partnerships

Reaching over 300 million people in more than 100 million households is not something that any one group, agency, organization, or individual can do on their own. No matter how effectively we strategize, no matter how deeply our messages resonate, no matter how many doors we can knock, this is an all-hands-on-deck effort.

One way to leverage our limited resources to reach a larger number of historically undercounted people and households is to work in partnership with other people, organizations, and networks in our community. This section of the toolkit will provide you with the information and tools you need to enter into effective partnerships with:

  • The Census Bureau
  • Businesses
  • State Elected and Appointed Officials
  • Faith Leaders and Organizations
  • Unions
  • Tribal leaders
  • Funders

Each section includes links to more information and resources. For more guidance on building partnerships, contact Meghan Maury at [email protected] or Keshia Morris at [email protected].

The Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is investing significant time and resources in engaging partners to help Get Out the Count. The Bureau’s Partnerships Program has three main components: the National Partnerships Program, Census Open Innovation Labs, and the Community Partnership and Engagement Program. All three programs focus on partnering with organizations and groups that can best reach historically undercounted communities, like very young children, people experiencing homelessness, people of color, and people with disabilities. Each program has also designed strategies to reach LGBTQ people, people in rural areas, renters, veterans, and “young and mobile” populations.

Community Partnership and Engagement Program (CPEP)

What is it?

CPEP works with community partners and grassroots organizations to reach out to historically undercounted groups and engage those people who are not motivated to respond by the national campaign.

What type of work do they do?

CPEP runs 18 distinct programs, but the three you’re most likely to interact with are Complete Count Committees, Partnership Specialists, and the Mobile Response Program.

  • Complete Count Committees are networks of individuals and organizations at the state, local, or regional level, that are tasked with ensuring a complete count in their area.
  • Partnership specialists are tasked with getting community partners and grassroots organizations on board with Get Out the Count work, supporting community GOTC events, and ensuring that partners have the materials they need to engage on the Census.
  • Mobile Questionnaire Assistance (MQA) is a new program the Census Bureau will deploy in 2020. The Census Bureau will deploy Census Response Representatives (CRR) to events serving communities with low self-response rates or areas that have not yet returned their census questionnaires. CRRs will be equipped with a tablet to take responses to the census questionnaire and provide questionnaire assistance. Census Bureau partnership specialists will be identifying the events and partners to deploy Census Bureau staff.

How to get engaged?

If you are not yet connected to a Census Bureau partnership specialist, reach out now. You can find your Census Bureau partnership specialist by contacting your regional office at www.census.gov/about/regions

National Partnerships Program (NPP)

What is it?

The National Partnerships Program enlists and engages national-level organizations and leaders to support the Census and encourage their audiences to respond to the 2020 Census.

What type of work do they do?

NPP staff organized a number of “Census Solutions Workshops” to help groups figure out how best to reach historically undercounted populations. They also attend, make presentations, or exhibit at conferences across the country, and work with national partner organizations to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to Get Out the Count.

Sign up to become a Census Bureau 2020 Census partner here: https://www.census.gov/partners/join.html

Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL)

What is it?

Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL)  works to modernize how the Census Bureau works with partners by bringing digital organizing and creative networks to the virtual table. COIL “leverage(s) the networks, talents, and expertise of companies, organizations, and individuals outside [Census Bureau] walls and encourage(s) disparate groups to innovate together.”

What type of work do they do?

COIL manages four major initiatives, “Census Accelerate,” “The Opportunity Project,” “Human-Centered Design Training,” and the “Civic Digital Fellowship.”

Census Accelerate create-a-thon events pair creative professionals with organizations leading Census outreach efforts in historically undercounted communities to create census outreach materials. Find a calendar of upcoming create-a-thon events, gallery of census content, and toolkit to plan your own create-a-thon event at creativesforthecount.org.

The Opportunity Project brought together tech industry partners with community members to solve challenges related to the 2020 Census in a 2020 Census sprint. The challenge was to bridge the digital divide, increase digital literacy, promote 2020 Census jobs, and reached hard-to-count communities. Find out more about the sprint and the products created at opportunity.census.gov/sprints.

Mobilizing the Faith Community to Be Counted

Faith leaders are among the most trusted messengers in many of our communities and are positioned to play a key role in ensuring that everyone is counted in the 2020 Census. People of faith believe in the divinely given dignity of every person: everyone counts in the eyes of God and so they should count in the eyes of our government. When we answer the Census and encourage our neighbors to do so too, we declare that we are part of “We the people…” and refuse to be excluded from the critical funding and political representation all people deserve.

Check out Faith in Public Life’s toolkit: Mobilizing Faith Communities to Be Counted for resources, faith talking points, FAQs, and opportunities to get your faith-based network involved. This toolkit is intended to be shared broadly with faith leaders. Here are highlighted ways to you can activate your networks to join in:

  • Join the Faith Council. Faith-based organizations working to inform their network about the 2020 Census are invited to join the Faith Council to engage in coordinated, strategic outreach. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.
  • Recruit Faith Census Ambassadors to join Faith in Public Life’s network of faith leaders working to get out the count in their communities. FPL works directly with ambassadors to equip them with ideas and information to help their congregations get counted.
  • Census Sabbaths: Encourage your network to integrate the Census into worship through preaching on the importance of being counted and what’s at stake for your community.
  • Distribute flyers and bulletin inserts (English, Spanish) so your network can raise awareness about the 2020 Census.
  • Share Census 101 presentation as a tool for faith leaders to inform their community about the importance of the census and details about how to be counted.

For more information, contact Faith in Public Life at [email protected] or visit www.faithinpubliclife.org/census.

Businesses

Business can play a critical role in helping to achieve a robust 2020 Census, and businesses should have a vested interest in a strong count. This document can help you engage in partnerships with businesses in your area.

What’s in it for them?

Let’s say there’s a local business in your area that you know would be a great partner on Census outreach, but they don’t fully grasp the importance of the census for their company. Try out these reasons for why they should get engaged:

  • For most companies, data from the Census serves as the foundation for data-driven business decision-making.
    • The Census provides businesses with crucial demographic information about their customers, the workforce, and the economic landscape.
    • While companies may rely on private, commercial databases to make strategic decisions, those databases rely on the Census as a benchmark to ensure their accuracy.
  • The Census is used to allocate funding for programs that support local businesses and grow the economy–like transportation, education, and workforce development programs.
  • The Census determines how many seats in Congress are allocated to each state, and how political power is distributed within each state, helping to ensure that business owners have their voices heard.

Before reaching out to a local business person, first try to get an introduction through an existing partner, which increases the likelihood of a response. Nonprofit boards of directors can be helpful. When you do connect, keep the interaction short and focus on the economic argument for a strong count. Before you speak with someone, make sure you have a plan for how they can help and specific steps you’d like them to take before you speak with them.

What’s in it for you?

When you think about partnerships, businesses might not always be at the top of your list. But when it comes to Census organizing, they are a group that shouldn’t be overlooked. Think about it. Businesses interact with historically undercounted groups every day. In fact, a working mom with two very young children may be more likely to see a poster about the Census at the grocery store than on the website of a non-profit organization. A low-wage worker with limited low internet access might never see a Census meme that has taken Instagram by storm, but he’ll see the Census flyer in the breakroom at his job every day at lunch.

If we truly want to reach historically undercounted communities, we have to meet them where they are, and for many people that may mean where they work and where they shop.

Engagement Strategies

For more resources, see business engagement resources developed by The Council for Strong America, including a toolkit on how businesses can contribute to an accurate 2020 Census, examples for how businesses are supporting the Census, state-specific toolkits for business owners, posters, and email templates for employee engagement. 

Consider pitching these census activities to a business partner:

  • Use the Business’s Digital Media. Post messages, videos, and a link to the official 2020 Census web page on company websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube encouraging participation. These are cost-effective activities.
  • Directly Encourage Employees and Customers to Respond.
    • Display posters, flyers, and information about the 2020 Census in stores, staff offices, parades, festivals, and other community events.
    • Include messages promoting the Census on customer receipts and in bills, statements, or other correspondence with customers.
    • Encourage employees to complete their Census questionnaires and potentially allow them to do so at work in a private common area equipped with computers or tablets.
    • Run promotional messages (possibly in multiple languages) in weekly store circulars or other customer publications.
  • Support State and Local Efforts.
    • Sponsor or speak at local, state, and national events about the importance of the Census to build awareness among the business community and the general population.
    • Participate in a public Census kick-off event publicizing the 2020 Census and encouraging residents in a given region to complete their Census questionnaires.
    • Contribute financially or offer volunteers to local and state-based efforts promoting the census.

For more information, visit www.strongnation.org/census or contact Jeff Connor-Naylor at [email protected]. Check out ReadyNation’s Census Business Toolkit.

Tribal Leaders

If your state or community includes Indian Country, you should be working with tribal leaders to get out the count.

When the tribal community is undercounted, political boundaries may not accurately represent reality. Undercounting results in Native peoples being denied a full voice in policy decision-making. As a result, their community’s different needs may not be represented or prioritized according to their real share of the population. In particular, Native reservations are considered “communities of interest” in many states’ redistricting policies, meaning it may be especially important to keep intact when redistricting.  Undercounting Native peoples in the 2020 Census could also impact how federal funding is allocated to states and localities. Today, there are 326 reservations and 567 tribes recognized by the federal government, each with distinctive health, housing, education, and financial needs.

Resources

Find resources to engage tribal communities at the Indian Country Counts campaign The campaign is an initiative launched by the National Congress of American Indians to ensure all American Indians and Alaska Natives are accurately counted in the 2020 Census.

Ensure you are using trusted messages by reviewing message research conducted by the National Congress of American Indians:

Click Here for the Recording

Click Here for Slides

Funders

The census and philanthropy

Across the country, hundreds of philanthropic institutions are mobilizing to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census, with a focus on historically undercounted communities. This includes unprecedented engagement from national, state, and community-based foundations and philanthropy-serving organizations who are pooling resources, engaging in the federal regulatory process, establishing statewide funder collaboratives, and more.

Accurate census data is critical for funders, their partners, and grantees. Census data helps foundations understand the issues they care about (e.g., education, public health, food and housing access, environmental justice, civic engagement, etc.) and the communities they serve, establish priorities, inform stronger evaluation, and monitor progress. At stake is not only accurate data, but the fair distribution of federal resources and political representation.

How philanthropy is engaging around the Census

Nonprofits may consider funders only as a source of financial support for their programmatic work, but philanthropic institutions can be valuable partners beyond that. Consider philanthropic institutions’ engagement toward a fair and accurate 2020 Census within the broader framework of participate, convene, and invest.

  • Participate: As a trusted voice within the nonprofit sector, philanthropic institutions can leverage the networks of their staff and the influence of their trustees to elevate the importance of the census. They can help to educate policymakers and Area Census Office staff or participate on Complete Count Committees.
  • Convene: Foundations can use their convening power, platforms, and communications channels to marshal support for the 2020 Census. Funders can convene their peers, their grantees, and help facilitate cross-sector planning and mobilization by bringing together government, business, faith-based, and nonprofit leaders.
  • Invest: Foundations can support planning, organizing, and other Get-Out-The-Count activities, as well as advocacy, technology, communications, technical assistance, rapid response, and evaluation. Funders deploy resources through multiple methods, including general operating support and add-on grants directly to their grantees. Funders also do grantmaking through statewide or regional funder collaboratives, using pooled and aligned funding strategies.

How to deepen philanthropic engagement around the Census 

  • Help educate funders about the interconnectedness of the issues they traditionally support and the Census. This includes how your organization plans to engage around the census and why it is important to your organization’s mission.
  • Help funders understand how Census investments have a decade-long impact on representation and participation in our democracy.

Resources

Unions

Unions can be excellent and effective partners in local GOTC operations. Unions are a critical platform through which workers can collectively bargain and shift the balance of power toward greater economic justice. Unions have been key to securing the eight-hour workday, employment benefits, and worker victories that help families and communities achieve foundational to economic stability. In addition to traditional unions, there are six constituency groups which focus specifically on union members with marginalized identities: Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition for Labor Union Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and [email protected] Consider also reaching out to worker centers such as Adhikaar, Restaurant Opportunities Center, and others which organize workers in industries that do not have access to unions.

How does Census engagement benefit unions?

