Census small2020 is right around the corner, and many of us are taking stock of our priorities, not only for the new year but also for the coming decade. When it comes to the 2020s, there is an urgent and important issue that greatly impacts our nonprofit clients – the U.S. census. That’s why a top priority for me next year is encouraging participation in the census. It is not just about counting people and gathering the data we all use in our grants. Its output drives:

  • How many local, state and federal representatives will serve our community and fight for our needs
  • How federal funding is allocated
  • Where policymakers will prioritize services based on those in greatest need


We know that many in our communities, especially those who are our most vulnerable, are undercounted. Statistically, these include: renters, those experiencing homelessness, seniors, young children, non-English speakers, people of color and low-income residents. For many of us in the nonprofit sector, these are our clients, patrons, patients and neighbors.

Nonprofits’ relationships with those in our communities can help us ensure everyone is counted in the census. It is our obligation to make the census a priority so every voice is heard and counted. Here is a timeline to follow with simple steps that can be taken to help reach that goal:

January 2020

  • Designate someone in your agency to lead this effort
  • Apply for money to support your efforts
  • Attend a train-the-trainer session held by your local U.S. Census Bureau office to learn more
  • Train all staff and volunteers to talk about the census and address concerns
  • Consider working with your clients to assist with the census through paid positions


February – March 2020

  • Distribute fact sheets at meetings, parent engagement sessions and community gatherings
  • Add the census as a topic for meetings
  • Write a piece about importance of the census and send to media and other publications – don’t forget to publish in your organization’s newsletter
  • Through client interactions, encourage clients to sign a pledge that they will participate in the census
  • Find fun ways to track census completion (e.g., hanging posters similar to fundraising thermometers in visible places)


March – July 2020

  • If you have a computer lab, allow access to clients to complete the census online and consider having support available for non-English speakers
  • Plan and host a Census Day event on April 1, 2020 to celebrate and gather community members to take the census
  • Conduct a canvass event to find those who haven’t participated and help them complete the census


The stakes are high in 2020 to ensure everyone gets counted. Because nonprofits are in a unique position of trust with those we serve, we can play a leading role in making sure they complete the 2020 Census and get the resources and support they need. Tell us what you are doing to ensure that everyone is counted in 2020.


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