The U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years to count every person residing within the United States. The next Census will be taking place in 2020, and it is critical that nonprofits help “get out the count.”
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 $13.7 billion in federal funds for a variety of human service, community development, and health programs.
- Each missed household 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 plan and target their services.
- The data collected shows geographic areas that are underserved, which gives data that informs service delivery.
- The data collected and published by the Census Bureau is also 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.
- The data collected helps inform 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.
When is the Census?
The next Census will be conducted from March-May 2020. 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. April 1 is National Census Day, so start thinking of ways for your nonprofit to help facilitate responses. 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.
What Can Your Nonprofit Do?
To help get ready for the 2020 count, your nonprofit can:
- Learn about the Census at census.gov and contact the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office with questions.
- Review the Counting for Dollars report to see how many federal dollars flow into programs serving Washington State residents.
- Review the report breakdown specifically for rural communities.
- Start talking about what’s at stake for your community with your board, staff and clients.
- Review the Washington Budget and Policy Center’s fact sheet on the 2020 Census.
- Start engaging your local government partners with resources available from the National League of Cities.
- Circulate job postings from the Census Bureau so that individuals with deep community knowledge are part of the frontline staff getting out the count. Jobs are posted here.
- Join or start a local organizing coalition.
- Sign up for updates from the Washington State Complete Count Committee.
- Sign up for updates from Washington Nonprofits.
If you are also feeling inspired to action and want to send a message to Congress, here are two ways to take action. First, you can call congress to deliver this message:
Please support full funding for the 2020 U.S. Census and exclude the citizenship question. This will ensure our state’s communities receive their fair share of federal resources and that nonprofits can effectively serve their constituents.
- Senator Maria Cantwell: (202) 224-3441
- Senator Patty Murray: (202) 224-2621
- Congressional Switchboard to be Directed to Your Representative: (202) 225-3121
We also developed a postcard template that you can fill out and send to Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray, and your Representative. To use the postcard template:
- Download the template here.
- Print the postcard onto cardstock OR print the postcard on regular paper and glue it to an index card or postcard.
- Find mailing address information for our Senators here.
- Find mailing address information for your Representative here.
- Affix postage and mail the postcard.
Our representatives in Congress need to hear from nonprofits so that the Census will be fully funded and the proposed citizenship question excluded. Our collective advocacy will help ensure an accurate count and ensure that Washington’s communities receive their fair share of federal resources.