Unions have a critical role to play in reaching hard-to-count populations such as low-wage workers and immigrants who often have limited time to participate in other community spaces. Many unions hold relationships with their members, and with other employees at organized workplaces, which are built on mutual trust and collective action. Thus, they have a unique opportunity to reach folks who would not be contacted by traditional outreach methods, and an opportunity to align Census engagement with pre-existing electoral and mobilization activities.

If you are seeking to partner with a local union on Census outreach, it may be helpful to highlight the importance of the 2020 Census to unions:

  • The Census determines how $8900 billion of federal funding is spent. This impacts a wide variety of public and private sector jobs. For example, Census data informs Medicare and Medicaid funding, which can heavily influence impact the number of healthcare, education, and construction jobs in a particular city or region. The Census similarly impacts education jobs, construction jobs, and federal grants for community investment
  • If the Census undercounts the number of people in a certain area, then funding for public-sector jobs decreases and workers could see their hours cut, nurse-to-patient and teacher-to-student ratios will increase, and it will be harder for them to do their jobs well.
  • If hard-to-count populations—which include immigrants, the elderly, disabled folks, low-income people, young children, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and other marginalized groups—are not counted accurately in the Census, then their political power of their communities and state will be weakened.
  • Marginalized people have often relied on unions to fight and win opportunities and financial stability. If people are left out of the Census, they could lose political power and lose important battles. Union victories have been built by and for these groups to bring everyone the same opportunity for financial stability. If we allow the Census to be interfered with unchecked, we will lose major fights to protect the middle class and expand economic justice for all.
  • Unions have fought to ensure that workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace. Census data are used to enforce those agreements, but enforcement works best when the data is correct.

How do Census advocates benefit from partnering with unions?

Unions have built an infrastructure for outreach to low-wage workers and people of color that is unparalleled. Unionized workers are more engaged in democracy than their non-union peers because of the coordinated mobilization campaigns that unions oversee. Census advocates should connect with unions to coordinate outreach strategies and maximize contact with hard-to-count populations. Unions can reinforce messages that advocates are using and within the community, and simultaneously integrate messaging around jobs and economic justice that are more likely to be when it originates from the union.

Engagement Strategies

Consider these engagement strategies for union outreach:

  • Offer to provide Census messaging and templates that the union can integrate into their existing communication channels, such as member meetings, newsletters, and any member-to-member electoral outreach programs.
  • Offer to host Census workshops and trainings for their members. If you have capacity and interest from the union, create targeted workshop content for specific populations like black, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), LGBTQ, and monolingual folks.
  • Invite the union to host a table at future Census events or community festivals. Creating stronger ties between Census advocates and unions will help reinforce messages coming from both sources.
  • Many unions have robust social media profiles as part of their digital organizing portfolios. Include them as strong partners for Twitter chats and other digital actions.

Resources

For more information, contact Vivian Chang, Civic Engagement Manager of APALA, at [email protected] or go to www.apalanet.org/Census.

State Elected and Appointed Officials

What’s in it for them?

Here are a few reasons officials in your area should get on board:

  • The Census is used to allocate 1.5 trillion dollars in federal funding and even more in state funding for the things your community needs most, like hospitals, schools, and roads. All elected or appointed public servants have a responsibility to ensure that their constituents have the services and programs they need to thrive. And in order to ensure those programs and needs are fully funded, it is the duty of every public servant to promote a fair and accurate count.
  • Whether someone is elected or appointed, the regions and communities they serve are impacted by Census data. Census data determines the number of representatives each state is allocated in Congress and serves as the basis for drawing congressional and state district lines,
  • State elected and appointed officials use data from the Census to make decisions about everything from the number of stoplights on a street to the number of teachers in your child’s school.

What’s in it for you?

