Everybody

Everybody Counts. Every. Body.

Michigan Nonprofit Association
Be Counted Michigan 2020

2018 ANNUAL REPORT FEATURE STORY | Kathleen O’Brien

Michigan has a lot a stake in the 2020 Census.

Beyond determining the size of Michigan’s congressional delegation, the census count is used to allocate more than $17+ billion in federal funds that support critical programs in the state, including Medicaid, Head Start, Title 1, Special Education grants, and a long list of education, health care, employment, veteran services, and rural development programs. Even the level of the state’s highway funding is allocated based on the census results.

Without an accurate count, Michigan may face more than a decade of underrepresentation in Congress and—of particular concern for nonprofits—the loss of millions of dollars in federal revenue and a gross underinvestment in the vital services they provide citizens in the state. In total, about 40 percent of Michigan’s budget revenue is derived from federal funds and the state stands to lose an estimated $1,800 for each uncounted citizen.

Unfortunately, the risk of an undercount has never been higher. The Census Bureau, under pressure to do more with less, has cut the number of offices and field workers in Michigan in half (there are no offices planned in West Michigan or the Upper Peninsula in 2020). What’s more, a budget-cutting Internet-first collection model is raising concerns about privacy and cyber security that may reduce overall participation. Nonprofits are also concerned that limited access to technology may further reduce participation among populations that have traditionally been hardest to count—senior citizens, people experiencing homelessness, communities of color, people in rural communities, children under age five, and those living in low-income communities.

That’s why the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) has launched Be Counted Michigan 2020, a statewide effort to boost participation in the census, particularly in hard-to-count populations. MNA is mobilizing nonprofits that serve those at risk of being undercounted by providing mini-grants, training, support, and tools to generate higher census participation. The ambitious campaign is funded by more than 40 foundations, including a $75,00 grant over three years from the Steelcase Foundation.

Launched in 2017—well in advance of other states’ efforts—MNA’s work is attracting attention from nonprofits in other states and is serving as a model for similar mobilization efforts coast to coast.

Michigan nonprofits will live with the results of the 2020 census, and the potential funding gaps triggered by an undercount, for at least the next decade. Through its Be Counted Michigan 2020 campaign, the Michigan Nonprofit Association is building a powerful coalition to ensure that every federal dollar Michigan citizens deserve finds its way into the state’s coffer. And making sure that everyone—including those hardest to reach—is counted.

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…to ensure that every federal dollar Michigan citizens deserve finds its way into the state’s coffer. And making sure that everyone—including those hardest to reach—is counted.