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Michigan Needs to Get Counted

By Council of Michigan Foundations | Monday, October 30, 2017

A major statewide initiative recently launched, focusing on ensuring an accurate census count in 2020 so Michigan doesn’t lose out on more than $17 billion in federal funding.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association’s (MNA) 2020 Michigan Nonprofit Counts Campaign is underway. With startup funding from W.K. Kellogg Foundation and support from CMF, the campaign will work with nonprofits to support on-the-ground outreach efforts within historically hard-to-count populations to ensure a complete count in Census 2020.

Hard-to-count populations include children, immigrants, people living in rural or low-income communities and people of color.

“Nonprofits have better success with get-out-the-count efforts and interacting directly with people in their communities than government does due to a higher level of trust,” Joan Bowman, external affairs officer, MNA said.

Bowman led a Big Thoughts, Quick Talks table at Our Common Future conference last week, highlighting Michigan’s campaign, what’s at stake if we don’t receive a complete count, and the work ahead.

What’s at stake:

  • As CMF has reported, census data helps determine how more than $500 billion in federal funding will be spent on critical federal programs, such as food assistance, housing vouchers, Head Start, healthcare and much more. This data also helps shape economic development projects as businesses use it to help determine where they should locate or expand.
  • Michigan’s state budget relies more on federal funding than any state in the country other than Mississippi. 
  • Unfortunately, not everyone gets counted and often our most vulnerable communities get overlooked, including people of color, low-income communities, children, renters and the homeless.
  • Michigan stands to lose an estimated $1,800 of federal funds per year for every person who isn’t counted.
  • Census data is used to reapportion the 435 U.S. House of Representatives seats among the states. In 2020 Michigan could lose a congressional seat, resulting in a decrease in the number of seats Michigan has in the Electoral College.

MNA’s campaign has many elements including a Nonprofit Complete Count Committee that will be comprised of statewide grassroots organizations who serve or represent historically hard-to-count communities. The committee will provide guidance for the campaign, mobilizing their members to participate in local get-out-the-count efforts in their communities.

The campaign states that it will:

  • Provide trainings and tools for nonprofits on effective outreach tactics
  • Assist nonprofits in identifying hard-to-count communities
  • Award mini-grants to local nonprofits and track their activities to share insights
  • Coordinate a statewide communications plan and work with government officials to avoid duplication of efforts and enhance government’s communication and outreach efforts to ensure a complete count.
  • Collect, analyze and visualize data by partnering with universities across the state. The campaign will provide local communities with data to inform their efforts in reaching hard-to-count populations.

Bowman said to start, the campaign is focusing on four cities, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Dearborn which have hard-to-count populations, with the goal of maintaining participation rates from the 2010 census.

Bowman said there are many challenges with this census including lack of funding.  That’s why Bowman said increasing participation rates will be incredibly difficult, which is why maintaining previous rates is critical to secure federal funding levels.

As CMF has reported, decisions that could impact the equity and accuracy of our census counts are being made now.

“We’re targeting cities in the next six weeks to make sure they sign up for the LUCA program (Local Update of Census Addresses Operation), the deadline is December 15,” Bowman said. “LUCA is the only opportunity offered to governments to review and comment on the U.S. Census Bureau's residential address list prior to the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau relies on a complete and accurate address list for inclusion in the census.”

Testing or “dress rehearsals” for the census are happening in 2018, demonstrating the urgency for funding to build the platform that will be tested next year and used in 2020.

CMF is part of the Forum’s Census 2020 Project, through a grant from the Joyce Foundation, the project is aimed to educate philanthropy about the census, increase funding support for the census and mobilize funders to advocate for policy improvements for the census. 

Want more?

Connect with the 2020 Michigan Nonprofit Counts Campaign