Whether or not an elected or appointed official shares your politics, they can be an important ally in Census advocacy in the following ways:

  • They have the power of the purse. Census outreach and organizing can be expensive; if state or local officials are committed to supporting that outreach, they can advocate for funding for Complete Count Committees, advertising, and other outreach efforts.
  • They can take local action. Regardless of whether or not your state has allocated funding for Census outreach, local or not. Local elected officials can push for local Complete Count Committees to allocate county or city funding to support them, and do their part when the state legislature does not.
  • Using their voice and seat to prioritize Census. Without strong voices advocating to prioritize the Census in the halls of power, the Census might get left out. And that means your community will miss out. Other issues may get prioritized. Whatever office they hold, from school board to state legislator, their voices matter. Regardless of what office they hold, their voice in numbers from school boards to state legislatures matter.
  • Trusted voices. Some of our elected officials are trusted and respected leaders in our community, and may be among the most effective voices in our outreach. And because they’ve run campaigns, built coalitions, and developed a broad diverse base of supporters, they have networks and relationships that can help ensure that every hard-to-count community gets engaged and counted. Their relationships and networks span far and wide and are helpful to ensure that every hard-to-count community is brought in.

Census Champions

State and local officials are critical partners in ensuring a full count in the 2020 Census. They can be effective spokespersons, can mitigate challenges, and often know local communities well. Census Champions—a project of The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Census Counts Campaign—are state, local, elected, and appointed officials dedicated to a fair and accurate count, especially in historically undercounted communities. See the full list of Census Champions on the Census Counts website. Census Champions are committed to working to ensure a successful census and are a great place to start in your engagement of elected officials. They receive regular communications, updates, and information from the Census Counts Campaign. Encourage your elected official to join Census Champions by completing the form at censuscounts.org/censuschampions.

Resources and Engagement Strategies

Consider these engagement strategies when working with elected and appointed officials:

Refer to the following resources to engage state-elected and -appointed officials:

Members of your state legislature:

Mayors and city officials:

County Officials:

School Board Members:

All:

Digital Organizing Trends, Tips and Tools for GOTC Outreach

Digital Organizing Trends, Tips and Tools for GOTC Outreach and Building Longer Term Capacity

Section I. Introduction and Overview

The content below is meant to inform outreach strategies for mobilizing historically undercounted communities towards participation in the 2020 Census—it does not address the actual process of enumeration. For guidance on that, please see the resources available here.

To meet Hard-to-Count (HTC) populations where they are, effective outreach practices for civic engagement in the twenty-first century should be considered, in addition to tried-and-true traditional approaches. Digital organizing—defined here as using digital tools, data, platforms, and practices to inform, engage, and mobilize people to take action and build long-term capacity—provides a promising opportunity to integrate relevant communications and data technology into Get Out the Count (GOTC) outreach programs.

GOTC outreach efforts should be open minded and forward thinking about digital and data; not only for immediate efforts like the 2020 Census, but also for the longer term implications certain practices may have.

That all being said, strategic digital organizing can help get out the count, bolster your organization’s longer term digital capacity, and may have relevance to addressing the digital divide in many HTC communities.

This section of the Census Counts Toolkit will cover:

  • Trends, Practices, and Recommendations for Digital Outreach to Specific HTC Communities
  • Examples of Specific Tools and Practices Currently Being Used in the Field
  • Templates and Additional Resources for Deeper Learning

Section II. Digital State of Play Since 2010

Since the 2010 Census, there has been a dramatic increase in mobile and online engagement, particularly the use of smartphones and social media. Texting, social media, and online video are particularly relevant areas that have seen significant growth. The migration from traditional media to online, mobile, and social media is widespread and cuts across demographics.

Here are a few topline figures to consider that illustrate some of the shifts:

  • 95% of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind.
  • 77% of Americans now own smartphones, up from 35% in 2011.
  • As of 2018, roughly one in five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users.
  • 31% of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are smartphone-only internet users. Reliance on smartphones for online access is especially common among younger adults, non-whites, and lower-income Americans.
  • 54% of Americans report getting news from social media sites “sometimes” or “often.”

Read more at the Pew Research Center Mobile Fact Sheet.

SMS (Texting)

Short message service (SMS), or texting, has emerged as a widely used civic engagement and commercial marketing tactic. SMS has been widely used for voter turnout, and when the key inputs are in place, it can be a cost-effective mode for direct constituent engagement. There are different types of SMS, and it’s important to be aware of the relationship between the sender of a text and its receiver, e.g., whether it is a “cold” (no pre-existing relationship between the sending organization and the receiver) or “warm” (when the sender has a pre-existing relationship with the recipient of the message).

