Community Foundation Boulder County advances Census outreach and participation

The decennial Census of population and housing in the United States is critical. It determines political representation and federal funding allocations. This year, Colorado is expected to receive an eighth U.S. Congressional District, if enough of us are counted. Each person counted is also worth $2,300 per year in federal funding for Colorado communities.

That’s why your Community Foundation’s Census Fund is critical, too. It supports a countywide team of 21 cultural brokers – or Census Outreach Partners – who bring to bear lived experience with one or more historically undercounted populations (e.g., people experiencing homelessness, low-income residents, LGBTQ+ residents, immigrants, Spanish speakers, seniors, college students, mountain residents, people with disabilities, and families with children under 5).
“Each Census Outreach Partner is being hired by a local grantee organization, with funding from the Community Foundation’s Census Fund, plus other funders – including The Colorado Health Foundation, The Next 50 Initiative, Boulder County and Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs,” says Chris Barge, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. 
Some 14 local nonprofits and government agencies are participating in this community mobilization effort, to date. Among the participants, CU Boulder is working to engage students, faculty, and staff to take the Census 2020 survey online now.
“This is an important effort, since two of our county’s lowest response rates come from the neighborhoods east and west of campus,” says Chris.
Adds Ciera Dykstra, Census Engagement Chair of CU Boulder’s Student Government (CUSG): “Depending on where you live in Boulder – on campus or off – our university community can impact CU Boulder’s future by participating in this unique civic engagement opportunity.
“We welcome interested students to volunteer in this grassroots movement to raise awareness and spur greater Census participation through a range of educational opportunities. Because the fact is, CU Boulder students, faculty, and staff who live and work in Boulder benefit from federally-funded programs, initiatives, and services that trace back to Census participation. 
“For example, an accurate count impacts the amount and distribution of Pell Grants, and other resources to all levels of education. Yet students are an historically underrepresented population. 
“Direct contact with them – small groups and intimate conversations in which students feel comfortable asking questions according to their unique circumstances – is proving to be extremely effective.” 
The campus-wide effort further includes a visual campaign (e.g., posters), a social media campaign with targeted ads on Instagram and Facebook, encouraging graduate students and faculty members to speak about the Census in classrooms, and more. In light of dynamic changes on campus to mitigate potential transmission of COVID-19, CUSG’s digital Census outreach tactics are likely to gain greater significance.
According to Ciera in a combined statement with CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano: “Our generation is leading the charge on so many positive social issues today. The more we can get students to understand how important this initiative is, there’s a greater chance we can leave our mark as alumni who cared about our campus and the community that surrounds it.”
Responding to the Census is safe and easier than ever: 10 minutes, 10 questions, 10 years
For the first time in history, it’s possible to respond to the Census online (phone responses and mailing in a paper form are still options, too, and Census forms are available in Spanish and many other languages). Self-respond online today or before May 13, when on-the-ground cultural brokers and volunteer Census takers will fan out across Boulder County, knocking on doors to ensure a complete and accurate count by July 31: spend 10 minutes answering 10 questions that will impact our community for 10 years to come.
Learn more about the 2020 Census in Boulder County – including FAQ, bilingual flyers and Census materials, and more; and donate to your Community Foundation’s Census Fund. Together, we accomplish more than we do alone.