Guest blog by:
Chynna A. Phillips
Research and Policy Manager
Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina
APRIL 1, 2020 is Census Day. What are you doing to prepare?
Before I begin, please note that this blog post is not meant to make its reader proficient on all things Census. My purpose is simply to share that no matter how daunting the task is of achieving a complete and accurate count of all individuals living in South Carolina, there is a role that everyone can and should play in preparation for Census 2020.
Long before there were Ted Talks explaining the power of courage and vulnerability, and blogs outlining the steps to effectively use ones’ voice, nonprofits have been leading by example for years. Through compelling stories and exposure to the truths of the work their organizations do, nonprofit leaders evoke action from potential donors, build trust with their clients and communities, and motivate their staff and volunteers alike. When large systems fail to meet the needs of the collective, and misguided leaders defund services; nonprofit leaders step in. Nonprofits step in to advocate that their communities and the individuals within them are supported and seen through a lens of power and resilience. On a daily basis, nonprofit leaders challenge, advocate, and push boundaries.
It is this daily drive, that leaves us to wonder, what would happen if nonprofit leaders and those around them collectively worked toward a goal that had political implications? For many reasons, all of which hold some level of validity, policy is an area that many nonprofits choose not to venture. Our separate missions and organizational values present unique challenges making it difficult for many to see a shared topic worth working toward. While we can wrestle with finding what that topic is for weeks or even years, I have a thought.
I submit to you, that the upcoming Census is an issue that cuts across all sectors, missions, and communities. Assisting in this effort does not pull us away from our missions, but draws us closer to the very individuals our missions calls us to serve. For better or worse, we are all impacted by the results of each census. According to the US Census Bureau:
“The population totals from the census determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative and school districts. The population totals also affect funding in your community, and data collected in the census help decision makers know how your community is changing.”
The community impact that the upcoming census may have is vast, and the list of ways the census information is used is extensive. (See Appendix A: 50 Ways Data Are Used.)
Spoiler Alert: You may be the leader you’re looking for…
As you begin to question and search for who is doing the work around Census 2020, you may find that no one has started. And that’s ok! What lead me to be appointed as the chair of the Complete Count Committee for the City of Columbia is simply asking questions and not stopping until I found an answer worthy of the community I serve. After being informed that the City of Columbia was already making this a priority (no surprise there), I offered to lend my gifts in whatever way I can. Of course, I have experience in community organizing and other assets to bring to the table, but at its core is the heart and passion for the task at hand. And that is equally important if not at times more important.
Actionable Steps...Steps you can take!
Whenever new topics are thrown into the mix, the question of organizational capacity is always one that rises to the top. Here are a few quick tips that may resonate with your organization.
1. Arm yourself with trusted Information
In the age of information, it is hard to sift through the wide birth of data being generated every day. Here are a few tools to consider.
- Census.Gov - Your one stop shop for all of your Census needs.
- 2020census.Gov - Access to official Census 2020 operational plans, FAQs and more.
- Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM). Find out how well your state is doing by assessing the hard-to-survey areas.
- Hard to Count 2020 - Another tool that can assist in identifying hard-to-count areas.
- Confidentiality - Did you know it is a crime to share identifiable information given on the census? Individual records are protected by law (Title 44, U.S. Code) and confidential for 72 years!
- American FactFinder - Ever wonder where all that information goes? This is an easy way to pull the data you need from the American Community Survey.
2. Educate your staff and board
Getting buy-in from all those involved not only leads to better outcomes but also increases the number of people in the community who can speak to the importance of Census 2020.
- Request a presentation or the information of the representative working in your county. Contact the regional office for your state. For South Carolina, it is The Atlanta Regional Office. This office is also responsible for North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
- Host a Census Solutions Workshop (See Appendix C): Businesses, city officials, community-based organizations, or any other persons or groups can host a workshop. The Census Bureau created a toolkit that gives step-by-step guidance on how to host a workshop. The toolkit is available at www.census.gov/partners. For more information, please contact U.S. Census Bureau at email@example.com.
3. Educate your constituents/clients.
With the changes being made to Census 2020. The more we can dispel myths and prepare communities for the upcoming Census, the better we will all be.
4. Make the information you share available to all of your clients.
While the U.S. Census Bureau has done their best to provide clear and concise information on their website, access to that information presents a challenge for all communities.
5. Develop an organizational plan
How will your organization send out the information? Will it be by mail, Facebook page, flyers in waiting rooms, in bathroom stalls, etc.? No way is right or wrong. This plan will depend on the organization and where you get the most engagement. The Census will be different this year, so having an understanding of the process and changes in advance is key.
- This step is especially important for organizations that serve hard to count populations (Examples of hard to count populations are; children, those experiencing homelessness and poverty, those who reside in rural areas.)
6. Serve as a partner for your local Complete Count Committee (CCC).
Many complete count committees will need trusted members of the community or organizations who will be willing to share information they develop to educate the community about the upcoming Census.
7. Help the U.S. Census Bureau recruit new talent.
Help is needed at all levels. There are part-time and full-time options for all who apply.
8. Don’t stop there!
These are just examples, and there are many more ways you can get engaged and help those that need the information.
- For assistance with strategies call your local CCC or County US Census Bureau Rep., etc. For additional information about the CCC Program, please contact your regional census center. South Carolina: Atlanta.firstname.lastname@example.org
- You do not have to be an official CCC to advocate for the Census. There may be other organizations and efforts taking place in your community. I have heard a buzz in various areas across the state, so this is exciting news. Happy searching!
If the road ahead looks too daunting, I will leave you with this, “It is easy to get overwhelmed by the level of need. But you must take it one issue and one ‘grant’ at a time. Doing something will always be better than doing nothing. The risk is too high, not to do something,” Tom Keith, President, Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.
My friends the risk is too high not to be engaged in this work! The future of South Carolina is relying on a complete and accurate count of all that reside in our state. And we are just the people to help make that happen. Happy Counting Everyone!
Let me know what you are doing to support Census 2020. I would love to know. Let’s keep the conversation going. #SCCounts
ABOUT CHYNNA A. PHILLIPS
When she speaks, people listen. Whether she is talking about the latest thing her baby boy learned, or telling the staff about the latest research she found, people listen because of Chynna’s fierce and passionate voice.
Chynna cares deeply about health equity and advocating for vulnerable populations, and uses her gift of voice to speak for and with others. Not only is she passionate about serving others, but she does it well. Chynna’s belief of “excellence is the standard by which you should operate” has been passed down from her family, and is evident in her work as the Foundation’s research and policy manager.
Lastly, Chynna has the ability to light up the office when she walks in. Making even the grumpiest morning person smile, her laughter and kind spirit is infectious. Ironically, she mirrors the character of her hero, Dorothy Irene Height. Height was a lifelong Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist. Chynna admires Height’s commitment to what she believed in, her humility, and her poise. It is safe to say that Chynna is following in her footsteps.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” James Baldwin
Education: M.S.W. and M.P.H. (University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC); B.A. in Sociology (Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH)
Community Engagement: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Phi Alpha Social Work Honors Society
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The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a statewide foundation that works to reduce poverty through action, advocacy, and leadership. Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is located in Columbia, South Carolina.