• By Margaret Keough •
This year, 2024, brings a high-profile election year to the calendar. Now is an excellent time to review what actions your nonprofit arts organization can take to promote participation in the coming election cycle. (Please note: this is general information, not legal advice.)
Ways to get involved
Voter registration or get-out-the-vote efforts are allowable ways your nonprofit can engage in the election process. Consider hosting an event to register new voters and have voters update any address changes. Think about joining forces with organizations to hold a voter registration event at your facility. The laws are different in each state, so please contact your local election office to learn of requirements and registration deadlines.
During election season
Other than hosting a registration event at your location, think of ideas to energize your community to vote and take part in civic engagement. Your art museum could hold an election for a favorite work of art in its collection. Your history museum or library could highlight relevant stories, books, or archived images that relate to U.S. election history or civic discourse.
On election day
Review laws that allow time off for your employees to vote. Share with staff members the times that polling places are open so that they may plan accordingly. Encourage employees to have a plan for the day.
To alleviate stress, consider offering a place of solace—a creative workshop for the public, a meditation session, or a no-news zone breakroom.
Things to remember and avoid
Remain nonpartisan, but encourage community and staff members to take part in the process. Keep in mind rules that apply to how nonprofits can be involved. As a general rule, your nonprofit should not support or oppose an individual candidate, party, or campaign. Doing so may jeopardize your organization’s nonprofit status. However, you can inform your community of candidates and issues on the ballot, sign up new voters, and encourage people to vote.
Where to turn for help
The organization Nonprofit Vote offers excellent information for nonprofit leaders with questions about how they can engage in the process during this election year. Rock the Vote offers a toolkit to register younger voters in your community. The site Vote411.org, developed by the League of Women Voters, shares information in English and Spanish.
Check out these resources
Nonprofit Vote provides nonpartisan resources in “What Nonprofits Can Say about Local Elections” to help nonprofits integrate voter engagement into their ongoing activities and services. This article highlights some of the most frequently asked questions your nonprofit may be asked during an election year, and how to field them.
American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums shares Nonprofit Voter Resource to help nonprofits, including museums, learn how they can participate in advocacy and lobbying, nonpartisan election-year activity, and nonpartisan voter engagement. Worth another click: their Guide to Election Year Activities.
National Council of Nonprofits and The Independent Sector
Both of these sites dive deeper into how nonprofits can engage with advocacy and civic engagement. The Independent Sector offers a variety of assets, including The Nonprofit Voter Engagement Playbook. The National Councils of Nonprofits shares information about everyday advocacy, including posing the question Why Should Your Nonprofit Advocate?
Learn more about advocacy at Mid-America Arts Alliance.
Margaret A. Keough is M-AAA’s first Director of Advocacy, working to strengthen our region’s arts and creativity sector through advocacy. For more than 30 years, she served in marketing and communications roles at M-AAA, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.