"EVERY CITIZEN IS A VOTER" - Diary of a Fundraiser
The Last Day of this campaign
Dear Friends and Supporters -
It has been an incredible journey, this first crowdfunding effort. Our Every Citizen is a Voter campaign proved itself as a compelling force which could drive a vision and action in many individuals. The Diary itself became its own adjunct project that brought in many fascinating and beautifully composed contributions. And I personally enjoyed keeping in touch all of you who are sustaining us.
We raised $21,483 and it was an amazing experience.
I have learned, there is never a time when you have nothing to give. You may not have money, per se, but you always have the Currency of the Thank You. That is the chief currency of U.S. Vote Foundation and our Overseas Vote Initiative. There is more gratitude here than I could ever have imagined. The most wonderful task of my day is to say thank you, over and over for the contributions our team, our advisors, our board members and all of the Friends of the Foundation - YOU.
I leave you on this last day of the Every Citizen is a Voter campaign with the words of John F. Kennedy in proclamation 3560 - Thanksgiving Day, 5 November 1963:
AS WE EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE, WE MUST NEVER FORGET THAT THE HIGHEST APPRECIATION IS NOT TO UTTER WORDS BUT TO LIVE BY THEM.
Thank you to all of you who have given to this campaign. I know, you did not just give money. No one gives to civic causes unless they are profound believers in the cause. You gave your faith to our Foundation and we will not let you down. Every Citizen is a Voter will stay our vision and mission as we move forward. Thank you.
- Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote Initiative
Day 43 - Wonder Woman, U.S. Vote Foundation, and me
I’m going to confess something: I’m an unabashed fan of the recent Wonder Woman movie. It’s the story of a powerful woman trying to right the wrongs of a world devastated by evil, the story of innocence meeting the shocking horror of reality, and it’s a love story where the girl doesn’t get her guy, and where being the hero doesn’t automatically sign one up for “happily ever after.”
And it’s a movie in which the main male character, Steve Trevor, when asked by Wonder Woman why he is working so hard to end the horrors of World War I, replies with the following:
“My father told me once, ‘if you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something.’ And I already tried nothing.”
I confess that line hit home, in part because I have, for most of my adult life, seen many things wrong with the world and done largely nothing. And in part because I had a father who did something: with my mother at his side, (and often in the lead) he marched for civil rights in the ’60s, against the Vietnam War in the ‘60’s and ‘70s, and until his untimely death, helped create the disability rights community and the body of law that eventually become enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
My own activism, after marching for gay rights and for funding to fight the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, basically dried up. I voted, I talked, I complained, I wrote checks, I harangued. Basically, in the Steve Trevor hierarchy of activism, I was trying … nothing.
In the aftermath of the November 2016 general election, I decided it was time to stop pretending that doing nothing was good enough. But what to do? That’s when I contacted Susan, the CEO of U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and an old friend, to see if there was something I could do to help. There were several things that attracted me to US Vote, and, despite the seemingly partisan nature of my parents work and my own limited activism, the non-partisanship of the foundation’s work was a huge attraction.
I had traveled through a dozen states in the summer of 2016, taking my son, my niece, and my dog from California to Michigan and then back to California with my sister. What I witnessed, in the middle of the most polarized and frankly messiest presidential campaign in my lifetime, was a country full of good people – kind, caring, understanding – who shared so much more than could be gleaned from reading the headlines and listening to the talking heads on cable TV. In communities across the country – in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska – red states, blue states, battleground states and everything in between – what I met were people from all walks of life who all wanted the same things: they wanted their communities to be safe, their children to be well-educated, and their lives rich with faith, hope, and opportunity.
With the jangled cacophony of public discourse from the national election still ringing in our ears, we were pleasantly surprised by the complete lack of the rancor, anger, and nastiness that had characterized the year so far. Instead, what we found was a welcoming and friendly spirit that pretty much defined all of our interactions. Whether it was the family running the campground in Utah who gave us refuge from a huge thunderstorm in one of their cabins, the ranger in South Dakota who welcomed us – probably the hundredth family to have camped there that summer – like old friends, or the gang of bikers on their way home from roaming the Black Hills who fell in love with my dog at a local barbecue joint and ended up sharing stories and letting us take (decidedly drunken) pictures of their truly obscene t-shirts – that trip proved to me, once again, that the innate goodness of my country is our defining characteristic, not whether we’re red, blue, right, left, straight, gay, black, brown, white, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or none of above.
My road trip in the summer of 2016 reinforced an idea that has been with me since watching my parents start one of the first associations for people whose children had a physical or “mental” disability: partisanship checks its guns at the door when it’s time to come together for the common good. To hell with the polarized national political scene – we’ve got work to do, and we have more in common and more good will to work with than we’ve been led to believe. We just need to focus that goodness and put it to work.
The fact that U.S. Vote Foundation is about a common good – Every Citizen is a Voter – that transcends partisanship is why I’m here. Our LOCelections initiative extends that concept of the common good of voting to the place where our democracy really matters, where all those people I met in the summer of 2106 live and work. The restauranteur in Hastings, Nebraska, who sat with us after dinner and told how he had come back home to open a highly successful restaurant that would hold its own in any “blue state” coastal city. The family we met at a picnic spot with in Elko, Nevada who shared their sense of horror at the mass shooting in Miami earlier that year, the farmers selling their wares in Iowa City’s outdoor market: these are the people I believe in, whose voices I want to be heard. Not just every four years when we elect a president, but every time there’s an opportunity to vote for what matters. And it all matters, all the time.
My unofficial motto for the work of US Vote, and my contribution, is simple: May the Best Democracy Win. I think we truly have the best democracy possible, we just need to unleash it in all of its glory. That means more voters of all persuasions voting at the local, state, and national level. We have a long way to go to greater voter participation at all levels, but I think the path to the best democracy possible is clear. It’s time to stop doing nothing. Like Steve Trevor, I already tried that, and it doesn’t work.
Happy New Year, 2018. Donate.
- Josh Greenbaum, CTO, U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 42 - Moving Forward
2017 was a year that refused to sit down, shut up, or take orders. Some people witnessed an impending apocalypse, while others rode a triumphant wave of victory. Few years in modern history have been this turbulent, contentious, or divisive. Clearly, America has some work to do – less light housework, more 12 Labors of Hercules. Hopefully, we now appreciate the people and rituals we hold sacred just a bit more. Fate moves in unpredictable ways.
There was one genuinely good thing that came out of 2017: people showed up to vote in their local elections. I would even be willing to wager a higher percentage of American voters knows their Congressional district than any other time in U.S. history. Civic participation is having a moment.
Last January, there was serious concern that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) might not survive the new administration. Relations between federal election entities and state/county election officials were frosty, to say the least, and nobody could have foreseen just how intense relatively obscure off- year elections were about to become. For many election professionals, the 2017 election season was a baptism by fire, lava, and ice water.
Fortunately, election geeks are a resilient bunch with a sense of humor and a vibrant supportive community. We grit our teeth, put ourselves out there on social media and in Congressional hearings, and did what we do best: conducting elections.
So many innovations and improvements came about in 2017. Colorado successfully implemented risk limiting audits statewide, and the decade they spent testing and refining them paid off in a huge way. Multiple states now offer online voter registration, and rollouts went smoothly. Federal and local officials are finally chipping away at the looming issues of election security and database management. This will be an interesting exercise in delineating boundaries, delegating authority, and setting aside the suspicion and misunderstandings of election problems of the past. (Let’s not gather round the campfire and sing “Kumbaya” just yet.) And…the EAC didn’t go anywhere. It became more relevant than ever. And a great friend of our Foundation, Mr. Tom Hicks, will be taking the helm in 2018. Congratulations!
Speaking of gatherings…there were fresh perspectives and some new faces in the election sphere. I’ve been honored to chat with many of them through Twitter, and I’m amazed at how resourceful and knowledgeable everyone has been so far. 2018 will be a crucial year for midterm elections, and the more bridges the election community builds, the better the chances of avoiding or mitigating potential voting disasters. Many of our voters are rebuilding and recovering from tragedies, natural or man-made. The focus needs to be on ensuring that EVERY citizen is a voter – no matter where they are on their voting journey, or what obstacles that life has thrown in their path.
It’s been an honor to serve as the resident Twitter Goddess for US Vote and Overseas Vote this year. Thanks to Susan and our fantastic team and Advisory Board for their hard work, skill, and willingness to give the social media keys to a slightly eccentric election worker from Florida. That was a huge leap of faith for a respected non-profit to take, and every time a voter interacted with us via Twitter or read my blog, I hope I justified that faith in some small way.
We wish all of our voters a happy and safe New Year. Thanks for keeping US Vote going, whether it was by donating to #EveryCitizenIsAVoter, setting up your Voter Passport account with us, using our API/Civic Data to create the next great election tool, providing expertise on voting matters, or simply, by being an American Voter.
Here’s to record 2018 turnout and a new era of civic engagement!
- Genya Coulter, Twitter Goddess, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote Initiative
P.S. Start the year right: Please give today to Every Citizen is a Voter.
Day 41 - Don't be a Pumpkin
The bell will soon toll for 2017 and you do not want to turn into a Pumpkin. The diss-ease of Pumpkinitis will afflict a certain percentage of the US population today, but the good news is that turning into a Pumpkin is something you can easily avoid. Here's how: Bundle Up.
When the 2017 legislative calendar finally birthed its tax baby, it was not wrapped in swaddling clothes because under the new law, no one had a blanket left to give. Charitiable giving will lose much of its luster. Congress has taken away the tax incentive for the average income American to give small donations. Hopefully, this does not stop anyone! (There may be ways to do the right thing, but the incentives for doing it will be applicable to fewer people.) The day of the "small donation tax deduction" is about to sunset.
Don't be a Pumpkin. Give for 2018 today. And have a Happy New Year. - Thank you, U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 40 - Three Months in the Dark
"Mommy, now I see what it is like when there is no government," said my daughter, calling from a country she had traveled to with her school cross country team for an international meet. The words caught me off-guard. She had noticed the garbage in the streets piling up due to strikes, the lack of a functioning transit system, and a general chaos to the atmosphere of the streets, with people loitering, unemployed, unproductive. Even as a teenager, she could recognize the difference, connect the dots, and knew exactly where the responsibility lay - at the feet of a disfunctional government.
This morning, I woke to an alert on my phone about the dire situation in Puerto Rico with no power to a major proportion of the population - three months after Hurricane Maria. A U.S. Territory literally floundering unaided, like a third world country we chose to disown. I can imagine the daughters of the US citizens living in Puerto Rico saying exactly what my daughter said to me not so long ago. Only she was not talking about the U.S. But negligence knows no boundaries or borders. It can just as easily come to a U.S. Territory or the mainland when a blind eye is turned to basic needs for which government is normally responsible. How is it that days and weeks and months go by, tax-reducing bills are passed and insurance is cut, holidays celebrated.... and all the while, the U.S. citizens who live in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico remain without a basic functioning infrastructure?
We could delve into stories of confusion or corruption to explain it away and try to make ourselves feel better. But the bottom line is that without government tending to basic infrastructure maintenance and repair, the quality of life quickly deteriorates.
Who we choose to steer the ships of the government in our municipalities and communities, who we choose to run our states and territories, who we choose to run our country - they matter. As citizens of the U.S., we are the beneficiaries of the right to choose the people who run our government from the local through to the federal level. Many people do not realize however, that voting rights for our citizens in the territories do not include the right to vote for President. It doesn't take a genius (or even a teenager) to connect the dots. This equates to a loss of power to the people. We see it in Puerto Rico.
U.S. Vote Foundation is not an "issue organization", or an advocacy organization, per se. We are better classified as a Civic Tech Development and Voter Outreach organization. We work with technology within the boundaries and rules of our government to improve the efficiency of the voting process and to broaden access to it. What will make the difference for us, is if we can develop better systems to reach out to more people to exercise their franchise. The power lies in exercising the right to vote.
Please give to US Vote's Every Citizen is a Voter campaign today. Help us to reach more voters to Make a Difference in 2018.
Day 39 - The Right to Vote (travels with you)
Your vote is your voice. At one time, only white men with property were allowed the privilege of voting. Imagine today if that was still the law. How would you feel? Would you fight for the right to vote like many of our grandparents or great-grandparents did?
My grandmother came to America in 1908, at the age of 8. Growing up, sitting at her knee, she would tell me stories of the women suffragettes and the importance of voting. No matter our race, color, or religion, Americans have the privilege as of the age of 18, to register and vote.
US Citizens living outside the country are also allowed to vote in Federal Elections for President/Vice President, Congress, and Senate. Current estimates say there are almost 9 million Americans living abroad. We vote using our last residence address in America.
U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) helps both domestic voters living in with US, and with its Overseas Vote Initiative, overseas voters living across the globe. US Vote makes it very easy to fill out an Absentee Ballot Request online and provides information on how to submit the form to your local election official. Each state is different, with different primary deadlines and voting requirements. If you are not sure about who to vote for, you can check Overseas Vote’s non-partisan Candidate Finder. The Voter Help Desk is there to answer your questions.
By voting, you can HIRE or FIRE elected officials. The choice is yours: will you speak up or allow others to speak for you?
Many of us hire accountants to prepare our US Tax Returns. US Vote and Overseas Vote depend on grants and donations. A donation, no matter the size, is appreciated. Thank you so much.
Looking forward to helping you with the 2018 Mid Term Election.
- Andee Goldman, Regional Communications, Israel, and Social Media Support, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote Initiative
Day 38 - Story: A Shattered Family, A Stronger Democracy
This fictional account from Professor Paul Herrnson was used to open a presentation he gave on a study of military voting. It struck a chord with the audience, and surely will with you. It could just as well be true:
A car crash left them orphaned when she was 16 and he was 12. They stayed close despite occasionally being sent to different foster homes. When she was a first-year college student and her friends were receiving care packages from home, she was sending care packages to him. When he graduated in the top ten percent of his high school class, he thanked her for helping him succeed.
Fourteen years have passed since that fateful day when their parents died. He is a Marine Sargent deployed in Iraq, and he doesn’t expect to be stateside until December 2018. She is a successful attorney making a first-time run for City Council in their hometown. She needs every vote she can to knock of an incumbent. He desperately wants to vote for her. Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Vote Foundation, he knows he can.
In a democracy, every eligible citizen should be able to vote, including members of the military and civilians scattered across the globe.
Please give today to Every Citizen is a Voter. Your donation will help them make their voices heard in the upcoming election. Your 2017 donation is tax deductible.
- Paul Herrnson, PhD., Professor of Political Science, University of Connecticut and Advisor to U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 37 - On Discovery (guest post from Center for Civic Design)
I love beginnings. Fresh starts are all about potential. About aspiration. They’re energizing. The thing is, it’s never too late to get started on discovery and recovery.
There’s something about discovery that charges and recharges people. So does solving problems. They go together, right? Through discovery, which is a trendy word for the much more boring sounding “research,” we learn. Learning is at the core of solving problems.
Voting and elections have no shortage of problems to be solved. Susan and I have been working on these problems, from different angles, gradually building our own teams, for more than a decade. Over time, we’ve found the right people, the right technology, the right community to help us solve the wicked problems that prevent U.S. citizens from voting the way they intend.
We’ve made a lot of discoveries. But every new discovery, every lesson learned chips away at the wicked problem. That fight needs support.
U.S Vote Foundation is an essential part of the elections community. My team at the Center for Civic Design works to ensure voter intent by design. Together, our organizations share an aspiration: get a usable, accessible, ballot in the hands of every single eligible citizen. Make very citizen a voter. Get energized — help US Vote reach its potential. Contribute.
- Dana Chisnell, Co-director, Center for Civic Design and Advisor to U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 36 - "My most popular tweet ever" (DecisionDeskHQ weighs in on US Vote)
Miles J. Coleman of DecisionDeskHQ has generously granted the publication of his recent email to us as today's guest Diary entry. (Thank you so much, Miles!)
