Massachusetts Census Equity Fund Answering Call
The 2010 U.S. Census forms arrived in mailboxes across the United States in March. And it is critical that non-profit organizations and leaders encourage their constituents and clients to fill them out and mail them back as soon as possible.
Communities of color, low-income residents, people with disabilities, and homeless and immigrant communities have traditionally been underrepresented in Census-taking activities. These populations often have not filled out forms because of language barriers, problems with access and fear of how the information will be used.
Access Strategies Fund is taking the lead in ensuring an increase in the 2010 U.S. Census mail-back rates in these and other important, productive but often hard to count communities in Massachusetts by at least 5 percent over the last Census.
Why the Census is Critical to Your Community
The government will use the Census to determine how to divide almost $450 billion in annual federal spending. Each person counted in the Census in Massachusetts represents $2,100 yearly in federal money that goes to the state for hospitals, schools, job training, public works and emergency services … services desperately needed in communities that have been hit hard in the recent economic downturn. Census data are also used to determine the apportioning of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Getting Nonprofits Involved
Enter the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund, a 2-year project created by Access Strategies Fund that is being fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England and funded by a total of 12 philanthropic foundations. The fund has provided grants and resources to 30 community-based nonprofit organizations working to ensure an accurate count of underserved communities in Massachusetts in the 2010 U.S. Census and to help residents participate in civic life.
The need for a full count of Massachusetts residents is critical, says Kelly Bates, executive director of Access Strategies Fund. “People are struggling in a tough economic environment. We can’t afford to pass up money and representation that could benefit our families and communities over the next 10 years.”
The 30 nonprofits participating in the program are using the grants and resources to reach out and educate local communities about the importance of completing the Census forms – and the strict confidentiality of personal information in doing so. “We want people to know it’s safe,” says Kelly. “Information taken from the Census is confidential and cannot be shared with any person or institution, including immigration, landlords and other government agencies.”
The Massachusetts Census Equity Fund is the first-ever statewide collaboration in Massachusetts of nonprofits and private foundations coming together to reach out to the underserved communities to bring them information, education and hope.
What Can Nonprofits Do to Encourage Census Participation?
Tell your clients and constituents why the Census is so important: Link it to the issues or services that your people care about. Remind them that the form is 10 questions and takes 10 minutes. And tell them the form is completely confidential and their personal information will not be shared with anyone outside of the Census Bureau.
Ask clients and constituents to complete the form and send it back immediately: If they send in the form quickly, Census takers will not come to their door to ask for information.
Hold events and educational forums: Educate your community and local press.
Make Use of Information Resources: If people have questions, need assistance completing or understanding the Census form, or need another form, please have them contact the U.S. Census Bureau at 866.872.6868 (en Español,866.928.2010; for the hearing-impaired, TDD 866.783.2010).
Learn More and Get Involved
If you want to get your nonprofit involved in sharing information with constituents on the 2010 U.S. Census, contact MassVOTE or Nonprofit VOTE for more information.They are available to assist nonprofits to promote the Census in their communities.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund, go to http://www.accessstrategies.org/resources/links.