Your Voice, Your Vote: Rocking With The Jefferson Votes Initiative

by | October 6, 2022 | News | 0 comments

View a recording of the call HERE.

“The stakes are much higher. People need to be informed decision-makers. Every time these elections roll around, there’s a distinct impact on quality of life… And if we don’t prepare non-profits to become more agile and iterative, to be more transformational, to have more of an entrepreneurial mindset, then the cacophony of challenges that confront philanthropy will over-run its ability to respond in-kind.

Fred Brown, President & CEO of The Forbes Funds

Jefferson Regional Foundation & Jefferson Community Collaborative: A “Community-Centric, Nonpartisan, Collaborative Approach”

The Jefferson Community Collaborative is a network of community-serving organizations that are committed to collaborating and working together in nonpartisan ways to improve community life in Pittsburgh’s South Hills and lower Mon Valley. As a direct outcome of the inaugural Jefferson Forum in 2015, the Collaborative operates under the umbrella of the Jefferson Regional Foundation and emerged as an opportunity for “community voice” and a platform for organizations across the Jefferson Region to network and collaborate.

The Collaborative has since become a membership of 100+ community-based organizations and an incubator for powerful ideas, a tool for capacity building, and a facilitator of group action on broad community aspirations. This group of change agents is focused on serving as an incubator for powerful ideas and promising practices, improving the capacity of community-serving organizations, and facilitating group action on community aspirations.

The Jefferson Votes Initiative “Working Together For Community Change”

Daniel (Danny) Vereb, Community Engagement Manager for the Jefferson Regional Foundation, stopped by this week and transformed our CCS space into an engaging, inspiring, and interactive call to action for our region to stand united on matters of civic engagement, irrespective of political ideology or party affiliation. As we stand on the precipice of another November election which promises hotly contested races, divisive political theater, and complex issues threatening our region, Vereb presented our community with a compelling, turnkey blueprint for voter engagement. He also offered us a sobering reminder that our collective response in the non-profit sector warrants courage, begs strong voter education, and demands even stronger voter turnout.

Jefferson Votes is a nonpartisan initiative of the Jefferson Regional Foundation and Jefferson Community Collaborative that was modeled after their successful 2020 Jefferson Counts Census campaign which engaged over 60 local groups. This voter engagement initiative is designed and led by the Collaborative’s dynamic Civic and Policy Engagement Action Team. The objective of the Jefferson Votes initiative is to inspire Jefferson area residents to participate in the election process, leveraging local organizations as trusted entities and valued community resources to:
• Strengthen Collaborative organizations in the Jefferson community to increase voter registration and participation.
• Ensure that the Jefferson community is confident, comfortable, and informed about the process of voting.
• Inspire regional interest and enthusiasm in civic engagement to continue to rise.

What’s In This For YOU?

In a word, the personal agency best characterizes the Jefferson Votes initiative. As Vereb also pointed out during our call, non-profit organizations are the trusted entities on the frontline where people go to receive services and gather information. YOU are the virtual storefront to the community – touching, reaching, and welcoming individuals and groups through its doors every single day. What YOU believe in means something to the people and communities you serve. The awareness YOU bring captures their attention. The principles YOU stand on and the movements YOU get behind inevitably create a trail of supporters willing to follow your lead. YOU are best positioned and naturally poised to be the one that shares the importance of voter engagement and turnout across the region heading into November.

“The idea that a community that participates in civic engagement, whether it be voter engagement or census, or anything else that addresses what our next steps are as a collective and actively participates in the work of civic engagement is a really healthy community. The organizations that are doing this work and committed to taking one or more actions leading up to the November elections have become our voter engagement champions.”

Danny Voreb | Community Engagement Manager | Jefferson Regional Foundation

Becoming A Voter Engagement Champion

Yes, you can become a voter engagement champion today! In order to keep front and center the things that would be most helpful to the community, the Jefferson Votes task force has adopted and modeled a three-pronged engagement approach for implementing voter engagement, including the Jefferson Votes Lunch and Learn Workshop Series, Toolkit of Resources, and Jefferson Votes Webpages.