Hi, this is Miles Coleman, from Twitter @DecisionDeskHQ. I have a story you may like - US Vote helped me recently. This may be a bit lengthy, but I wanted to share!
I'm not sure how closely you followed the Alabama Senate election last week, but my team at DecisionDeskHQ covered it. One county I was interested was Roy Moore's, home county, Etowah. It's a Republican-leaning county, and because of some of his antics, Moore was banned from his local mall (he would try to pick up underage girls there as a middle-aged man). I wanted to see how the precinct with that mall voted in the election.
As the night went on, we received precinct breakdowns from several counties, but not Etowah. It bothered me because I really wanted to see the result for the mall precinct.
The next morning, I went to the Etowah County site, and tried to contact the clerk.The county had a generic email form, and it didn't look too promising. I thought, "I want to go straight to the clerk! I'll check the US Vote Election Official Directory!"
Sure enough, US Vote had the exact email I needed. I reached out to the clerk, and got the precinct results I needed within a few hours. Sure enough, Moore lost the mall precinct in a landslide. I tweeted that, and it became my most popular tweet ever! I couldn't have gotten that info without US Vote.
I also have to say that your "Twitter Goddess" @US_Vote is such a treasure; you guys are so lucky to have her. She's a gold mine of information when it comes to how elections are run; I would think she's done this for much longer than she has. I appreciate all the support and encouragement she's given me.
In any case, have a great holiday season! Thanks for all the work you do, and l'm looking forward to covering elections next year with your help!
J. Miles Coleman
P.S. Also, earlier this year, I was using your database to reach some municipal and county clerks in states like Michigan and Indiana. I needed precinct data for some of the smaller, rural jurisdictions - many of which don't have emails posted for the election clerks on their websites. (This isn't my day job, so I prefer email to calling in, which is more time-consuming). US Vote had *all* the email addresses I needed; I still have your page bookmarked! I must have used your data to contact 60 or 70 jurisdictions.
Support US Vote: Give to Every Citizen is a Voter
(Note from US Vote: Shout out and many thanks to Jane Scheiring, Election Official Directory data manager, who has curated this jewel of a data resource for US Vote and Overseas Vote for going on 10 years now! Such acheivements are not possible without this level of dedication. And a second shout out and thank you to Genya Coulter, our Twitter Goddess (!), who is helping to transform US Vote's social media presence - making the impossible, possible.)
Day 35 - Aspirations
Today is Dec 25th and I started my day by opening my book of "Quotations of John F. Kennedy." This is where I landed:
"... I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world, not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction."
What a special gift for the mind. Let's remember, that was likely written about 55-60 years ago. This process of democracy continues. Indeed, democracy needs care and feeding.
Give today to Every Citizen is a Voter, and have a beautiful holiday.
Day 34 - Outsized Power
A few days ago, Reuters BreakingViews published a fascinating opinion piece, which I highly recommend you read in full - twice. It has been percolating in my mind since I read it and likely will do the same in yours, if not at least provide you with some new conversation points over holiday gatherings.
Rob Cox's piece, "Is Wall Street more democratic than America?" addresses the crux of the question as to why a tax plan like the one we just passed was voted in in the first place. Cox looks at how the implementation of "representation" and the weight of Senate votes has been used to amplify the voice of some state populations and diminish others. What was intended in the Constitution as "institutional safeguards" regarding representation within congress has not been able to sheild our legislature from all influences. The result effectively gives individuals in low income, sparsely populated states outsized power in decisions that adversely affect individuals in certain other larger states with vastly more economic productivity.
What struck me is the parallel situation of outsized power that I have spent the last few years consumed with - and which lead US Vote to our LOCelections initiative. The decline in participation in local and municipal elections across our country, and in particular in many fast-growing cities with young, diverse populations, for all the reasons you might imagine and then some - has resulted in the few who do vote in those elections having outsized power to decide for all citizens. This is not a situation where voting rights have been supressed. Rather, it is one where they have been taken for granted and left unused.
This is an area where our efforts - all of our efforts together - can have major impact. These local elections often impact the quality of our lives the most. If your street lights go off, or your child's school lunch is not nourishing - you feel it. U.S. Vote Foundation is working actively to build participation in local elections. We are developing the most reliable resource for curated election dates and deadlines to ever exist in our country. And our new Voter Alerts System - funded through this Every Citizen is a Voter effort is the vehicle with which we will mobilize local populations to take the power of their vote and never let it go.
Day 33 - On Maintaining a Bridge to Relevance
Susan wrote yesterday about our country’s crumbling infrastructure, and I’d like to follow up with a few words about a somewhat more politically charged form of investment, namely, investing profitably on the political front.
A well-documented study* by the Sunlight Foundation found that, on average, for every dollar the nation’s most politically active corporations spent on influencing Washington politics, they received $760 from the government. That’s a return of 76,000 percent. Yes, you read correctly.
When these firms ring up their Congressman and Senators, you can be assured they are not put on hold. We are all encouraged to write to our representatives about issues of concern, and that is indisputably a good thing to do. But when we see the high rollers having a near monopoly on this tactile level of access to government, it is easy to throw up our hands and conclude that there’s no point in even bothering.
It is vital that we resist this temptation at all costs, and here’s where our collective fate, your decisions, and Every Citizen is a Voter come together. To the extent voters are disenfranchised economically, it is all the more important that we be franchised politically. It is imperative that we draw maximum advantage from the electoral tools at hand.
None of us can hope to approach the return rate of the corporate players. But while we cannot have this astronomical economic return, we can look for a very good return in another area: electoral representation. Whatever you can give, you can afford, and frankly, it’s one of the most worthy investments you can make at the conclusion of this most eventful year.
Day 32 - 56,000 Bridges (and crumbling)
To kick off his weekly Global Public Square podcast, Fareed Zakaria issues a personal statement, which he calls, "My Take." In last Sunday's emission [listen here], he stated that, "In August, the World Bank looked at 50 countries and found that America will have the largest unmet infrastructure needs over the next two decades." Apparently, the U.S. has "56,000 structurally deficient bridges," that are being crossed 185 million times per day. If we put this in a word, that would be: neglect. In light of tax revenue changes, relief is likely not in sight. Zakaria cites a Brookings Institution report that reveals that our combined federal, state and local infrastructure investment is at its lowest point in the last 60 years.
We cannot rebuild something that has been neglected for decades overnight. Frankly, we never should have let it deteriorate in the first place. The crumbling has begun.
Don't let the same thing happen with voting. Just like any other sort of infrastructure, investment is needed to maintain our democracy and our voting access. Organizations like U.S. Vote Foundation are an essential part of our nation's "democracy infrastructure" and should not be neglected.
Give today to Every Citizen is a Voter. And Make a Difference in 2018.
Day 31 - 6¼ Cents, a Store Clerk, a Three Mile Trek, and What Was His name?
A young store clerk who overcharged a woman 6 ¼ cents left the New Salem, Illinois store to walk three miles to return the money to her.
19th century personal accounts and historians describe that day as "frigid”. Folklore takes it a step farther and calls it, “one of those days when the air nipped at your fingers like a stray dog.” But it didn’t stop the young American store clerk.
There is much value in these kinds of gestures that are colored with such compassion. Add in the challenging circumstances, and there is even more respect and appreciation for that particular deed. And you may have even greater perspective of this young man, imagining his perseverance through the severe climate as it was initially described. You may also gain respect with the understanding that it was pitch dark when this young man began his trek to find his customer. A woman, who at the time, was unaware of her shortage of this 6 ¼ cents. Your admiration will only grow after you realize that this all occurred after the young man’s long work day before such things as union regulations on 40-hour work weeks.
If you are familiar with this story, you know the man is Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President of the United States. Thus, began the legend of “Honest Abe.” I have heard this story several times. However, despite my enjoyment and inspiration upon hearing a tale so morally comforting, Lincoln's name isn't what I remember. Why is that?
