Oct 20, 2007

Voter project aims to increase the power of Michigan nonprofits

LANSING – Michigan’s nonprofit agencies reach and help thousands of Michigan residents, many of them in underserved and underrepresented areas, and the Michigan Participation Project (MPR) hopes to tap into the power of those connections by getting them to the polls on election day.

The MPR a 501(3C) nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative dedicated to expanding the political role and power of Michigan’s varied nonprofit agencies, and it is under the umbrella of the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) that represents about a 1,000 nonprofit agencies. Membership includes trade associations, human service agencies and advocacy organizations. The voter project hopes to increase voter turnout and give the people the nonprofits serve more of a voice in the political arena. Nationwide nonprofits employ some 11 million people and serves many millions more, and that many people can have a major effect on an election.

“Many nonprofits don’t know what they can and cannot do legally,” said Tiffany Aurora a staff member with the MPR and a public policy associate with the MNA. “They don’t realize they can be involved, and they just have to be non-partisan.
“Nonprofits get a much better pulse of what’s going on in the communities they serve,” she said.

The project is part of the national Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network, and they currently have participation projects in eight other states including Michigan. The project was launched in Michigan just before the 2006 General Election, and although it really did not have enough time to make a major difference in the election, it did get more people involved in the process.

“We heard a lot of stories on how we got people involved in the process for the first time who had never been involved politically before,” Aurora said.

The MPR meets its goals with a number of resources, such as with publications that give guidelines on what nonprofits can do in elections, ideas for getting out the vote, information and the forms to register people to vote, information on where to vote, information on hosting a candidate forums and various fact sheets. Many of the materials can be directly downloaded from their web site, including voter registration materials.

MPR staff will even come out to your agency to conduct a two-hour training session on vote participation.

“Our training is very broad because we have so many nonprofits out there that cover so may different areas,” Aurora said. “There is also a lot of information on our web site, and I would encourage people to take advantage of all the information there.”

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