CalNonprofits Articles

On Monday, three committees in the California legislature held a joint hearing focused on the upcoming 2020 Census- and the role nonprofits, local government, and philanthropy will play in reaching hard-to-count Californians.

Jan Masaoka, CEO of CalNonprofits, explained at the hearing that millions of Californians already rely on nonprofits every single day, when they entrust their children to a nonprofit childcare center, get healthcare services 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. As Joseph Tomás Mckellar from PICO California explained, “With the Census, the messenger is as important as the message.”

Hearing messages about the Census —from trusted nonprofit messengers— will be an important reassurance to Californians who may otherwise feel discouraged or afraid of participating in the Census, whether it’s because of how it will be conducted (mostly online), or because of the possible inclusion of a citizenship question. As the Census begins hiring, nonprofits will also help by recruiting paid enumerators (Census counters) that come from the communities they’re working in.

Monique Limón (Santa Barbara), chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector; Marc Berman (Palo Alto), chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Census, and Dr. Richard Pan (Sacramento), chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Census. (Photo credit: Assembly Democratic Caucus)

While nonprofits are so effective because they can incorporate Census work into existing activities, speakers also cautioned that nonprofits shouldn’t be taken for granted.One solution? Census outreach money for nonprofits could be provided in the form of reasonable, straight-forward grants. Or, as Efrain Escobedo from the California Community Foundation put it, “Strengthen, don’t just stretch” the nonprofit sector when asking nonprofits to partner in Census outreach efforts.

Speakers also explained how foundations, like the California Community Foundation, are already engaged in Census efforts, whether it’s speaking out against the citizenship question, funding nonprofit coalitions like the Census Policy Advocacy Network, or investing in research and messaging testing.

Legislators and speakers also discussed the importance of investing census outreach dollars into rural communities to ensure an accurate count of all Californians.

To watch the full hearing, click here.

If you’d like a “deeper dive” into what’s at stake with the 2020 Census, the recording from the Policy Forum webinar last month: “We All Count: Tackling the 2020 Census Together” is now available on our website.

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