Because the primary value of story is not the fact that it is Lincoln. It doesn’t make it more special that a President did this, only special that he later became our President. The deed itself – that a man overcame many obstacles to return the change to a woman he inadvertently shorted – is greater than Abe. And that makes us feel darn good. No matter who did it.
My challenge to you now is to donate your 2017 equivalent of the 6¼ cents. It will make you feel darn good.
- Charley Arrigo, Social Media Team Member, U.S. Vote Foundation
Photo credit: lincolncollection.org
Day 30 - Those Who Make Things Happen
Dwight Morrow, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico during the early 1930's, made a comment, which to this day, I hold very close to my heart. His son was about to graduate from Yale, and his dad sent him the following message from Mexico City. "My son, there are two types of people in this world: those who take credit for making things happen and those who make things happen. Try to be in that second group, my boy, as there is far less competition."
As a long serving supporter and Board member of U.S. Vote Foundation (and Overseas Vote Foundation before that), I see US Vote as being one of those organizations which make things happen, not one which shouts about its accomplishments. With an almost entirely staff of volunteers and a limited budget, we make things happen to live up to our mission statement that Every Citizen is a Voter. Our online tools, our services, our breadth of voting deadlines and information, our election research, our unparalleled data are all dedicated to fulfilling the goal of increased voter participation.
We understand that many people distribute large percentages of their contributions budget at year's end. We ask you to provide a contribution to US Vote today as we gear up for the 2018 midterm election, especially in light of the changes in the tax code, which are being debated this week in Washington. To send US Vote your measure of support, please go to the Every Citizen is a Voter fundraiser page.
Wishing you a happy and peaceful holiday season with your family and friends,
- Chip Levengood, Board Member, U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 29 - The Fight Against "The Nothing"
Michael Ende wrote "The Neverending Story" in 1979, which lead to the production of several films, the first in 1984. I will confess, I've tried several times to comprehend the plot, but it feels quite a bit like the book title and I find myself lost in the loops of plot twists and turns. What does leap out in its faithful Wikipedia description, is that the story is about, "A great delegation has come to the [Childlike] Empress to seek her help against a formless entity called "'The Nothing'".
The existential nature of this story - and its ominous threat that it may be neverending - is quite striking, especially as it is meant to be a childrens' fantasy story. It seems more like something that Plato and Camus spent their lives discussing. In our context, it is easy to extrapolate and replace "The Nothing" with "Voter Suppression". It also feels like the story of fighting voter suppression in our country is neverending. It keeps cropping up in the form of new characters. But our "great delegation" would then represent the people and our democracy, within which we are allowed to assemble and defend our values.
Supporting Every Citizen is a Voter is how you too, can save us all from "The Nothing". Your donations will help citizens like Tami exercise her right to vote.
Thank you for your efforts to reach out. We need a boost.
Day 28 - Voter. Help. Desk.
Is there a question standing between you and voting? So often there is. Our Voter Help Desk clears the way to the ballot box for so many – indeed, for tens of thousands of voters who have a question on their mind. And so, today’s diary entry is dedicated to the professional team of volunteers who are the core of one of our finest and most long-standing services, the Voter Help Desk.
The Voter Help Desk has been filling in the gaps for U.S. voters across the world for over a decade. The difference between voting or not voting, so often lies in a helping hand – just that extra bit of help to get a question answered. The Voter Help Desk team has been making that difference for well over a decade and will continue to do so through 2018, which promises to be one heck of an election year.
Each veteran (average tenure, 10 years) member on the Voter Help Desk team brings professional expertise in either legal, operations, elections administration, elections/voting research or a combination of these. They are the backbone to the quality of service we provide. It is no small thing to be able to cull through, comprehend and use the rules and regulations of all of our unique states and territories regarding voting and elections and to provide this information through easy to understand, personalized responses to the endless variety of voter questions that come our way. That is what this team does and it is invaluable.
Do not wonder what your donation to our foundation will support. I can assure you, it supports the best quality and service available to U.S. voters and you can be proud of what you have done to make Every Citizen a Voter.
- Regards, Susan
Day 27 - The Better Business Model
The decline of "Civic Tech" funding is a reality that U.S. Vote Foundation has had to face head on. We knew it was time when even our most generous, promising and reliable funder became the classic difficult boss to please. The worst of funder stereotypes showed its face with fickleness and favoritism and we were left to fend for ourselves. Frankly, it was predictable. As the number of grant organizations providing a leg up to innovators in Civic Tech declined, the hoops and loops to fit through became more and more restrictive with a few (at the expense of innovation) winning out. Good for them. Maybe.
Times do change. We were already in a process of "re-inventing" and watching the grant organizations drop out of Civic Tech one by one, happily handing oversized power to just one or two organizations, was proof that our forecast would come true. It was time to move to a Better Business Model. One that did not rely on pretzelizing ourselves into the grantors frame of "worthy".
Whether we can make it work is yet to be seen and hopefully this is the roughest patch to pass through with greener pastures awaiting. We are in the middle of a process of becoming a wholly self-sustaining nonprofit that does not rely on grants.
Don't get me wrong, we would love a grant. I dream of a Sugar-Daddy-Mommy coming to save us with an operating grant, something we never had. We only ever received short-term project grants, never anything for basic operating costs. And the time spent trying to convince one grantor after another that we could fit into their mission turned into 100% time lost that could have been spent more productively. No more of that.
Now we are focused on what we do best: we create innovative software tools and services that help Americans of all stripes and types participate in elections; and we support the entire voter outreach and development community with reliable, curated election data and web tools that save them real time and money and help them to reach even more voters. Our goal is to be at the core of every voter solution and app out there - with or without our banner on it. The success of the community will be our success.
Back to the Better Business Model. For us, it is founded on self-reliance. Funding comes from two sources: 1) individual donors (like you); and 2) licensees of our civic data and tech. This takes time and we must be very careful to not ride too close to the solvency line. Too many voters and too many organizations that serve them - rely on us.
Your help to support our Every Citizen is a Voter fundraising drive makes the difference. Thank you. - Susan
Day 26 - 41 Million
Yesterday, the Guardian released a story by Ed Pilkington who documented his two-week journey with the UN's expert on extreme deprivation, Philip Alston. They did not tour some remote country. They crossed the United States of America, land of the free and home to 41 million people living in extreme poverty, to look it right in the face.
Over the course of the day, I waited for the US news outlets to cover this alarming story. They didn't.
This is something that most Americans consciously train themselves to look away from, to think it is someone else's problem. But it actually represents a fundamental viewpoint and method of governing society and a deep American belief that if you are poor, it is your fault. Whereever that comes from, it still works to keep our society from dealing with its most profound, hardened societal issues. Electing leaders who will face this reality and help to change it is a long term prospect, but I would say, the only one.
I am quite sure that very few to none of these 41 million people are able to take advantage of their right to vote. But you can. And U.S. Vote Foundation continues to extend a hand to citizens across the nation so that they too, can become active voters. Please continue to help us with the Every Citizen is a Voter fundraising campaign.
I cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to our development and ongoing work.
- Thank you, Susan
Day 25 - There's a First Time for Every One
Last September, my daughter, Margaux, turned 18. That means 2018 will be a big year. It will be the year she casts her first ballot.
Of all the things I thought that Overseas Vote would do, I never thought it would be the system that each of my daughters would use to exercise their franchise from our home in Germany. In our family, when you come of age, your most important rite of passage is... to set up your Voter Account, of course. With a Voter Account, my daughters are able to generate an overseas voter registration/ballot request form with a few clicks. And because federal law requires overseas voters to do this for every year they wish to vote, making it a simple, smooth process that takes very little time is essential to assuring they continue to take advantage of their right to vote.
That's what we have done at U.S. Vote Foundation. This year, we updated the output that our system generates for Overseas and Military Voters. When the forms change, we must respond immediately. Our tech team executed the changes in record time. Voters using our site have the latest technology and it complies with all regulations. They can count on that.
Keeping all of this technical infrastructure afloat takes considerable time, talent and financial resources. Without support from the likes of you, and the additional donations you will bring in - we would cease to exist. And then, the first timers would have a very different experience. It might be so bad that they actually don't vote. The difference is made when organizations like U.S. Vote Foundation and our Overseas Vote Initiative are able to do the work required to guarantee the first time and all times that you cast your ballot, it is a good experience.
Please support our cause. Help kids like Margaux vote. Give to Every Citizen is a Voter. Ask your friends and colleagues to do the same. Thank you.
Day 24 - Cat Chasing
Today's diary entry is written by Lily, 9 years old, West Highland Terrier
You can tell that my mom is at a loss for words when she asks me to be her guest blogger. It’s really just because she has a board meeting today, or so she says. But I have a thing I can tell you. Cat chasing is not an addiction, it is an instinct. My mom likens it to her fixation on elections - she goes crazy when there is a good race.
But oh my goodness, it is so much more involved. You see, when there is a cat in sight or range of scent, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop myself from reacting. Elections, on the other hand, do not seem to have the same attractive force. Maybe it is just the human breed that takes elections for granted. My mom spends all her time to try to get people to participate in them. She has to practically stand on her head to get people to notice their right to vote, whereas I can do nothing to stop myself from cat chasing. You get what I’m saying now? See the difference?
I was pondering this the other day while my mom was pounding out another blog and ignoring my fierce desire to go for a walk and sniff a lot of bushes. The Every Citizen is a Voter fundraising campaign seems to have completely consumed the extra time we had for walking in the woods. Instead of one hour walks, we are now down to the brisk 10 minutes. My mother is running out of places to hunt for donors. I’ve told her to join me in my strategy: to just sit and look out the window until she sees or smells one and then start barking. She informed me that that’s pretty much what she’s already doing.
Maybe you could help me out then? If you wouldn’t mind going out and chasing down a donor and sending them HERE to give, that would allow me to get back to doing what I do best, chasing cats. My mom would be freed from her desk and released back into the woods and we can both chase after the next election (or cat), which is always just around the corner.
- With love, Lily
Day 23 - From the Desk of US Vote Board Member Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State (2007-2015)
Many years ago there was a small group of very dedicated U.S. citizens scattered around the globe that wanted to make it easier for other Americans living abroad to vote from anywhere on the planet. Voting is both a right and, as I would argue endlessly as Minnesota’s Secretary of State, a responsibility of citizens everywhere. And so, these passionate souls working to make overseas voting a more routine matter made me very happy.
When I retired from my Secretary of State position it became possible for me to give back to the folks at Overseas Vote by getting involved as a Board Member and being part of the branding transition to U.S. Vote Foundation. I am proud to serve in this capacity and to be part of the transformation that is taking place right now within our organization and more broadly in the civic engagement community.
But we need your help to keep this train moving forward. We need your social media skills to get the word out farther and faster about all of our great tools and services. And we need your financial support - small and large - to keep the organization strong and cutting edge.
Click Here to learn more and to help. Support this very important organization and our Every Citizen is a Voter campaign.
Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State (2007-2015)
Board Member, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote Initiative
Day 22 - Courage and Unwavering Perseverance
I keep a small book of "Quotations of John F. Kennedy" on my desk, and for days like today, it is the first thing I pick up. This is when I need the big vision and oratory of a great leader combined with the courage of conviction and unwavering perseverance that JFK inspires.
Today, I would like to share this particular quote with you, "This is a great country and requires a good deal of all of us, so I can imagine nothing more important than for all of you to continue to work in public affairs and be interested in them, not only to bring up a family, but also give part of your time to your community, your state, and your country."
He's right, of course. Our country requires a tremendous commitment from each of us. I believe you are reading this because, like me, you are committing to it each day. We must work for it, not turn away from the complications or disappointments. We must all give to strengthen the fabric of our country - starting with the family, then community, state and nation. We are each part of it.
Take this beautiful reminder forward with you today. Put it in your invisible pocket and keep it there for when it is needed.
Just remember: Every Citizen is a Voter. That is our commitment.
Day 21 - Lunch Money
Years ago, in Congresswoman Maloney's office, her aide, Ben Chevat, whom I was working with at the time, commented on the level of an appropriation that we were hoping to garner as "Lunch Money" to the agency from which the budget would be sourced. Lunch money. Really?
Somehow comparing what I considered to be an enormous request to something as simple as lunch money put it in perspective. But it did not make it easier to get. No budgeting allocation, appropriation or donation is easy to get, regardless of the entity asked, and even if it were, it should not be treated as such. Money is a big deal. Even if it is Lunch Money.
Perhaps this week, you might consider a second donation equivelant to lunch money for a day, or for a week combined, or twice a week till the New Year, or whatever sounds right to you. Maybe you will invite someone to lunch and donate the equivelant to Every Citizen is a Voter. Maybe you will ask your colleague or friends at your table to do the same.
Tomorrow is a big election in Alabama. All eyes are on it. We will have another reason to underscore why it is important that Every Citizen is a Voter. Please think about this over lunch today.
Day 20 - Game, Set, Match
Growing up in Ann Arbor with the University at my doorstep meant that even during my high school years I could tap into both tremendous academic resources (a library for every field of study) and the best in sports facilities. It was the tennis court that attracted me like a magnet and I wanted desparately to be good at the game and to make the Pioneer team. I decided that the best way to learn would be to face off with the better players at the UofM Palmer Field courts. There, I would slam at the backboard with a fierceness unknown to most 15 year olds. Eventually, some nice young athlete would ask me to "hit."
When I made it to the team, I basically found out that it was out of sheer strength and determination versus what the other players had, technique. I could win a game, or even a set, but rarely ever a match. And it wasn't easy to improve; indeed, this was far more complex than I had realized. Most of this mysterious game of tennis was invisible. Worse, I had literally pounded myself into patterns of movement that could not be remade with "technique."
Although I am off the tennis court and working with the Foundation, some of these same lessons apply. One, strength without sublety and strategy is not the real power and endurance you need to win a complex match; and two, don't wear cement shoes on the court. You simply have to remain dynamic and light enough to develop new skills and "technique" along the way.
Back in 2004, we started as Overseas Vote Foundation, which was ideal for the time - we were focused on one audience of voters and we made tremendous progress contributing to overseas and military voter reform. In 2011, we developed a plan to grow beyond the one audience and it required us to "re-invent". We went forward with a plan to bring our technology and data to a broader voter constituency and to the US election development community. The transition was careful and deliberate - we took time to learn the technique. By 2016, we had successfully transitioned our brand to U.S. Vote Foundation with the Overseas Vote Initiative under that banner, fully intact and carrying forward the important overseas voter constituency.
Getting in a Game is one thing and winning it is great. But the strategy is proven when win a Set. And if you can truly win a Match based on strength combined with strategy, endurance and technique, well, you earned it.
Help us to move forward. Make your Match today.
Day 19 - Unmatched (in greatness)
The combined Vision and Mission of U.S. Vote Foundation and our Overseas Vote Initiative is "Every Citizen is a Voter." This statement has proven to be unmatched in greatness. It works to guide the actions of our growing volunteer and governance team and to keep us motivated in the face of daunting obstacles. Every Citizen is a Voter is even flexible enough to be the call to action of our first-ever crowd-funding campaign.
Do not misinterpret all forms of unmatched to be great. Unmatched donations - largely all of those that we have so far - are decidedly not great. The good news - with our combined good will and action, we can fix that.
You know why you gave to Every Citizen is a Voter. It is exactly why your friend, family member, colleague, smart acquaintance, school-friend, party-pal, clubmate, buddy, or neighbor will also give. You are so good at explaining what is in your heart and why you support Every Citizen is a Voter; you will be able to match your donation many times over.
You just have to set aside those few minutes to do it. Today. Be unmatched in greatness because you have matched your donation. Thank you.
Day 18 - A Match Made in Heaven
So lovely, it is not of this earth. A "match made in heaven"... It is the match we all seek. The one.
Your personal match could be right in front of you right now, and maybe you don't even see it. No different for the Every Citizen is a Voter match. You have to seek a little further, a little farther, to bring in a slice of heaven. Find it today. Find your donation match.
Please: send your carefully chosen friends and colleagues a request to match your donation and direct them to Every Citizen is a Voter. For U.S. Vote Foundation, yours will be a Match Made in Heaven.
Thank you, Susan
Day 17 - Matchbox
There were 75 to collect. These were small, delightfully crafted, die-cast automobiles that were packaged in tiny cartons similar to "matchboxes", hence the brand. That's what a Matchbox was to most of us, at one point in time.
Later it became a box of flammable sticks. Today, your Matchbox holds the names of the people you could ask to match your Every Citizen is a Voter donation. The key to unlock your Matchbox: Just Ask.
Please: think of three names of people most likely to respond to your request to match you and send them a note. Every donation counts and your efforts to light the matches are so deeply appreciated. Your matches will be showered with thanks, I promise you that. Maybe this sounds so good, that you will decide to match yourself.
Here is where to send them: Every Citizen is a Voter. Thank you.
P.S. Many corporations will match their employees gifts to a legal charity.
Day 16 - Have you Met Your Match?
Did anyone ever say to you, in that certain way, that finally "you have met your match"? If so, it was probably someone who knew you well enough to know what you are good at, plus whatever tricks or trades you use to maneuver through life or work or relationships.
Intrinsic to "you met your match", the phrase implies that you would be challenged to personally grow from this interaction. Ominous and exciting all at once.
Asking for a donation match can feel like meeting your match. It forces you to think hard about who finding donors who can match or exceed your level of giving, the fact that they won't give to just any cause, and you need to step out a little further to make it happen. To say why it matters and why it makes a difference.
Working to make Every Citizen a Voter does matter, because the fabric of our democracy is built on participation and held to account by our own votes. Supporting US Vote and Overseas Vote to reach out to more voters with a state-of-the-art Voter Alerts system is what the donations will support. Specifically, getting more ballots into the box. Our Every Citizen is a Voter campaign page has more of our story - and it is one that every donor who cares about voter participation will relate to, and get behind.
Today - please to go out to Meet Your Match. We need your help to broaden our donor base and double, even triple the value of the donations we have received so far. Please send donors to this link. Thank you.
Day 15 - How to Light a Match
As kids, many of us were fascinated by matches. It was thrilling to strike the end of the match against that little red strip that comes with the match box or booklet and suddenly get fire*. Remember how sad it was to waste a match when learning how to light one? Too hard and it breaks, too softly and the tip of the match rubs off and doesn't work anymore. Eventually, we learned how to do it just right.
Today there is another match to light. A match to your donation. Some people have the knack for that; for others, it takes a few tries to get it just right. YOU CAN DO IT.
No time like the present: start by making a list of 3-5 people who you think have the mind and means to match (or better) your donation. It's best to send each person a personalized email - and include the link to the Every Citizen is a Voter campaign page (https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/us-vote-foundation1). There they can read our story and learn more about how their donation will support an import purpose.
Now to you: show us how you Light a Match.
* According to the curiosity.com website, "When the match head is dragged along the striking surface, the sand and powdered glass cause friction and heat, which is enough to convert some of the red phosphorous to white phosphorus-a chemical so volatile that it ignites in the air.
Day 14 - The Perfect Match
Are you thinking of dating or tennis? Haha. They do qualify, but there is another kind of Perfect Match for you.
Last week, I received an email from an organization for which we have great respect, and it said that every single donation received to them on Giving Tuesday would be matched - twice. In the world of Every Citizen is a Voter, that rings of The Perfect Match.
And so, dear readers, friends, supporters - this week of December 4th is dedicated to the concept of The Perfect Match. I am asking you to find at least one, and better two (!) people to match your donation. You know why you gave to Every Citizen is a Voter. Because there is a cause you believe in, profoundly, one you can defend. And you know from past experience that U.S. Vote Foundation will follow through and deliver.
Take a few minutes to think of the two people who will match your donation. Write to them, call them, inform them, connect them and send them to the Every Citizen is a Voter Campaign Page (https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/us-vote-foundation1)
Together we will create The Perfect Match.
Thank you - Susan
Day 13 - Inreach (as opposed to out)
When I first heard the word "outreach" and learned of it as a communications concept, as a program for nurturing a constituency, it all made such good sense and I couldn't get enough of it. Still can't. Outreach is all about helping - putting out a hand and lifting others up to a better place. For US Vote, it's about helping every citizen be a voter.
Now I see how all of this reaching out really begins with reaching in.
It simply isn't possible to run a charitable organization fueled by long-term, dedicated volunteers without the internal compasses turned toward a powerful cause, which all recognize and feel within themselves. It's the internal compass that guided each member of our team, the volunteers, staffers, Advisors, Board Members, friends and supporters toward the organization and gave them each the courage to make a commitment to our cause and to themselves to be part of it.
Today, I want to thank you all for reaching in - for knowing what you want to do, and for choosing to express a part of your complex self through US Vote and our Overseas Vote initiative. Thank you for your inreach. It makes the outreach possible.
Day 12 - Do the Right Thing
We know when we do the right thing. There is a "right-thing barometer" inside us and it has a direct line to the gut. And we know when it gets punched.
We have to face the fact that what exactly the "right thing to do" is - can be subject to interpretation and manipulation. When others don't do what we believe and feel in our gut is the right thing, not only do we feel punched, but we may have to deal with the difficult feeling of outrage.
These moments of outrage are when you thank the powers of the Constitution for giving you the franchise. Take a few moments today and treasure that precious baby we hold as U.S. citizens: our right to vote. Plenty of outrage can fit into a ballot. And a whole lot more when there are more ballots. We've seen it, and we will see it again.
And this is what Every Citizen is a Voter is all about. Stay focused, don't be distracted, we all have to take things in order.
For now, Do the Right Thing: Give. And remind everyone to do the same.
Day 11 - Thank You for Asking
There was something so different about my next door neighbor on Olivia Street. It wasn't the completely different arrangement (at that time) of a late marriage and the curious adoption of one white and one black child. Although all that certainly made her even more special.
There was something about her I couldn't quite pin down. For some reason I liked to hang out and chat with her after school and if invited to join her in the most mundane errands, they suddenly felt exciting. Over time, I started to realize, that it wasn't just me, but everyone wanted to be with Marcia. She did some thing to us all. She asked.
One day, in our tiny corner grocery, I saw her magic in action. We reached the checkout clerk and Marcia slowed down, looked right at her with real interest, and asked her, "How are you today, Sarah?" Marcia knew her name. This was more than a one time gesture. Sarah lit up and responded. What was mundane was suddenly transformed. It felt good, really good.
When we drove home, some stepped in the road and instead of honking, Marcia slowed the car, rolled down the window, smiled her very special smile and looked in that stranger's eyes - saying, "We both are so lucky today, aren't we?" And the stranger was no longer strange. He smiled back and delighted in that small interaction.
This was Marcia's Magic. She stopped, she looked, she took hold of the moment and she asked. Everyone she encountered melted. They simply felt special again. They immediately fell in love. She had seen them, stopped, asked and listened in a way that they knew she heard them.
Today is Friday and we are rushing to the end of the work week, through meetings, travel, work and errands. Our heads are down looking at our smartphones. But the wonderful thing is, we can look up at any time, find the present moment, ask and hear the answer. There is magic in that.
All week, we have practiced another kind of asking. We've asked people to stop, consider our lives and future, and to give to our Every Citizen is a Voter Campaign. Many of you have also come back to say, Thank You for Asking. Let's make it a trend.
Day 10 - The Four P's (not marketing)
Marketing 101 starts with building an understanding of the "Marketing Mix" comprising four essential elements starting with the word P: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Some smarties added Positioning, Packaging and People as key to a successful marketing strategy.
What are the Four P's of Voter Participation?
First, it is Powerful. The act of casting your ballot empowers you as a citizen. It must also be Practical. Accessible, streamlined processes for voting will often determine whether or not you participate. Then the People, for they do matter. Not just who is running for office, but in the biggest picture, people inspire each other to participate; our civic and community culture affects our participation in the franchise.
Lastly, and I would say, possibly the crowning P on these three, is Personal. For all that do at US and Overseas Vote, making voting personal is the overall guiding principle.
It is the core concept of the Voter Account (your Personal Democracy Dashboard), the Voter Help Desk with real people to answer your questions with genuine caring and personal attention, the curated Election Data and our election staff that work directly with election officials across the country to verify it, and our Social Media team that is one of the most engaged group of people I've ever met.
Your gift to our Foundation enables us to bring the Four P's of Voter Participation to the people of our nation as we work to make Every Citizen a Voter.
Have a beautiful day,
Day 9 - Staying Power
Why is that we hunger for stories that depict people who reach their goals against all odds. We thrive on tales about people who continue to pursue something they believe in and never lose hope, even in the face of untold challenge and adversity. Perhaps because these stories remind us that we are all faced with soldiering on with our daily battles, pursuing our personal, work and family goals, day after day. How do we all do it?
The secret is Staying Power. The reserves within us that we call upon to keep going in the face of any challenge.
Yesterday was Giving Tuesday and our entire US Vote team - volunteers, elections data staffers, advisors, board members, friends of the foundation - they all came together to work even harder for our cause: Every Citizen is a Voter. We had never tried this sort of fundraising campaign before and we probably set the goal a bit high ($75,000). No one here is practiced at this. In the end, the Giving Tuesday outcome was spectacular: in total, 52 donors have come forward and we have raised $13,435, around 18%.
Now today is Wednesday. The day after Giving Tuesday. It feels like we just hiked up a mountain and must now cross an ocean in a rowboat. No matter. Take a deep breath, call on the Goddess of Staying Power, pick up your oar and start rowing. This is what we do every day.
There is always another election around the corner. At US and Overseas Vote, we are rowing everyday and we will never stop. We must be here for you. Thank you for Giving (Tuesday) and please remember us on Wednesday. We are practicing our Staying Power from one election to the next. It seems to be working. Thank you for your support.
Day 8 - Seven seconds in New York City
It turns out that 7 seconds of lead time for crossing the street in Manhattan might determine whether or not you make it to the other side. Ever.
Winne Hu wrote about this in her November 27, 2017, New York Times article entitled, “New York gives pedestrians a head start.” In a campaign dubbed, Vision Zero, that Ms. Hu describes as “ambitious,” the city has turned on the pedestrian green lights 7 to 11 seconds before the cars.
This simple policy change is literally a life and death affair. And it’s working; fatality and injury rates are plummeting. It’s pretty obvious: whoever gets the 7 seconds has the advantage.
It’s Giving Tuesday today, and I’m going to ask you for 7 seconds.
U.S. Vote Foundation and our Overseas Vote initiative is on the corner waiting for the light to change. For us, getting to the other side means that we receive enough financial support to be able to develop a new system for Voter Alerts that will essentially give US citizen voters their 7 seconds to make it to the ballot box.
Please take 7 seconds to donate to our Every Citizen is a Voter campaign. And make it a real Giving Tuesday.
Day 7 - More Tea, Please.
Last night was my first holiday party; hot mulled wine and the works. Sparing the details, I found myself auditioning as a wall flower.
Amongst my four new friends (the walls), I came upon a framed document that told the story of a teacher who brought his students a glass vessel filled with stones. He then asked, “Is this vessel full?” Not all agreed that it was. He proceeded to pour in pebbles and shake till they found their way into the cracks and crevices left between the stones. “Now, is this vessel full?”, he asked, but they were unsure.
Next, he poured in fine sand that went into every remaining space until the vessel appeared solidly packed. “Is this vessel now full?”, he asked again, and they confirmed that it was. He then surprised them with a pot of hot tea that he poured into the vessel until the tea rose to the rim. And at last, all could see that the vessel was actually full.
He then explained the parable. The stones represent the most fundamental aspects of your life that you most value, nourish and worship – your family, health, friends, education, faith -- all elements that are the foundation of your life. The stones are the things you work hard for and care about such as your career, home, car and other external elements. The sand is that extra space you take to enjoy a special time, the possibility to travel, a unique event here or there, etc.
But the tea? What is the tea? It is that space you did not even know you had. That unique gift that you did not realize you can give. It is the miracle of doing more than you ever thought you were capable of doing, but you do it; being more than you knew you were destined to be, but you are.
This parable explains what I see and experience every day working with our volunteer team at US Vote. If I told you the circumstances in each of their lives, you might not believe me. But you can certainly believe that each of them understand how to pour the tea into their lives - and they do it through volunteering. No one told them to volunteer, to donate their sought-after skills, energy, talents. But they do and it is AMAZING. For this reason, and none other so great, our organization continues to thrive.
Please help us pour more tea. Give to US Vote. Thank you.
Day 6 - The "Power of Unrealized Possibilities" and the drive to avoid regret
In Michael Lewis’ recent best seller, The Undoing Project, he dismantles any preconceived ideas one might have about what drives judgements and ultimately, decision-making.
One theory that is discussed in the book has to do with the “power of unrealized possibilities” to drive decisions and judgements we might make. When faced with even the simplest quandaries, our minds are ablaze with imagination – in seconds we project forward any number of scenarios. If I do this, then that might happen; and if I do that, this might happen….
We weigh these scenarios and make decisions based on what? It turns out that we are mainly driven by an instinct to avoid possibly ever feeling bad about what we did. In a word, regret. We do not want to regret our decisions. When faced with options, our decisions become tangled in our drive to avoid the discomfort of regret, and we give far less consideration to actual facts.
This realization is hard to contemplate not just when you think about all the decisions you are making, but when you think about the decisions being made for you. For example, decisions made by those we elect to govern our communities, state, and nation.
What do you want to bet, that after every single election – regardless of which election – there are people the day after that regret that they did not cast a ballot? Or that they didn’t do more to get involved with the election at hand.
You can avoid that particular scenario and “day after” feeling right now. By giving and getting others to give to US Vote's Every Citizen is a Voter fundraising campaign and avoid that sense of regret. Because, with your support, we will develop a new Voter Alerts system that will reach Americans who need that extra reminder here and there to register, request a ballot, vote and feel great afterwards.
Day 5 - Will Giving Get the Tax-Axe (or a delicate carveout)?
Politico ran a story yesterday featuring "Newman's Own Foundation" and how its $26 to $30 million annual charitable donations hang in the balance (literally, the balance sheet) of the proposed House and Senate tax bills. In full disclosure, yours truly would never have tried this crowd-funding campaign had it not been that Newman's Own Foundation is sponsoring this 2017 Holiday Challenge and making it possible for our Foundation to participate.
In his article, "Newman's Own tax break," Danny Vinik writes, that the Newman's Own Foundation's unconventional business model, "...a nonprofit charity that wholly owns a for-profit food company, leaves it vulnerable to a punitive 200 percent tax that would break up the arrangement...". Meaning of course, that if the company gets taxed for the giving, the charitable spigot will shut off.
Fortunately, it appears that the sizeable chunk of change spent on lobbying Congress has saved them (for now) from the axe of the tax bill. Vinik elaborates, "Both the House and Senate tax bills contain a small provision with an almost impenetrable title - 'an exception to the private foundation excess business holding rules for philanthropic business holdings'...the carveout... could spare another 20 to 30 foundatons that would face a similar fate in the future."
It seems that all of the laws came about when the proliferation of nonprofits in the 50's felt like it was burgeoning out of control and could become untenable, biting into legitimate tax revenue. In the end, it appears that this law was like taking a rocket to shoot down a fly.
What is clear - tax laws impact giving. They can either offer incentives for giving, or crush the desire to support the causes we care about the most.
Do I have an offer for you, dear friends. Absolutely, I do: your donation to U.S. Vote Foundation right now - is fully eligible as a tax-deductible donation.
Day 4 - Some Perspective on our Journey
Today's diary entry has been kindly donated by one of our most committed and dedicated board members whose enthusiasm seems to increase with every election cycle. Thanks for keeping us going, Chip.
I am deeply proud to have served as Chair of U.S. Vote Foundation (and Overseas Vote Foundation beforehand) for nearly ten years - almost since our founding. Working with this Foundation is both humbling and exhausting, as we accomplish so much with such limited resources. Your contributions to our campaign will help us to move forward on our mission of eliminating obstacles to voting wherever we can.
Over the past 13 years, we have taken a very practical approach to enhance each voter's experience with smart technology applications that make it simple to register to vote and stay informed. Our research has helped shape federal and state election legislation; our tools and apps have enabled countless voters able to cast their ballots; and our data has enhanced election administration, the voter experience and civic engagement.
We have accomplished these noteworthy wins for democracy on an amazingly sparse budget. But there is so much more to do, and for this we need your help. If you believe that democracy in America must be preserved and enhanced. please join us by contributing whatever you are able to give. And, if you want to join us in the effort, please share this appeal with your friends and family over this Thanksgiving holiday break. Thanksgiving is that most American of holidays, and we hope that you and your families enjoyed a wonderful time together.
Thanks for supporting U.S. Vote Foundation in whatever ways you are able. We promise to use your support wisely and diligently. Please give to Every Citizen is a Voter today.
Best Wishes, and thank you,
Chip Levengood, Board Member, U.S. Vote Foundation
Day 3 - About Thanks and Giving (and Birds)
Living as an American Overseas gives a unique vantage point to this favorite US holiday, Thanksgiving. Some of us are fortunate to be able to gather with other US citizens to celebrate and we can really call it Thanksgiving Day; while others of us just call it Thursday and try to remember the taste of homemade pumpkin pie.
Seeing as I live in Germany, where nothing is not recycled (our tiny trash cans are picked up once every 14 days), I decided to clean out my food cupboards in honor of the holiday. It was painful to look at the grains and cereals, the nuts and muesli that was half eaten and well out of the suggested date range for consumption. I could not bring myself to put it in the garbage. My crumbs could be someone else's meal, I thought.
So, I went to the garden store in our central market place, "Viktualienmarkt" and found the section for bird feeders. Did I mention this is Germany? Row upon row of handmade wooden bird houses in every shape and size - a wonder to behold. I chose a small one that had just the right proportions to please my eye. It made me feel 10 years old again, my happiness was so geniune.
At home, I took a large bowl and created a generous mixture of nuts and seeds, cereals and flakes and once again, that feeling of childlike happiness came over me. It felt like I was being reminded of something I loved. Taking the time to make my crumbs into someone else's meal was bringing me back the joy of giving.
In the garden, I easily looped a low branch in the mirabel tree and hung the bird feeder, then spooned in the bird feed mixture. As I walked back to my house I turned to look at it from a distance and saw the first bird arrive. I am looking out the window now and the tree is alive with birds swooping in for what were once my crumbs, but are now their Thanksgiving meal.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, dear readers. And think about the joy of giving to "Every Citizen is a Voter". You will be showered with thanks coming from us, but also from your own heart.
Day 2 - #EveryCitizenIsAVoter Diary Entry
Today's diary entry has been kindly donated by a star volunteer who knows how to make me laugh my head off and blush at the same time.
Hi American Voters! I’m Genya, aka @ElectionBabe on Twitter. I serve as Twitter Goddess for @US_Vote and @overseasvote. Since our founder and CEO, Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, is writing her own fundraising diary, I’ll contribute an entry or two. (I was long overdue for content creation anyway.)
When Susan and the team let me know about our fundraiser and the Newman’s Own Foundation challenge, I was inspired. At least until I had to size the graphics for my Crowdrise page. For a social media manager at a 501c3 that has revolutionized civic tech and overseas voting, I’m terrifyingly low-tech. After a few very patient e-mail exchanges with our founder, the graphics gremlins calmed down. Then it occurred to me…the hashtag I had lovingly created on Twitter was the name of our fundraiser! (If that isn’t flattering, I don’t know what is.)
Stop and think about this: How many non-profit founders communicate directly with their volunteers? Susan is one of the most actively involved leaders that I’ve encountered in my election career. When she isn’t innovating voting methods for voters around the world, sponsoring civic tech summits, advocating for overseas voters, or galvanizing our small but mighty team of advisors and volunteers, she’s patiently editing the twelve page novellas that I refer to as blogs, and refining what little writing style I have. My most read blog on here, “Identity Crisis” wouldn’t have existed had she not personally found an interdepartmental email I had written to be side-splittingly funny.
There are a lot of organizations asking for donations these days. Why donate to US Vote?
- We are a 4-star ranked nonprofit on Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
- Every dollar we receive will go straight into research and development of methods to remind voters of their local elections.
- We are a true 501c3 nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity and your donations are tax deductible.
- You will be ensuring our military and overseas voters will have the tools they need to cast their ballot.
- Our civic data site will remain open for developers, coders, and voter outreach organizations, assisting them in new and innovative ways to connect with voters.
- It gives us the chance to compete in the Newman’s Own Foundation challenge on Crowdrise, potentially doubling our $75,000 fundraising goal.
- My voting and election blogs will have a forever home on a nonpartisan, not-for-profit website – and besides, if you’re going to donate your hard earned money, why not donate to a foundation that considers “Twitter Goddess” a perfectly valid job title?
My personal US Vote fundraising goal is $1,000 USD. Even $10 makes a great contribution to our fundraiser, and we’ll do our best to show our appreciation! Go here to donate through my channel (it feeds up to the top goal) and help me meet mine too: Donate to Every Citizen is a Voter though ElectionBabe
Happy Thanksgiving to our amazing global voter family - we would not exist if we didn’t have your support and feedback. You keep us going, and thank you for that!
- signed Twitter Goddess, Genya aka ElectionBabe
Day 1 - November 21, 2017 - coming up to 12 noon Eastern Time (when the campaign will officially launch)
It's the first day of the first campaign - and I am asking you to give. I need to get used to that phrase. To get used to asking without feeling small. Asking has to make me feel BIG. And getting YOU to ask - that will definitely make us feel BIG.
My guess is you came here because you want to influence change. We are here to create and enact it. We all hear of the problems around voting in the U.S. They are very real problems. Of course, every U.S. citizen should be a voter! But unfortunately, right now they are not.
People think that voting should be free and easy in the U.S., but the truth is, it's not. How it could be more complex, I don't know. We want you to join us and help us to take complexity out and put simplicity in.
EVERY CITIZEN IS A VOTER - this fundraising campaign happened because of an earlier commitment to keep our foundation profile up to date on ghe Guidestar platform. That's where people who want to know even more about our foundation can go. If you are wondering what we are about, who we are and what we are up to - there is a lot of info on the footer of our site, but there is even more in our Guidestar profile. The Guidestar folks steered us to the Newman's Own 2017 Holiday Challenge and that is how this fundaiser came about.
This is the first time for us to try this sort of outreach. In the current environment, you might think that money would pour into Civic Tech development for voting from grant organizations and corporations. It doesn't. We need this fundraiser to give us a boost. Your donation will make a big difference. We want to make it possible for us to tap every voter on the shoulder and remind them to vote - at the right time, in the right way, better than it has ever been done before.
I hope this messages reaches you and inspires you to donate to EVERY CITIZEN IS A VOTER. This first day will mean so much. There is another Story to read there too.
Enjoy giving and thank you.
Introduction: As a commitment to the voters, to the volunteer team that runs this foundation, to the people who advise, govern and support us - I will commit myself to write the Diary of a Fundraiser. You can come here daily for an installment and see how this effort develops. Do we meet our goal? What does it take? What is it like to put ourselves out there in the way that this campaign will require. It will all be here. The ups, the downs, the struggles and the accomplishments. Keep your eye on this daily journal. It is going to be a very open and personal journey. Here we go.