You Matter. Get Counted!

Download a printable version of this FAQ.

What is the Census?
The purpose of the Census is to count every person residing in the United States. The data is used to inform spending and policy decisions as well as how legislative districts are drawn.
When is the Census?
The next Census will take place from March-May 2020. April 1, 2020 is National Census Day. Beginning in May, Census workers will go to door to door to count households that did not self-report. The count will be finalized by December 31, 2020.
Why do we do the Census?
The U.S. Constitution requires the Census be conducted every 10 years. But beyond the requirement, the Census is the once in a decade opportunity to gather data about our population so policymakers, nonprofits, and others can make informed decisions
Why does the census matter?
  • Federal, state, and local governments use Census data to determine how tax dollars and other resources are allocated.
    • Washington State receives approximately $16 billion each year in federal funds for a variety of human service, community development, and health programs.
    • Each household that is missed in the census count costs Washington State approximately $4,800 in federal funds.
    • The Washington State Legislature allocates approximately $200 million in state funds for programs based off of census data.
  • Local governments use census data to determine where development should take place and how local dollars should be spent.
  • Nonprofit organizations use census data to fund and focus services.
    • The data collected shows geographic areas that are underserved, which supplies data to help with service delivery and access to services.
    • Census data is used to inform grant proposals and other projects designed to raise the quality of life in our communities.
  • The Census also determines how political boundaries are drawn.
    • Census data informs Washington State’s Redistricting Committee’s work to ensure that legislative districts are drawn fairly so that communities are represented in Olympia and Washington, DC.
How will people know to participate?
In March, each household in the United States will receive a letter or postcard from the Census Bureau with online participation instructions. We’ve been told that there will likely be additional letters or postcards sent out, in case people miss or misplace their initial letters.
Is participation mandatory?
Yes, but we suggest that you think of the Census as your opportunity to let government know that you, your family, and community matter.
What happens if someone skips a question?
The answers they submit will be included in the Census count. However, skipping a question may result in the Census Bureau following up with that person.
How will people respond to the Census?
For the first time ever, the Census will be conducted using an online form that participants complete. However, if people would like to do the Census over the phone or on paper, they may do so by following the instructions in the letter from the Census Bureau.
Will someone be coming to my door?
The Census Bureau will only come to your door if you do not self-respond, either online or on the phone. If you are concerned about the possibility of a stranger coming to your door, then the best way to avoid that is to complete the Census online soon after you receive your invitation.
What languages will the Census be in?
The online questionnaire will be available in these 12 languages:
Arabic
Chinese (Simplified)
French
Haitian Creole
Japanese
Korean
Polish
Portuguese
Russian
Spanish
Tagalog
Vietnamese
Census Questionnaire Assistance through the Census Bureau’s Customer Service Hotline, 1-800-923-8282, will be offered in the languages above.

Glossaries, videos, and other materials, but not the survey itself, will also be available in these 59 other languages:
American Sign Language
Albanian
Amharic
Arabic
Armenian
Bengali
Bosnian
Bulgarian
Burmese
Chinese
Croatian
Czech
Dutch
Farsi
French
German
Gjurati
Greek
Haitian Creole
Hebrew
Hindi
Hmong
Hungarian
Igbo
Ilocano
Indonesian
Italian
Japanese
Khmer
Korean
Lao
Lithuanian
Malayalam
Marathi
Navajo
Nepali
Polish
Portuguese
Punjabi
Romanian
Russian
Serbian
Sinhala
Slovak
Somali
Spanish
Swahili
Tagalog
Tamil
Telugu
Thai
Tigrinya
Turkish
Twi
Ukrainian
Urdu
Vietnamese
Yiddish
Yoruba

What Data Confidentiality Requirements Exist to Protect Respondents?
In short, federal laws exist to protect respondents. According to the Washington State Complete Count Committee:

  • Federal law establishes confidentiality protections applicable to individual census responses. Protections include:
    • Prohibiting the Census Bureau from using census information to the detriment of a respondent or for any purpose other than producing statistical datasets; and
    • Making it a felony for census workers or other Census Bureau employees to publish or distribute individual responses or other information that would identify an individual, business, or organization.
  • The Census Bureau can share compiled census data, including statistical and demographic data at the community or neighborhood level.

Even with these protections in federal law, we understand that certain individuals and communities may still have hesitations about completing the Census. Because of this, Washington Nonprofits will continue to post resources to this website that are meant to address questions of confidentiality and safety for Census respondents.

Do Nonprofits Have a Unique Role?
Definitely! The census has historically missed certain communities, including communities of color, low-income households, immigrants, and youth (see below for the full list of hard-to-count communities). Nonprofits often serve these communities and have trusted relationships with community members. Therefore, your organization has the ability to positively influence a person’s decision to complete the 2020 Census.
What Can My Nonprofit Do?
Your nonprofit can help get out the count in 2020 by being proactive and reactive. Proactive steps include using Washington Nonprofits’ Census Action Kit to encourage your clients, staff, and board to get counted; setting up a booth at your events to encourage participation; or even letting folks drop in to your facility to complete the Census. See the timeline and checklist document we’ve included in this website for suggested activities.

You can also be reactive by training your staff to reference the materials in our toolkit so they can answer basic questions about the Census, such as the why, when, and how of participating in the Census.

Can Nonprofits Provide Incentives to Complete the Census?
According to the Census Bureau, organizations may provide incentives for filling out the 2020 Census. This means that nonprofits may offer prizes or other items to people who complete the Census.
Who can individuals contact with questions about the Census?
Individuals can call the U.S. Census Bureau’s customer service hotline at 1-800-923-8282.

Individuals seeking assistance in Spanish can call the NALEO Census hotline at 1-877-352-3676 (1-877-EL CENSO).

Who can nonprofits contact with questions about the Census?
Nonprofits can visit www.washingtonnonprofits.org/Census to learn more about the Census. You can also send questions about the Census to Washington Nonprofits at .
Who is considered hard-to-count?
The Census Bureau recognizes a range of groups as hard-to-count. The following people, many of whom are served by nonprofits, are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 census. These individuals are considered hard-to-locate; hard-to-contact; hard-to-persuade; and/or hard-to-interview.

  • Complex households, including those with blended families, multiple generations, or non-relatives
  • Cultural and linguistic minorities
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Recent immigrants
  • Displaced persons affected by a disaster
  • Lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer/questioning persons
  • Low-income persons
  • Persons experiencing homelessness
  • Persons less likely to use the Internet or individuals without Internet access
  • Persons residing in places difficult for Census workers to access, such as buildings with strict doormen, gated communities, and basement apartments
  • Persons residing in rural or geographically isolated areas
  • Persons who do not live in traditional housing
  • Persons who do not speak English fluently (or have limited English proficiency)
  • Persons who have distrust in the government
  • Persons with mental and/or physical disabilities
  • Persons without a high school diploma
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Renters
  • Undocumented immigrants (or recent immigrants)
  • Young children
  • Young, mobile persons
  • Older people
  • People who cannot read or have limited reading ability
  • People without a standard street address