Consider that as of EOY 2019:

  • 67 text messages per day are exchanged by the average millennial.
  • SMS (text messaging) can have open rates as high as 98%, while email generally peaks around 20%.
  • In 2015, approximately 97% of smartphone owners reported using SMS.

While existing data sets, e.g., voter files do have large sets of cell phone numbers for individuals listed, it cannot be assumed that your target Hard-to-Reach universes will be reachable through data sets used for traditional voter contact. Organizations need to be strategic and plan early to maximize the use of SMS for GOTC outreach, and be forward thinking about safe and secure data collection as soon as possible.

A few different SMS tools and platforms currently being used in the field are listed in the GOTC tools map.

Online Video

One of the most dramatic shifts in the digital space has been the growth of online video content—video clips (both professional and self-produced), TV shows, and movies streamed from the internet. More people are consuming—and producing—video content, and this is happening increasingly on smartphones.

  • 85% of the U.S. internet audience watches videos online.
  • One-third of all online activity is spent watching video.
  • Over half of video content is viewed on mobile.
  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others.

A few different video production tools and platforms currently being used in the field are listed in the GOTC tools map.

Decline of Trust in Mainstream Media and the Rise of Social Media

According to a Gallup/Knight Foundation 2018 report, most U.S. adults reported that they have lost trust in the news media, signaling fundamental changes are occurring in how people are consuming and sharing news and information. Meanwhile, 72% of Americans use social media, up from 47% in 2010.

Trusted messengers are more important than ever, particularly when it comes to cutting through misinformation, which is prevalent on social media. More than half of Americans rely on social media for news, but one-sided and inaccurate news are viewed as the biggest problems with social media. Community-based organizations are well positioned to identify trusted messengers in specific communities, and with some of the new tools available may be able to scale the reach of local influencers in ways unimaginable just a short time ago. But it’s critically important that information that is shared via social media is accurate and comes from trusted sources.

Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center has a free online course on identifying misinformation online.

Policy Changes by the Platforms and Security Concerns

The major social media platforms are constantly changing what content they allow to be shared, and how their platforms operate. It is strongly recommended that GOTC organizations pay close attention to the policies of specific platforms that play a big role in your outreach programs. Below are just a few recent updates of note:

Bar graph showing what social media platforms adults use in the US

Facebook made significant changes to News Feed algorithm in 2018: Only designated “news” organizations can do ongoing free large-scale messaging on Facebook Messenger, and it continues to increase its privacy features on groups. Facebook also announced it will restrict the number of ads a page can run at once. More FB Messenger changes are expected in early 2020.

YouTube changed its terms of service to explicitly state the platform is “under no obligation to host or serve content” and can remove videos at its “sole discretion. It also introduced a feature to block channels as recommendations in the “up next” feature.

Twitter recently banned some political advertising. While that shouldn’t apply to census, it is important to monitor how these changes play out.

Instagram began removing “like” counts on posts from U.S. accounts, and added a “join chat” option to the “stories’’ feature.

The FCC is constantly changing rules around mass SMS messaging. In 2018 it ruled that that SMS and MMS are not functional equivalents of commercial mobile services, viewing them more akin to email.

Additional Challenges to Be Considered for GOTC Digital Organizing
  • Organic reach at scale on social media platforms is challenging—paid promotion is often required to reach significant audiences
  • Lack of multilingual and culturally competent tools and materials
  • Privacy concerns around data and security
  • General mistrust due to political climate, misinformation, and general hostility online
  • Too many digital vendor pitches with little expertise of the unique challenges of the census

Section III. Asking the Right Questions and Knowing What You Want

For effective digital organizing, there is no “silver bullet” approach, and finding the right tools and platforms may take time. Integrate your digital organizing efforts as much as possible with your overall GOTC program, and do the front-end planning as soon as possible.

As you embark on your digital organizing planning effort, here are some questions to think through for finding the right digital tool:

  • What are your primary GOTC outreach goals, and how are you deciding them?
  • What are your plans to hit those goals?
  • What is your target constituency for outreach? What are their media habits, and what platforms are they on?
  • Does a particular tool or digital practice make sense on a broader cost benefit analysis relative to those plans?
  • Do you have staff and volunteers on hand with the adequate skills to carry out your digital plans? If not, how do you plan to recruit?

