Washington Area Women's Foundation

Boycotting the Census is not the Answer #CountDMVIn

Last Thursday, the Census 2020 working group we are part of organized a conference for Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations serving hard-to-count populations. Participants had the opportunity to network and connect with members of the Complete Count Committee of their jurisdiction, brainstorm strategies to count vulnerable populations, and learn about the consequences an inaccurate count will have on the distribution of federal funds the next ten years.

We kicked-off the day with a keynote speech by Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. In her remarks, Ms. Gupta talked about the unprecedented challenges and threats to accuracy the 2020 Census is facing. A last minute introduction of a citizenship question—still being contested—will make the population harder to count, but so too will major demographic changes over the past decade, a lack of predictable funding, and changes in the process that have not been tested adequately.

She assured attendees now is the time to get involved, to identify and engage trusted messengers in the community, and to spread the word about the importance of a fair count. While she acknowledged that the concerns of immigrant communities are very real, she also warned that boycotting the census is not the answer. It would only reinforce a concerted effort to construct a whiter electorate, diminishing diverse communities’ political voice and shared funding. For immigrant communities, participating in the census is about not being invisible. It is a way to say, “I am here, I count.” Ms. Gupta ended her statement making a call to philanthropy to join the effort and to invest in building capacity to engage in census outreach in community organizations that serve populations at risk of underrepresentation.

The Census 2020 working group is aware that funder engagement in support of the census is more important than ever. It is creating a space for funders to learn, strategize, and plan investments together and is actively creating resources and opportunities for grantee partners and non-profit organizations in our region to encourage participation among their staff, clients, families, and communities.

To keep the momentum going the working group wrapped-up the conference by opening a request for proposals for the fund Count DMV In, which will support projects related to outreach, education, and direct assistance focused on hard to count communities. It also released a set of fact sheets with information on basics you need to know about the census next year, including a timeline, ways you can help, and data on census tracks at risk of undercounting in each jurisdiction of the greater Washington region.

We all have a role to play in the 2020 Census. Whether you can commit to a sustained effort or can spare only a couple hours, you can participate in multiple ways—starting today. All hands on deck!

Here are three ways to get involved:

  • Follow @CensusCounts and spread the word about how the census is easy, safe, and important. Use the hashtag #CountDMVIn to raise awareness about the importance of an accurate count in our region.
  • Convene workshops and webinars to develop solutions to Census 2020 challenges in your community, to share resources and information, and to receive important updates.
  • Join the Census 2020 working group or consider investing directly or with other foundations and donors through CountDMVIn—a pooled fund housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation dedicated to Census 2020.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC