What the 2010 U.S. Census Could Mean for Your Nonprofit Organization

If you hadn’t heard by now that the 2010 United States Census is upon us, perhaps the government’s $133 million advertising campaign has been for naught.  This month, Census forms started making their way into mailboxes throughout the country.

The U.S. Census is an official count of every resident in the United States, and the Constitution requires that this official count be taken every 10 years.  Most 2010 Census forms were sent in mid-March.   April 1 is “National Census Day,” and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, this day should be used as a point of reference for returning completed Census forms in the mail. Finally, from April through July, census takers will visit households that failed to return a completed Census form.

So how might the current Census affect your organization?

First, the Census affects federal and state funding to a variety of government programs. The Census helps determine the distribution of roughly $400 billion a year in federal funds to state and local governments.  Experts estimate that for every one person not counted in 2010, local governments will lose roughly $12,000 in federal monies over the next 10 years.  If your nonprofit organization relies on federal, state, or local funding in order to sustain your programming, you will obviously want to pay close attention to Census results.

The 2010 Census results will almost certainly have an impact on your state’s voice in the federal government. Census data is used apportioning seats in the House of Representatives and in drawing up congressional districts.

The Census also affects community and economic development in that Census data is used by government and private-sector planners for a variety of development decisions including where to construct new roads, highways, parks, schools, businesses, and various social services offices.

So far, all of these impacts deal with how governments and other entities will use this updated demographic information.  But what does this mean for your nonprofit organization?   How can you make use of this information?

First, the 2010 Census results present an opportunity for you to take inventory of the populations you serve and see what’s changed in the last 10 years.  If you’re a local, community organization, you will want to see how the demographics of your particular area have changed, and how you might want to adapt your programming accordingly.  On the other hand, if your organization focuses on a particular segment of the population (e.g., racial minorities or the elderly), you will obviously want to pay attention to broader changes as they relate to that particular group.  Second, you can also seize this as a fundraising opportunity.  For example, if your targeted population increases, or if government support for your programming dries up, you can try to capitalize on these changes as an opportunity to reach out to potential funding partners.

Finally, it’s worth noting that low-income populations, the elderly, racial minorities, and recent immigrants are all at greater risk for being under undercounted by the Census. Because many nonprofits offer programming that serves these populations, organizations such as “Nonprofits Count! 2010” are encouraging nonprofits to play a role in making sure their communities are fully and accurately counted by raising awareness within those particular communities about the importance of the Census and how they can participate.  You can find more information at: http://www.nonprofitscount.org.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] Census data also influences program development and expansion of services provided to older adults. Many organizations turn to the Census as a convenient tool to inform an assessment of community needs. Inaccurate Census numbers can negatively influence program development and the very way we provide services to our clients. The bottom line: the more seniors completing the Census, the better off our aging services, both financially and programmatically. […]


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