Much More Than the Election

The November election is important, but it’s just one piece of the civic engagement puzzle.

The Funders Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) defines civic engagement broadly as the active participation of everyday people in the decision-making processes that shape their communities and their lives and believes it is critically important to a healthy society.

To illustrate that it’s about much more than the election, FCCP created an Integrated Voter Engagement cycle with seven interrelated activities.

Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE)

  • Register Voters
  • Develop Strong Leaders
  • Hold Elected Officials Accountable
  • Engage and Educate the Electorate
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Achieve Policy Impact
  • Organize and Mobilize Communities

“It’s all related,” says Eric Marshall, FCCP executive director. “Integrated Voter Engagement has multiple components and any of them can serve as entry points for funders or nonprofits. It’s important that funders understand their fit and how to best coordinate and collaborate with others in the space.”

To be effective, the IVE cycle must be continuous, as it aims to build powerful year-around organizations with growing constituencies of people who register to vote, turnout to vote, mobilize others into political activity and hold elected officials accountable between elections. The constituency is the source of an organization’s power to expand the electorate, move bold issue agendas and ultimately build the power to change the rules of our democracy in ways that deliver maximum benefits to a majority of people.

However, the work of constituency building is often underfinanced. This leads organizations to expand rapidly at key election and issue moments and then quickly lose that capacity when the election is over and staff are let go. Without funding for constituency building, organizations bounce from issue to issue without ever growing the necessary capacity to win the next fight. In a successful IVE program, there is a self-reinforcing cycle between voter engagement, the power to legislate and subsequent voter turnout.

In Minnesota in 2012, for example, the success of voter engagement programs by ISAIAH, Take Action Minnesota and allies helped pave the way for legislative victories in 2013 when the governor and state legislature passed a progressive tax increase resulting in a $1 billion surplus in 2014. This win was followed by a minimum wage increase in 2014. Also in 2014, Minnesota was one of the few states to hold the majority of their progressive legislative and statewide offices.

Elected officials did not just decide to pass these reforms; they were held accountable by constituent-based organizations that became involved in the 2012 election and stayed engaged through legislative visits, public meetings, media campaigns and negotiations throughout 2013 and 2014.