As we await the results of this year’s general election, we have the opportunity to reflect on the past year, and to consider what comes next. 2020 has been a year of challenges and fortitude, in politics as in our daily lives. From Congress and the Supreme Court, to our homes and work environments, politics have perhaps never felt more personal. Our country has been asked to decide our stance on issues that impact human rights, healthcare, equity, climate change, and more. We were asked to choose the type of leader and future that we would like to see.
With so much at stake, we knew this was a crucial year to join these nationwide Get Out The Vote efforts through our pledge functionality. As we approached the election, we found much to make us feel hopeful. From the surge of young people voting early and by mail, to the poll workers and frontline workers putting themselves at risk for the good of their community, we have seen that giving and forgiveness, empathy and energy, can coexist and move us all forward.
The America we live in remains riddled with uncertainty and division. The fault lines in our nation have been revealed; they are not so easily covered back up, nor should they be. There is work to be done, and it is the privilege of living in the United States that we are able to do it.
In this post, we will discuss how we can come together in our communities, bridging ideological divides so that our democracy can act as a beacon of equality and progress. Here, we will share actionable steps that you can take — now and in the future — to move your community forward.
As you read and reflect, we encourage you to create an action group with friends and family to determine which steps you can take, together or separately, to stay engaged. Create an online meeting with tools like Zoom (or socially distanced in-person event) to debrief and figure out where to go from here. We hope that this post will help guide these discussions as you build a plan to stay engaged and make an impact.
Remember, no matter how you choose to engage in this time, COVID-19 is still with us, and likely will be for some time. Practice good hand hygiene, wear masks, maintain social distance whenever possible, and isolate if you are showing symptoms. For more information about screening and testing protocols, see our post here.
The Power of the Polls
While the 2020 presidential election is over, this does not mean exercising our right to vote is on hold for the next four years. There are many things that you can do to engage, and to ensure that others are able to do so, in the crucial elections and referendums in your community.
Local and State Engagement
While federal elections tend to receive the most attention, using your voice remains just as important in state and local decision-making. From local elections and midterms to referendums on budgets and bills, important decisions are being made on a regular basis that will directly impact your community.
Action Item: Finding out about these local elections and referendums can be tricky; they tend to be less splashy, and don’t have the widespread engagement of federal elections. Use GivePulse’s TurboVote to keep track of future elections.
While we were thrilled to see so many people making their voices heard in this year’s election, we know many were stymied by voter suppression and disenfranchisement. Challenges such as restrictions on absentee ballots, felon disenfranchisement, closed poll locations, lengthy wait times, and more made voting difficult, or even impossible, for many in our country. We know that in a democracy by the people and for the people, we are strongest when everyone is able to exercise their right to vote.
Action Item: Learn about voting requirements and restrictions in your state. If you see something that you know needs to change, don’t be silent — make your voice heard! Contact your local and state representatives, donate to organizations fighting voter suppression, or, if your state is voting on changes to voter access, make sure you get your ballot in on time.
Fight Against Misinformation
In recent elections, social media usage and dedicated efforts by foreign and domestic entities spread misinformation about voting and political parties. In order for our democracy to be truly by the people, for the people, we must fight against misinformation. Informed voting is the foundation of a healthy democracy.
Action Item: One way to make a difference is by learning the signs of voter misinformation and inviting thoughtful discussions with family and friends on both sides of the aisle. These conversations are deeply important — dialogue with trusted individuals can open the communication necessary to share conflicting viewpoints and reconsider sources of information. When using social media, always fact-check articles with a variety of different sources before sharing; algorithms feed information that you are likely to agree with, so don’t be caught in a confirmation bias loop without double checking your facts.
Beyond the Booth: Advocacy and Public Office
Voting is important, but there are many other ways to make your voice heard in political concerns. Whatever path you choose to take, make sure you are staying safe and careful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to making your voice heard at the polls, you can make your voice heard in between election cycles by contacting your representatives over the phone or email. These representatives work for the people; if you are troubled by something in your community, you can let these individuals know and ask them to work for change.
Action Item: If you do not yet know them, look up the elected officials for your district or county, including your representative, senator, governor, town or city councillors, and more. Add their phone numbers and email addresses to your contacts. These will save time when it comes to letting them know your thoughts.
Run for Office
Sometimes, contacting your representatives just doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe you see a role where your knowledge, your views, and your voice would make a difference on a broader scale. Our nation is strengthened by a variety of life experiences being heard and amplified through public office. These offices should, and must, reflect the diversity of our country. No matter what your career path and experience thus far, running for office is something you should seriously consider.
Action Item: Visit your city, state, or county’s election website to find information about roles and requirements. You can also sign up for programs or bootcamps to get helpful information and build a community (for example, She Should Run offers support and community for women who are considering running for office). For more hints and help, this NPR article offers clear steps to take!
Engage in Peaceful Protests
In the wake of the 2016 elections, protests erupted. The Women’s March, the March for Science, and protests against travel bans, immigration policies, and more offered a voice to those who disagreed with the policies enacted. Over the past year, we have seen the power of protest amplify stories of ongoing and systemic racism. There will continue to be choices made by any administration that leave constituents feeling angry and disheartened. Peaceful protest is a protected right in the United States; make use of it and make your voice heard.
Action Item: Join local political and advocacy groups to learn more about causes you care about, and to stay in the loop about upcoming protests and marches that you might be interested in participating in. Just as you have to make sure you are fact-checking when sharing information, make a conscious effort to educate yourself before engaging in protests. Learn how to protest safely, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Give Back in Your Community
Whether or not you are voting, ongoing community engagement is a key component of a thriving democracy. Consider the following options to make an impact in your community.
With November underway, the giving season is upon us. Philanthropic giving is a great way to make an immediate impact for the organizations and individuals that need you most. Challenges of COVID-19 have hit many organizations financially; any dollar donated can go toward making a real change for those who may be left vulnerable due to COVID-19, uncertainty from political changes, and more.
Action Item: If you are a first time donor looking for somewhere to start, you can search for fundraisers and organizations by going to www.givepulse.com/search and selecting “Fundraiser” as the type of opportunity. If you are a returning donor who wants to share with your organization, you can create a peer-to-peer fundraiser; contact your organization admin for help getting this set up! For more information about crowdfunding, see our blog here.
Social entrepreneurship encourages the creation of wide-ranging and long term solutions to social justice issues. Now is a great time to find ways to turn your ideas into a reality. If you see a problem that you believe your skills and knowledge could help solve, social entrepreneurship might be the right path for you to make an impact.
Action Item: If you aren’t sure where to start, there may be events or groups that you can join to meet like-minded individuals who can help you develop your idea. You might even meet your cofounder at one of these groups, or make headway on your mission! For example, GivePulse co-founders George Luc and James McGirr developed and began building out GivePulse at the ATX Hackathon for Change 2013. Look for social entrepreneurship organizations in your field or in your area to get started.
One of the most impactful forms of giving is that of your time. Organizations are looking for volunteers to help them through pro bono volunteering, long and short term opportunities, research projects, in-person and virtual engagement, and more. Whether you are interested in volunteering virtually or in person, there are many opportunities and organizations who could use your help.
Action Item: Go to www.givepulse.com/search to find opportunities to make a difference in your community. Decide whether you want to look for specific causes, dates, times, and more. You can even filter to look for virtual and remote opportunities, to make sure you are making a difference from a distance.
No matter what you decide to do, and no matter how you feel about the outcome of this year’s election, now is the time to come together and make a difference. In these challenging times, we must work toward community wellness and success, and make our voices heard to ensure that we are able to move forward and make progress together.