And here are some core capacity buckets for an effective digital organizing plan:

  • Creative Development and Distribution—creating informed content through experimentation, and having available channels to distribute it for desired levels of engagement
  • Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)—technology and people capacity for the effective utilization of data to effectively engage a target audience and constituency
  • Analytics, Evaluation and Data—being able to test and understand what works
  • Social Listening—ability to have an accurate feedback loop with your constituents and facilitate more two-way conversation
  • Paid Digital Advertising—not for everyone, but can be effective to expand reach online

When you’re ready to take this a step further, check out how specific HTC communities are engaging digitally:

Section IV. Digital Tools for GOTC

It’s important to remember that tools are just that—tools! People-power is essential to any successful GOTC effort, and we caution against too much emphasis on tech tools without thinking holistically about your overall program. Investments in staff and volunteers are essential, and be wary of any “silver bullet” tool recommendations. Tools are not a strategy, and they can be unfamiliar and intimidating to many organizers. There are often costs, skills, privacy, and cultural barriers to the proper utilization of certain tools and practices, and these barriers must be considered in the formation of any digital strategy.

Below is a framework from Community Connect Labs (CCL) on how to strategically think about your utilization of digital tools, as well as an overview of what’s currently being used in the field.

Digital Tool Do’s and Don’ts from CommunityConnect Labs

Contact and Learn More: Kristin Merkel, [email protected]

A laptop and mobile device with text message chats about census 2020.

CCL’s Census 2020 Digital Outreach Checklist

On-the-ground outreach needs to be reinforced by digital solutions to be effective. Trusted messenger outreach efforts are much more likely to be effective if they pair their on-the-ground outreach with digital solutions that enable follow-through and follow-ups with nudges, reminders, and with services to answer people’s questions and help with completing the survey. 

Solutions developed and deployed for census outreach need to be designed to be used by low-income, immigrant, minority, non-English speaking, and other Hard-to-Count (HTC) people. As such, a different set of tools and approaches are necessary compared to traditional GOTV tools.

Here are features to look for when you are shopping for census outreach tools:

1. Language Accessibility: Available in Multiple Languages

Too often, civic engagement tools assume use by a volunteer who reads and speaks English to reach a prospect who reads and speaks English. However, with a significant number of nonprofit staff and volunteers involved in census outreach who are immigrants/non-English speakers, and prospects who are also limited English speakers, Census 2020 digital tools need to be in multiple languages. For instance, if your nonprofit seeks to reach people in 6 languages, your digital tools should also be in 6 languages.

Furthermore, translations used in these tools need to be done by culturally competent humans, not Google Translate.

2. Make It Easy to Use for Hard-to-Count People: Meet Users Where They Are

Nonprofit staff and volunteers that work with HTC communities need simple, lightweight technology solutions that leverage how they use technology every day. Text-messaging is a simple and very commonly used solution that is also preferred by most people for census follow-ups.

While mobile apps have sleek interfaces, they also come with additional barriers to use: not enough space on phones, no desire to be downloaded, or costly data plans necessary for use. Avoid census outreach tools that require a mobile app to be downloaded.

3. Data Security: Build Trust and Respect the Data Privacy of Your Communities

There are significant worries about data privacy from HTC communities. Inevitably, technology collects data from usage, so it’s critically important to partner with technology vendors that are mission-aligned and understand the privacy expectations of your HTC community. Establish your security parameters and compare the security protocols of other major clients your vendor serves. Does the vendor have policies that protect your user’s privacy, such as policies that do not allow for scraping or “matching” of scraped data about your users? Be open and up front about data expectations and don’t hesitate to make stringent requirements. It’s YOUR community you’re protecting.

CommunityConnect Labs’ Census Outreach solutions are built on years of experience launching outreach campaigns to low-income and immigrant groups for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), utilities assistance, and homelessness.

Suite of Census Outreach Tools:

CommunityConnect Labs is built on a secure software platform and is a partner of Amazon, Microsoft, and Twilio. CCL can flexibly partner with nonprofit coalitions on grant proposals. CCL’s customers include nonprofits such as United Way Bay Area and governments like the State of Minnesota.