Tennessee Nonprofit Network

Why Voting Rights Should Matter to Your Nonprofit

by Andrea Hill, Chief Development & Partnerships Officer, Tennessee Nonprofit Network

When I was 18, my parents took me and my sister to vote. It was a new and exciting concept for me at the time. I felt like an adult as I walked into the booth alone and made a decision that would help chart the course of our nation. I was slightly scared, but I stepped up to assume my responsibility as a productive member of a civilized society. Although I knew voting was my right, it was also a conviction that drove me to fulfill my duty in that voting booth. As an African American, I paid attention in class when we learned about what it took for me to be seen as a human and to have the same “certain inalienable rights” as White Americans.

Here I am decades older now, but the struggle for voting rights that I learned about in school as a teenager is a battle that is still being fought. Working in the nonprofit sector has taught me how urgently important all of our voices are, and how every nonprofit must work to ensure that the voices of their community are heard and that their votes count. The nonprofit sector is a force that has the power to do what it takes to make sure voting rights remain equal for all.  

As a nonprofit leader, you may be asking yourself, “Can my organization get involved in civic engagement or political activities that fight legislation regarding voting rights? The answer is you can. There are certainly restricted and prohibited activities for nonprofits, but nonprofits have every right to be political as long as you aren’t partisan.

And let me be very clear here: voting rights is not a partisan issue, or at least it shouldn’t be. Fighting to remove barriers to voting and increase access to voting for our constituents is an act of good no matter who you are.

Nonprofits are uniquely suited to participate in the fight to make voting more accessible to all Americans. Nonprofit leaders are in the trenches daily, wading through policies and personalities to provide support through the lens of equality and inclusion for those we are committed to serving. Like my parents did for me as a teenager, nonprofits have the opportunity to make sure our constituents have an easy road to the voting booth and help them understand why voting is urgently important. As nonprofits, we work to ensure that our constituents have access to what they need to live vibrant lives. Isn’t being a part of a democracy a part of living a vibrant life? A nonprofit’s responsibilities are no different than those of my parents leading me to the voting booth. We should be providing the communities we serve access to, education about , and motivation for voting. We should also being using our ability to fight against any barriers that might stand in the way of our constituents’ right to vote.

Fair voting rights mean our clients have access to making decisions for themselves medically, financially, and personally. They should have a say in the shape of their futures. Fair voting rights also benefit nonprofits, as votes determine how critical community services are funded and made available to the community. Crucial decisions can be traced back to voting in local, state, and federal elections. Without a fair democratic process, nonprofits lose out and our clients lose. Every voice and every vote must be heard and counted. 

In 2022, we have already seen numerous headlines about the passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  Momentum Nonprofit Partners recently signed on to a national letter to congress with hundreds of nonprofits advocating for the passage of this bill.

Fighting for the right to vote has been fraught with controversy from the very beginning, especially for those who are not White, not wealthy, and not male. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will contribute to the history of controversy, as the bill has been politicized and will be a battle to pass. The passing of this Act helps maintain the equal rights of all citizens by creating national standards on voting, and this could especially aid in reducing barriers for marginalized or disenfranchised communities. As nonprofits, isn’t this what we do day in and day out, so why would we not fight for equal voting rights for them, too? We are in business to provide support to our clients and ensure that our clients are treated fairly and they are represented.

I’ve heard from many nonprofits that they are hesitant to lean into voting rights advocacy for their clients despite its importance to both their nonprofit and the communities they serve.  Stopping the suppression of voting rights is an all in effort. As a nonprofit, we have a sector of allies that are ready to fight for the freedom of all. Our organizations cannot thrive if our clients are not thriving. We all have to take a stand to make sure no one’s rights are diminished. We are strong together. If the nonprofit sector can ban together to fight any legislation that creates barriers for the marginalized communities that we serve or creates equitable opportunities for all Americans, we can create a stronger nation for all. 

If you’re interested in leaning in and engaging your organization more in public policy, here are a few tips I can recommend:

Develop Your Organization’s Public Policy Principles 

Public policy principles are board-approved guidelines that structure your advocacy work. These guidelines are created through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion on the behalf of the nonprofit sector and community. These guidelines ensure that your nonprofit fulfill its mission to improve the sector, the community, and is to the benefit of the client. With these Public Policy Principles approved, your leadership team can move forward to create your policy agenda. 

Develop a Public Policy Agenda to Guide Your Organization’s Work

A public policy agenda explicitly states your organization’s priorities. They should align with the mission of your organization. Your policy agenda should be specific, as they dive deeper into focus areas and strategies that will help your organization advocate for issues that affect the fulfill its mission.


You can’t do public policy work in a silo. Many voices are needed to make change. Collaborate with other organizations to create networks of advocates. There are also networks that are based on your specific subsector with the nonprofit sector as well as networks that seek impact for a more global set of issues and policy concerns. You can also partner with local groups that are hosting voter registration drives or assisting with rides to the poll.  

Voting Rights is our collective opportunity as the nonprofit sector to not only help our communities succeed but also to reduce the barriers that continue to keep them down. Voting is an essential right that should not be denied to anyone in our society, and the clients we serve should have as much voice as any other American. Thank you to those of you already joining in the fight to protect voting rights for all, and I hope those of you who have yet to join the fight will take up the mantle during this important election year!

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