Webinar Rewatch: CF Leads Briefing “Building a More Inclusive and Vibrant Democracy: Community Foundations’ Role”

As part of our series of events for the Philanthropy for Voter Engagement Toolkit, we partnered with CF Leads to host a webinar on voter engagement best practices for community foundations. We were joined by two community foundation leaders, Allison Levine, formerly Vice President for Marketing & Communications at Delaware Community Foundation and nowCEO, Local Journalism Initiative, and Chinedum Nnodum, Director of Community Strategies, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

Watch the the recording below or on YouTube for the full conversation.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

  • Engage your board in voter engagement work: We heard from participants and speakers that a common challenge can be demystifying nonpartisan voter engagement work for board members who have concerns that the work could be perceived as political. As a starting point, speakers suggested:
    • Having an in-depth and open conversation with board members about what their comfort levels are, what their wants and needs are, and presenting neutral, objective data about voter participation rates or insights from community organizations about the need for voter engagement.
    • Being strategic and thoughtful about the language used and information presented in board conversations. For example, Allison shared that for some board members using language that connects voter engagement to transparency, ensuring tax dollars are used effectively might be compelling while other donors may be more moved by addressing equity in voter engagement and the impact that lack of representation has on Black and Brown communities. Allison also mentioned that there is data which shows that good democratic processes are healthy for communities in ways that appeal to various donors. And Chinedum encouraged foundations to remember that local organizations are communicating that they need more voter engagement support and, community foundations in particular, have a responsibility to help fulfill these needs. 
    • Facilitating learning sessions with the board that sit at the intersection of issues already core to the foundation and inclusive voter engagement and anchoring conversations by presenting ways voter engagement supports the grantees the foundation already partners with. 
    • Remembering to be patient as boards go on their learning journey. Continue to provide educational resources and be a supportive partner as they navigate the voter engagement landscape. 
  • Leverage or partner local registrars or secretaries of state to advance voter engagement work. Engaging the local registrar has been an effective model for Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and allows them to remain nonpartisan in their voter engagement work. In addition, by lifting up local elections, it helps reiterate the message that local elections are just as if not more important than federal elections.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed with the question of where to start. Both speakers expressed that getting involved with voter engagement does not need to be a big initial commitment. Both organizations pointed to starting with smaller donations to local organizations or specific voter engagement programs as a way to test this area of focus. In addition, working in partnership with other funders allows for shared learning and can lower the barrier to entry. For example, directing private foundation dollars to a community foundation voter engagement initiative or engaging other local funders to learn or seed fund a new initiative might be a useful place to start. 
  • Listen to the community. Ultimately, this work is about supporting community voice so it’s important to approach this in a community-informed and community-driven manner. One concrete example is to conduct a voter engagement ecosystem analysis that helps your foundation understand what local groups are currently doing, what’s been successful, and what are some needs or gaps that can inform a voter engagement strategy. For Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, leveraging feedback sessions from donors, grantee partners, and community partners helped to inform the foundation’s decisions and use the input to apply it directly to the voter engagement work to stay accountable to the mission.

Want to bring this resource to your foundation or network? Request a briefing of the Philanthropy for Voter Engagement Toolkit by emailing us at: