Community Outreach Critical to Assure a Complete Count
Planning Assistance in Action
by Kristin Fleckenstein, Director of Public Affairs, and Randall Nixon, Associate Director, Maryland Census, with Kristen Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
The United States Census Bureau has revised the extended 2020 Census operational deadline, moving it up a month to September 30, 2020. Data collected by the Census has a tremendous impact on federal funding for critical services throughout the state. As a result, there is a renewed sense of urgency in getting the word out about achieving a complete count of every person living in Maryland.
To achieve a complete count, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) has been actively engaging business, faith, and nonprofit communities to secure their assistance in leveraging relationships with their membership to encourage Census participation. Planning is working with more than 40 business membership organizations across the state as well as the economic development authorities of every jurisdiction
(23 counties and numerous municipalities) in Maryland.
Planning has partnered with leaders from dozens of chambers of commerce and trade associations, providing them with a variety of outreach toolkits designed to carry this message to both their members and customers. In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a resulting shift away from in-person shopping, events and gatherings, these toolkits contain numerous online assets including: sample social media posts; digital banners and buttons that organizations can post on their websites or email correspondence; digital signage options; and printed advertising materials that organizations and businesses can use to encourage specific audiences to complete their Census 2020 forms. Other media resources, including audio and video spots as well are available to use, and examples of Census 2020 partner videos (custom videos created by local governments and other organizations) can be viewed.
Planning has conducted a similar strategy with leaders of faith-based organizations throughout Maryland, as they are trusted leaders not only within their congregations but also throughout the broader community. With many services shifting to virtual/online platforms or to smaller-scale gatherings during the pandemic, they have proven to be an excellent and robust means to connect with members and convey the critical nature of a complete Census 2020 response. A Faith Community Census Weekend of Action was held in July at which toolkits and other resources were also provided.
Knowing that Census data often impacts services used by those who need them most, but who are often also in the hardest to reach communities, Planning is partnering with the nonprofit sector. Partnerships with non-profit organizations that provide support to historically “hard-to-count” populations, such as non-English speaking, minority, rural, and low-income communities, is invaluable. Outreach toolkits geared specifically toward non-profit organizations were also created and distributed to these groups – including access to materials in more than half a dozen foreign languages – both broadening and simplifying ways to reach their clients so that those who rely most upon federally supported services and programs will indeed be counted.
Additionally, four of the six electric utilities that service state residents included Census-related social media messaging on their pages, newsletters, and directly on their customer statements and will continue this effort through August and September. This has resulted in frequent and on-going Census messaging to more than 3.8 million Marylanders.
With less than 40 days until the Census deadline, it is essential that we reach as many Marylanders as possible to encourage Census completion. This is the only way to ensure that the state gets it fair share of federal dollars to fund everything from healthcare to highways and meals to Medicare. Planning is committed to keeping our “foot on the gas” to get the word out and assure a complete count. Please consider what you can do to support these efforts!
For more information please contact Kristin Fleckenstein, Director of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or Randall Nixon, Associate Director, Maryland Census at email@example.com or (443) 603-4882.