CalNonprofits Articles

census 2020 logoEach year, California receives $76 billion in federal funding based in part on census data. However, there are three significant challenges California will face in obtaining an accurate count in the 2020 Census: our demographics, the way the count is being administered (primarily via the internet), and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question, could all contribute to an undercount in the 2020 Census. CalNonprofits is part of the Census Policy Advocacy Network and is working on getting the word out about to nonprofits about the critical role we can play in assuring an accurate 2020 Census count in California communities.


What is the Census and why is it important to my community?

Once each decade, the U.S. Census Bureau attempts to count every person in the United States. The next enumeration (count) will begin April 1, 2020, and will be the first to rely heavily on online responses. An accurate count is one in which every person is counted once, only once, and in the right place. The Census counts every resident -- whether or not they have a place to live, whether or not they are a citizen, whether or not they are in the U.S. legally, whatever age they are, and so forth.

The number of people counted in California determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used in formulas that distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to California.

It is estimated for that every person who is counted in California, our state will receive $2,300 in federal funding -- money that goes to health clinics, HeadStart, road maintenance, food stamps, and local schools.

All this is why California has launched a statewide effort to obtain an accurate and complete count of Californians in the 2020 Census.

The California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office (California Census Office) is coordinating the State's outreach and communication strategy, which focuses on the hardest-to-count residents. Working through local governments, Tribal Governments, community-based organizations and media, the state is funding work that will complement work being done nationally by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why should our nonprofit get involved with the Census?

California has millions of people who can be considered "hard to count." In fact, one in every four Californians lives in a "hard to count" area. Such individuals are often:

  • Non-English speaking
  • Very low income Immigrants with various kinds of immigration status
  • Without permanent housing
  • Distrustful of government forms
  • Lacking in internet access or familiarity (the internet will be the primary way for the Census to count people)

Click here to see an interactive map of California's hard-to-count areas:

Many people in such communities already know and trust community nonprofits when they bring their children to a nonprofit childcare center, see a doctor at a local clinic, receive job skills training, or open the door to a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer. That existing level of trust means people will listen when nonprofits speak to them about the Census. And, nonprofits are already good at stepping outside our lanes when it comes to emergencies or responding to unexpected needs in the community.

In addition, as the Census begins hiring, nonprofits will also help by recruiting paid enumerators (Census counters) that come from the communities where they will be working.

What government funding opportunities are there for nonprofits?

Foundation funding from California's broad philanthropic community has already started to roll out. Many community foundations, family foundations, and other funders are making grants to nonprofits. Check the websites of foundations in your area to see what opportunities are there.

At CalNonprofits we've been more involved with government funding to nonprofits around the Census. While funding levels remain uncertain at the federal level, California has stepped up to ensure adequate funding for a full count. Thanks to nonprofit advocacy led by Census Policy Advocacy Network (of which CalNonprofits is a member), the state has about $30 million to outreach by nonprofits in hard-to-count communities. Advocates are requesting additional funding in the 2019-2020 budget.

Steps you can take now:

  1. Join an in-person Regional Convening and Implementation Workshop hosted by the California Census. Each workshop will include a morning session that will bring together community leaders and regional state contractors to continue collaborating on reaching California’s hard–to–count populations to achieve a complete count. An afternoon workshop for state contractors will facilitate the development of effective and efficient implementation plans. Click here for more information and to register.
  2. Contact the designated Administrative Community-Based Organization (ACBO) in your region. The State grouped California's 58 counties into 10 regions and has designated a funding amount for each region based on their hard-to-count populations. In a competitive process, the state selected one nonprofit in each region, called ACBOs. ACBOs will give out grants to local nonprofits to carry out Census outreach and coordinate efforts as well. This link shows the ten regions, the ACBO in each one, and how to contact them.
  3. In addition to the regional structure, the state also chose 13 community-based organizations to focus their statewide outreach and grantmaking on specific demographic groups that are considered particularly hard to count.
  4. Use your local government connections. Many local governments, such as cities and counties, will receive outreach funds from the state, and it is up to each jurisdiction to decide how to use those funds. Also, many counties and cities are allocating their funds for Census outreach. They know that the wellbeing of their communities depends on a full count, and increasingly they know that nonprofits are well-positioned to reach hard-to-count people. For example, your county may be making grants to nonprofits to help them recruit paid enumerators and to reach hard-to-count individuals.
  5. If you already work with your County Office of Education, these offices also partnering with 30 of the 58 county offices to reach Title I schools and Title III students and their parents, and grants to nonprofits may be available there as well.
  6. Check with your local governments’ Complete Count Committee, if one exists. You can find a list here – scroll down to “County and Local Complete Count Committee Contacts.” If you don’t see a contact for your area, contact your ACBO or a local elected official to get connected to your Complete Count Committee and to be sure that nonprofits are involved. If your community doesn't yet have a Complete Count Committee, help get one started. If you're wondering what a Complete Committee looks like and how it can involve nonprofits, here's one example in Los Angeles: Los Angeles Regional Census Table.

You can find information about these funding sources here.

CalNonprofits role in the 2020 Census

As a member of the Census Policy Advocacy Network (CPAN), CalNonprofits is working with other statewide organizations in California to advocate for government funding for nonprofit outreach on the Census. Our participation in CPAN is part of our broader "Standing up for California" campaign of advocacy at the federal level to protect our communities at the local level.

Later this year we'll be releasing a "Nonprofit Census Toolkit" with free and easy-to-use posters, templates and ways to integrate Census outreach into the activities your nonprofit already does every day.

For more information

The California Census Office has a great deal of info, including funding opportunities, maps, and timelines.

Factsheet on how nonprofits can support their communities and help ensure a complete count from Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus.

George Washington University Institute of Public Policy recently released an in-depth study on Census funding called Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds. The report identifies each federal program that geographically distributes financial assistance based, in whole or part, on data derived from the Decennial Census; and figures out the connections between Decennial Census accuracy and equitable distribution of funds to states and local areas.

To keep up to date on California nonprofit Census efforts and to be among the first to get the California Nonprofit Census Toolkit, be sure you are signed up to our email list.

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