News and analysis
December 03, 2015

Nonprofits Can Substantially Boost Voter Turnout, Study Says

Daniel Sofer/

Title: Engaging New Voters: the Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout

Organization: Nonprofit Vote

Summary: Nonprofit get-out-the-vote efforts led to significantly higher voter participation rates among minorities and the poor, according to the study.

Nonprofit Vote tracked 28,881 people who registered to vote or signed a pledge to vote at 129 nonprofits in nine states during the 2014 midterm elections. The nonprofits, which all had 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status, included community health centers, social-service agencies, and advocacy organizations.

More than half of those people were identified as "low propensity" voters, meaning they were not expected to cast ballots, according to Catalist, a political data management firm. The study found that 18 percent of those voters did cast a ballot after being reached by a nonprofit, compared with an overall 8 percent turnout for low-propensity voters in the nine states studied.

The study showed that nonprofit voter-outreach efforts worked with people who had not been swayed to vote in previous elections by campaign operations and political parties, said Julian Johannesen, author of the study.

"Nonprofits are effective at turning out the people other organizations have given up on," he said.

Among the findings:

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Asian-Americans contacted by a nonprofit voted, compared with 33 percent of other Asian-American registered voters. 
  • Blacks voted at a much higher rate (49 percent) when contacted by a get-out-the-vote effort than those who were not (38 percent). The difference between whites (59 percent and 52 percent) and Latinos (35 percent and 31 percent) was not as great.
  • Voters with an annual income of less than $25,000 were more likely to vote (39 percent) than those who did not come in contact with a nonprofit (30 percent).

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the data on Asian-American registered voters. 


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