Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

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Be Counted Michigan Aims to Prevent Undercounting in 2020 Census

By Nellie Tsai, MNA Community and Civic Engagement Director

In 2020, we are at risk of a significant undercount in the decennial U.S. census that will have a grave impact on the political representation and federal funding of local communities. The Census 2020 Michigan Nonprofit Complete Count Campaign — also known as Be Counted Michigan 2020 — is a collaborative, coordinated, statewide effort to encourage participation in the census in communities that are at significant risk of being undercounted.

The campaign will mobilize nonprofits to encourage participation in the 2020 census, provide trainings and tools for nonprofits on effective outreach tactics, assist nonprofits in identifying hard-to-count communities, award mini-grants to local nonprofits, coordinate a statewide communications plan and work with government officials to avoid duplication of efforts and enhance governments’ communication and outreach efforts to ensure a complete count.

A lot is at stake if Michigan does not get a fair and accurate census count. In many ways, the census is about power and money; it dictates our political representation and affects federal funding (an estimated loss of $1,800 per year for each person not counted). The census also shapes the communities in which we live and work; everything from education to transportation to businesses and nonprofits routinely relies on census data to determine where services are needed and resources are allocated. An inaccurate count would affect the lives of Michiganders for the next 10 years; there are no recounts.

And yet the census has historically missed certain segments of the population — communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants and young children — at disproportionately high rates. Being undercounted deprives these groups of equal political representation and private and public resources. The 2020 census is especially alarming, since there will likely be less follow-up with non-responding households due to the Census Bureau’s change in its model for collecting responses, funding challenges and a reduced number of Census Bureau employees at the local level.

Given the importance of the 2020 census and the challenges it is facing, the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) has created a framework that utilizes both a statewide coalition and regional census hubs as vehicles to target outreach to the historically undercounted groups (see illustration). The census hubs, strategically located across the state, are a critical element of the campaign. The census hubs support fieldwork at the grassroots level. Among their many functions, census hubs develop regional-service-area-specific plans to reach the historically undercounted populations and help administer mini-grants.

The statewide coalition — the Michigan Nonprofit Complete Count Committee — is composed of leaders from organizations that represent local nonprofits serving undercounted communities and from organizations that directly represent those hardest to count. The committee informs and provides guidance for the campaign infrastructure. Working closely with state and federal officials, the committee will develop and implement a statewide outreach and awareness campaign to increase participation in the decennial census. The committee is co-chaired by Hassan Jaber, CEO and president of ACCESS, an Arab-American community nonprofit organization based in the Detroit area, and Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO of MNA.

For a complete list of the regional census hubs or to sign up for our weekly census newsletter, please visit becountedmi2020.com.