q Outcomes of 2023 Civic Fabric Fund: Voter Engagement Grantmaking - Denver Foundation

Outcomes of 2023 Civic Fabric Fund: Voter Engagement Grantmaking


For the second year, The Denver Foundation funded nonprofit organizations educating and activating voters. We funded 11 organizations through the Civic Fabric Fund. This funding supported their work during the municipal and statewide elections in 2023. The awards from the Civic Fabric Fund totaled $91,500 and were intended to support organizations working to register, educate, and mobilize new and low-turnout voters from historically underrepresented communities.

Grantees 

We funded 11 organizations in 2023. Out of these 11, only eight were required to provide final reports based on the scope of work and funding level. This report reflects data from those final reports from the following grantees:  

This impact report highlights some of the successes and outcomes achieved by these organizations and identifies some of the challenges and needs for future work.  

Reach


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Successes


When reflecting on the major successes of the work, grantees shared two strategies that were most effective in 2023 for reaching historically underrepresented voters and engaging them in the electoral process:

  1. Working closely with community partners and members to determine and tailor outreach strategies for reaching unique communities and connecting critical issues to the lived experiences of communities of color; and, 
  2. Using a multi-channel approach for engaging voters. For many grantees, live, in-person approaches (e.g., door knocking, candidate forums) are best for communicating messages that can then be reinforced with digital media (e.g., ads, texts). 

Some highlighted tactics for effectively carrying out these strategies include: 

  • Hiring staff, volunteers, and “trusted messengers” (e.g., Latino/a bilingual organizers) from within communities that they engage  
  • Partnering with community-based organizations, local leaders, activists, and coalitions with deep roots in communities 
  • Training and building the capacities of nonprofits for voter engagement that serve BIPOC and low-income communities 
  • Increasing voter registration among college students and faculty through educational events and campus gatherings and among residents in surrounding neighborhoods 
  • Translating voter and ballot guides into Spanish and conducting messages in native languages and by preferred modes of communication 
  • Delivering printed voter guides and information in Spanish and English to rural residents lacking access to stable internet 
  • Candidate forums and public service announcements on network television that heightened awareness about public school leadership 
  • Reaching younger voters through social media (e.g., Instagram and TikTok) and podcasts with candidate interviews 

Lessons Learned (Opportunities)


In the spirit of learning and surfacing opportunities for future work, organizations shared the following lessons learned in the face of identified ongoing challenges:

1. Many grantees see the tangible impact of their efforts on voter turnout rates.

“We believe that this program was successful in boosting turnout in our target universe in Thornton and Lakewood…. 957 voters in Lakewood and 3,566 voters in Thornton who did not vote in either 2021 or 2019 did vote in 2023… While, of course, we cannot claim that all of that turnout was solely a result of our efforts, we are happy to have contributed to it.”

 

2. While expanding their reach to greater numbers is always a priority, they also value having reached specific individuals who have been left out of political processes without a voice in decisions that impact them directly.

“This year, among those engaged through our voter engagement work were newly naturalized citizens, 18-year-olds voting for the first time, and single parents struggling to make ends meet who had never been told their vote matters. This type of deep community work takes time to develop the relationships necessary to build trust in the community, and we are proud of the relationships we continue to build and cultivate each year.”

 

3. In an odd year when turnout is typically lower, they learned that it is imperative to not only drive voting for municipal elections but to ensure longer-term, continuous engagement in voting and political issues.

“We expect that only sustained engagement via multiple conversations across multiple election cycles will result in moving the needle with these voters. This is critical to ensuring that local government entities in Colorado are truly reflective of the populations they represent.”

 

4. Some grantees are seizing the opportunity to start voter education and engagement efforts even earlier, especially considering the complexity of some ballot measures this year.

“Providing voters with more information at an earlier stage allows us ample time to ensure they understand these measures and feel confident in casting their votes.”

Closing


We are proud to have supported these organizations and their voter engagement work through the Civic Fabric Fund at The Denver Foundation. These organizations are effectively and passionately reaching historically underrepresented voters and engaging them in the political process.  

To support this work and learn more about The Denver Foundation’s Civic Fabric Fund, our policy priorities, and how we are engaging in advocacy, please contact Naomi Amaha, director of policy and government affairs at namaha@denverfoundation.org.  To give to the Civic Fabric Fund, click this link to be directed to the donation page for this fund.  

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