The Jefferson Votes website offers “one-stop shopping,” providing a plethora of resources and a robust, turnkey toolkit of resources for organizations to turn the switch on to participate in voter engagement with their constituents and community members. The information shared ranges from Knowing Your Options To Vote and Resources For First Time Voting to Election Rights/Voting Security and Banners/Collateral call-to-action materials to get out the vote! In effect, this resource has the inherent potential to become a living, breathing working template for the region that moves and informs past party lines and county lines. Here are a few of the incredible turnkey, user-friendly (customizable) resources available to you and to share with the community through the Jefferson Votes initiative webpages:
Jefferson Votes – Jefferson Community Collaborative (jeffersoncollaborative.org)
Jefferson Votes Initiative | Jefferson Regional Foundation | Pittsburgh, PA (jeffersonrf.org)

What is the purpose of the Voter Engagement Toolkit?

The Jefferson Votes Toolkit is one piece of the nonpartisan initiative created by the Jefferson Regional Foundation and the 100+ member-strong Jefferson Community Collaborative. The Jefferson Collaborative is excited to provide targeted, nonpartisan resources and training for nonprofit organizations in the Jefferson area. Within this Toolkit, you will find ready-to-use materials specifically created for the Jefferson Votes initiative to help organizations with voter engagement efforts. Included are also voter engagement resources from Nonprofit VOTE, National Voter Registration Day and the Pennsylvania Department of State. From a training perspective, one of the key insights and tactical approaches Vereb in his team deployed was identifying communities in the Mon Valley and South Hills where residents were registered to vote but not actively participating.

Studies and research around nonpartisan voter engagement indicate that it’s much easier to get people who are lapsed voters to come to the polls as opposed to new voters. With that in mind, Vereb and his team looked at where the geo-level disparity was – in McKeesport, Homestead, and Clairton neighborhoods – and focused voter engagement efforts there so it really wasn’t just a push for the entire community but working within specific regions to utilize non-profit partners to get information out into the community.

Mini-Grant Opportunities

Jefferson Votes mini-grants are designed to allow nonprofit organizations to promote voter engagement to their constituents and community partners by assisting organizations with costs associated with voter engagement education and outreach. Mini-grants are available up to $1,000 depending on the level of activities your organization has planned for the initiative and the resources needed. To apply for a mini-grant please complete the simple mini-grant form with your intended actions and return it to JRF’s Director of Grantmaking and Strategy, Kelleigh Boland.

We believe this powerful, collaborative initiative of the Jefferson Regional Foundation still only scratches the surface of what is possible when our Ecosystem comes together sector-wide with a nonpartisan, collective mindset to “pierce the veil of our own frailties” and see beyond our individual differences as our CEO Fred Brown stated in closing our call. With Election Day, literally 30 days away from today, this is the opportunity to use your voice, your vote, your agency, and your influence as a leader in the community to make a lasting difference in November.

This Week’s Calls to Action – How will you respond?

1.) Join fellow Collaborative organizations to get informed and consider one or many simple actions by completing the interest form and signing up to become a Voter Engagement Champion today! Download here.

2.) Download the Jefferson Votes Voter Engagement Toolkit & Election Guide! Download here.

3.) Add a call-to-action poster or banner from the Jefferson Votes Engagement resources to your website, social media, or email signature! Download here.

4.) Send customizable internal/external voter engagement emails to staff, volunteers and partners!
See samples here.

5.) Stay up, and stay informed on Jefferson Collaborative events, including training and other learning opportunities HERE.

6.) As always, reach out, share feedback or schedule a one-on-one discussion to go deeper:

  • erin@forbesfunds.org
  • emily@forbesfunds.org

This Week’s Call Framework & Goal Alignment

This week’s call and discussion demonstrated broad alignment within our core framework, matching all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals as a broad-stroke function of voter engagement. As we know, the policies that touch and shape all of these goals locally, at the state level, federally, and globally are rooted in civic participation. Indeed, change happens when we share our voices when we share what the collective is thinking and when we use our personal agency to hold elected officials accountable. In addition, we surmised that all of the Social Determinants of Health are also impacted by voter engagement – with a particular emphasis and lens from the Jefferson Community Collaborative and Jefferson Votes Initiative placed around Neighborhood and Built Environment along with Social and Community Context.

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