Investing in A Complete Count for the 2020 Census

Brendon Smith January 2020

The Crimsonbridge Foundation has awarded $60,000 in grants to five nonprofit organizations in the Greater Washington region that are working to increase participation in the 2020 Census. The organizations, which include Ayuda, Identity Inc., Latin American Youth Center, Liberty’s Promise, and Mary’s Center, are committed to supporting a complete count effort that includes the clients, families, and communities they work with every day.

Why is it important for philanthropy to invest in getting a complete census count? The census informs how government, businesses, researchers, and communities make significant decisions, including allocating political representation, opening or closing businesses, and providing social services. It is estimated that more than 55,000 individuals in the Greater Washington region were undercounted in the 2010 Census and that the full need of our community was not captured.

According to a 2016 report from the Census Bureau, low-income communities, English language learners, and immigrants are among populations that are historically undercounted in the census. The census is supposed to count every living person in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status. Although the Supreme Court ruled against including a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, an atmosphere of misinformation, fear, and uncertainty persists, heightening the risk of an undercount.

In 2019, the Crimsonbridge Foundation expanded its Bridges Program, which supports nonprofits in developing communications tools and strategies to effectively reach and engage with bilingual and Spanish-speaking families, to include work specific to the 2020 Census. Organizations were selected for Bridges Census 2020 grants based not only on their outreach strategy, but on their knowledge, established relationships, and expertise in working with multi-lingual immigrant communities.

The following is a snapshot of the 2020 Census Complete Count plans for each of the five grant recipients. To learn more we encourage you to visit the websites of these community partners.

Ayuda, a nonprofit legal services provider, has developed a multi-pronged strategy that involves outreach through social media and community events, as well as training staff attorneys, social workers, and volunteers on how to talk to their clients about the census. All outreach will be conducted in multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Amharic, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Portuguese.

Identity, Inc., which works with youth and their families who live in high-poverty areas of Montgomery County, will execute their ¡Tú Sí Cuentas! You Do Count! project throughout Montgomery County to ensure that low-income Latinos, recent immigrants, and TransLatinx residents are counted in the 2020 Census. The project will start with a needs assessment to determine the primary obstacles that are likely to prevent individuals from completing the census in 2020. Identity will then create an awareness and outreach strategy to be implemented in five of the top ten non-respondent communities of Montgomery County.

Latin American Youth Center, which has served immigrant youth and families in the region for more than 50 years, will leverage a current program, the Teen Center Media Program, and create a cohort of 30 youth who will learn about the census and design a plan to increase local participation and awareness. After researching the effects of the census on their community, youth will work in the LAYC’s Media Arts Lab to develop bilingual outreach materials on census facts and myths and execute an outreach campaign in the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Liberty’s Promise is partnering with the City of Gaithersburg to target census outreach and education to a specific hard-to-count census tract in Gaithersburg, where nearly half of residents are foreign-born, and 20 percent report that no one in the household speaks English “very well.” Liberty’s Promise will add a census component to their existing civic engagement program at Gaithersburg High School, which is offered in English and Spanish. Youth participants will attend regional complete count meetings and develop and execute an outreach plan designed to increase response rates in the hard-to-count community in which they live.

Mary’s Center, a provider of high-quality healthcare, education, and social services, will identify and train Census Champions from among their staff to lead efforts throughout the organization to educate and motivate staff and community members around the 2020 Census. By incorporating census education into the existing workflow, Mary’s Center will reach more than 500 community members each day. Mary’s Center received a grant from the DC Mayor’s Office to support census outreach in DC, and Crimsonbridge support will expand outreach to their two Maryland sites.